Training listening abilities – STAR2 (System for Testing Auditory Responses 2)

Training listening abilities – STAR2 (System for Testing Auditory Responses 2)

A number of our studies involving people with hearing loss or tinnitus examine the benefits of sound-based training tasks. Our training tasks involve doing multiple trials of a simple test (such as deciding which of three sounds has a higher pitch than the other two). The difficulty of the training task then adjusts to find a level where it is difficult but not impossible; this is defined as your  'threshold' for the task. Training starts at a level that is relatively easy. With every correct answer the task gets a bit more difficult until an incorrect answer is selected. The task is then made easier again until correct answers are selected. This is called an ‘adaptive’ task: difficulty goes up and down according to how well the task is performed and your ability to perform the task should improve over time.

Researchers and engineers at the Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research (MRC IHR) have developed an adaptive task within a computer program called STAR2. The program runs listening tests in the form of simple interactive game-like tasks. Each icon on the screen becomes animated when played, while the background shows different natural scenes to keep people interested and engaged.

We have used STAR2 to evaluate training as a novel management strategy to assist people with tinnitus (hyperlink to publication pdf for Hoare DJ, Kowalkowski VL, Hall DA (2012). Effects of frequency discrimination training on tinnitus: results from two randomised controlled trials. Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology. 13(4): 543-559).

This short video clip shows how STAR2 works. In this video clip, the three icons each make a tonal sound one after the other. Your task is to select the icon that sounded different from the other two (i.e. the odd one out). If you get this right, selecting the correct answer from the next set of sounds becomes more difficult, and if you get it wrong, it becomes easier. Sometimes it is not possible to say which is the odd one. In this case, you have to guess.

STAR2 auditory training game