We often talk about different noises and how they affect us. But did you know that categorising people based on how sensitive you are to sounds could change the way you think about social settings?
Thanks to the University of Salford and Eden Smith’s Group’s Nurture Programme, we were able to work with data science student Kaveh Kiani – who will soon join us full-time at Mumbli as a data scientist – to analyse different people’s hearing sensitivity and personal responses to social spaces in London.
The aim was to see how we could categorise people into different hearing sensitivity groups to make socialising more pleasant.
In this way, we hope to enable people to pick venues based on their needs and preferences for working, dating, or socialising with friends. We chatted to Kaveh about the hearing sensitivity project and why grouping people is so important for the future of sound and socialising!
I’ve tried to create a method for how to advise people on finding their best ‘venue-vibe’ for different social activities.
Mumbli has a two-sided strategy to maximise hearing gains –: working with people’s individual hearing profiles and working with venues’ soundscapes.
In this project, I’ve focused on developing a solution for the human side.
I created an algorithm to provide users with the best venues based on different hearing sensitivity groups.
I did this by testing different hypotheses to explore ways of grouping people, which provided a more in-depth understanding of the information I had gathered.
Related research: how the Pandemic Silence Project is making noise
Hearing reduction is the most recognised hearing complication. However, there are many other hearing conditions we don’t place as much focus on.
Mumbli focuses on innovating the combination of technology and the holistic approach to alter the term ‘hearing loss’ to ‘Hearing Gains’.
Hearing reduction isn’t seen as important compared to other health problems – like eyesight sensitivity and visual impairment – which is something Mumbli wants to change.
Since our hearing profiles fall on a spectrum, we must start to interact with our surroundings more wisely. Quite often, people experience negativity towards sounds – stress, anxiety, and irritation – but don’t alter their exposure to sounds to fit their preferences.
By grouping people according to their hearing sensitivity, we can inform them about where they fit on this spectrum from non-sensitive to highly sensitive.
This is the first step on the path to assisting Mumbli users to maximise their hearing experience.
Related blog: How sensitive are you to sound?
I’ve been researching for most of my professional life but it never crossed my mind to do a simple study on hearing sensitivity.
After starting the research, I realised that even though I would have considered myself a ‘non-sensitive’ person, I also have preferences for places that I didn’t realise.
In our research, we didn’t have a single person that was completely non-sensitive to sound.
This was exciting because it showed me how crucial this research could be for society and changing the outlook on hearing wellness.
Related research: Reverberation time with Karishma Prasad
A venue owner is often more focused on the quality of the food and drink, or how the venue is decorated, rather than the noise level.
But they can make some changes to accommodate people with noise sensitivity: maintaining the music level, keeping doors and windows shut, or using double glazing to reduce outdoor noises will all help.
The material of the furniture, walls, flooring, and ceiling can also help control the reverberation time, which Mumbli has done independent research on.
Asking customers to speak quieter and not arranging tables too close to one another may help too.
Related blog: Does anyone actually enjoy going to noisy places?
It was surprising to me that around 25% of people are suffering from DST (decreased sound tolerance) disorders in different forms. This shows that society should care more about this aspect of our well-being because so many people suffer from it.
The relationship between gender and age with DST is very interesting too. I found that women are more sensitive to human sounds however, men and women are equally affected by loudness.
For example, women will feel more uncomfortable when they hear other people chewing but both men and women will be equally affected by ambulance sirens.
I also concluded from my data that sensitive people prefer calmer vibes and less noise for work-related activities.
But, when it comes to dating, everything changes! They act like less sensitive people.
It’s hard to say why this is but perhaps there is a psychological explanation for this phenomenon!
Related post: Brain tingles: ASMR
As you can see, Kaveh’s hearing sensitivity research has been great at shedding light on just how important changing society’s approach to sound is.
So many people are affected by varying degrees of sound sensitivity! We can’t wait to put Kaveh’s research into practice, helping people to find venues that are designed for their sound preferences.
Don’t forget to take our hearing personality test to figure out the social spaces that fit your sound preferences.