Niels Henrik Pontoppidan

Research Area Manager

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Spatial hearing is an extremely powerful ability that helps us disentangle the complex soundscapes we are often surrounded by. Spatial hearing abilities may, however, be affected by hearing loss and aging.

Research activities

The spatial hearing abilities of normal-hearing people are reasonably well described. In contrast, much is yet to be understood about impaired spatial hearing. For example, two people with similar audiograms may perform very differently on various spatial listening tasks, and would possibly benefit from different kinds of rehabilitation strategies.

Improving our understanding of impaired spatial hearing

In a range of studies, Eriksholm has investigated various fundamental spatial hearing abilities in hearing-impaired listeners. We are also interested in measuring residual spatial hearing abilities in ways that would be applicable in a clinical setting.


Providing help in the spatial domain

Spatial hearing lives off two sets of acoustic ‘cues’: Binaural cues – the time and level differences that occur at the two ears when sound arrives from the side; and monaural cues – the direction-dependent filtering of sound introduced mainly by the pinna.

With regard to spatial hearing, there are essentially two ways to approach helping people with a hearing loss. One is to make the spatial acoustic cues available to the hearing-aid user with as little distortion as possible. They would then have to use their spatial hearing abilities to sort out the auditory scene. This approach is based on the assumption that the user’s spatial hearing abilities are reasonably intact. But this is not always the case. Under such circumstances, it may be preferable to let the hearing-aid take advantage of the spatial acoustic cues in order to provide a ‘cleaned up’ signal to the user.

Further reading

Jensen NS, Neher T, Laugesen S, Johannesson RB, Kragelund L (2013) Laboratory and Field Study of the Potential Benefits of Pinna Cue-Preserving Hearing Aids. Trends in Amplification, 17(3), 171-188.

Neher T, Laugesen S, Jensen NS, Kragelund L (2011). Can basic auditory and cognitive measures predict hearing-impaired listeners’ localization and spatial speech recognition abilities? Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 130(3), p. 1542-1558.

Neher T, Behrens T, Carlile S, Jin C, Kragelund L, Petersen AS, van Schaik A (2009). Benefit from spatial separation of multiple talkers in bilateral hearing-aid users: Effects of hearing loss, age, and cognition. International Journal of Audiology, 48(11), p. 758-774.