Google Research

The Quest for Ecological Validity in Hearing Science: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Advance It

  • Andreas Caduff
  • Douglas S. Brungart
  • Frances Rapport
  • Giso Grimm
  • Gitte Keidser
  • Graham Keidser
  • Graham Naylor
  • Inga Holube
  • Jennifer Campos
  • Karolina Smeds
  • Malcolm Slaney
  • Mark Carpenter
  • Ravish Mehra
  • Simon Carlile
  • Stefan Launer
  • Thomas Lunner
  • Volker Hohmann
Ear and Hearing (2020)

Abstract

Ecological validity is a relatively new concept in hearing science. It has been cited as relevant with increasing frequency in publications over the past 20 years, but without any formal conceptual basis or clear motive. The sixth Eriksholm Workshop was convened to develop a deeper understanding of the concept for the purpose of applying it in hearing research in a consistent and productive manner. Inspired by relevant debate within the field of psychology, and taking into account the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health framework, the attendees at the workshop reached a consensus on the following definition: “In hearing science, ecological validity refers to the degree to which research findings reflect real-life hearing-related function, activity, or participation.” Four broad purposes for striving for greater ecological validity in hearing research were determined: A (Understanding) better understanding the role of hearing in everyday life; B (Development) supporting the development of improved procedures and interventions; C (Assessment) facilitating improved methods for assessing and predicting ability to accomplish real-world tasks; and D (Integration and Individualization) enabling more integrated and individualized care. Discussions considered the effects of variables and phenomena commonly present in hearing-related research on the level of ecological validity of outcomes, supported by examples from a few selected outcome domains and for different types of studies. Illustrated with examples, potential strategies were offered for promoting a high level of ecological validity in a study and for how to evaluate the level of ecological validity of a study. Areas in particular that could benefit from more research to advance ecological validity in hearing science include: (1) understanding the processes of hearing and communication in everyday listening situations, and specifically the factors that make listening difficult in everyday situations; (2) developing new test paradigms that include more than one person (e.g., to encompass the interactive nature of everyday communication) and that are integrative of other factors that interact with hearing in real-life function; (3) integrating new and emerging technologies (e.g., virtual reality) with established test methods; and (4) identifying the key variables and phenomena affecting the level of ecological validity to develop verifiable ways to increase ecological validity and derive a set of benchmarks to strive for.

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