About the Project

3D Tune-In (3D-games for TUNing and lEarnINg about hearing aids) brings together relevant stakeholders from traditional gaming industries (SMEs - Reactify, Vianet, XTeam, Nerlaska), academic institutes (Imperial College London, De Montfort University, the University of Nottingham, the University of Malaga); a large European hearing aid manufacturer (GN); and hearing communities (through Associations - Extra Care, Hearing Link, Action Deafness, Accesibilidad y Personas Sordas and Ente Nazionale Sordi) to produce digital games in the field of hearing aid technologies and hearing loss in children and older adults, addressing social inclusion, generating new markets and creating job opportunities.

With a budget of €2,896,175 3D Tune-In is funded under Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation of the European Union. The project is coordinated by Dr. Lorenzo Picinali from Imperial College London and has a duration of 36 months, until May 2018.

Hearing loss: a major European problem

Over 90 million people in Europe currently suffer from hearing loss, and due to an ageing population this number is likely to continue to increase.

While hearing aid (HA) technologies have dramatically advanced in the last 25 years, people’s perception and use of these devices have changed very little.

The majority of individuals with hearing aids use the device as if it was a standard analogue hearing aid, i.e. only for its amplification and equalisation features . Functions that go far beyond simple amplification and equalization are not widely exploited because they are not particularly accessible to either end users or audiologists.

Hearing loss and deafness can lead to barriers to inclusion and feelings of isolation, and can result in a more than doubled risk of depression in older people. People with mild hearing loss also have nearly double the chance of developing dementia and this risk increases significantly for those with moderate and severe hearing loss[1]. An impaired communication can easily result in exclusion and marginalization. In particular, hearing loss in children is under-identified and under-served with direct consequences on speech and language development, communication and learning. Children with severe to profound hearing losses often report feelings of isolation, no friends, and that are unhappy in school, particularly when their socialization with other children with hearing loss is limited.

Fostering hearing aid usage by gamification

The main idea of 3D Tune-In is to link the traditional gaming industry with the fast-growing game-based learning market and hearing device market, by applying scientific methodologies and technologies towards a new set of non-leisure applications which have real benefits for European citizens.

A small part of the gaming market is already related to serious games. Industry estimates range from $2 - 10 billion in revenue for serious games[2]. Game-based learning is expected to grow from $1.5 billion in 2012 to $2.3 billion in 2017, and the simulation-based learning market, including corporate training games, is expected to grow even more - from $2.3 billion in 2012 to $6.6 billion in 2017[3].

Studies have shown that games have real benefits for enabling familiarisation of products - in particular for older users and young people with learning difficulties. However, traditional methods for learning to use new devices (i.e. watching others, asking advice from others, trial and error, or reading the manual) require a lot effort.

For many people none of these traditional methods are satisfactory, especially for devices where it is hard to develop a mental model of how the device works. Games-based approaches can help in device-familiarisation in order to attract interest and provide motivation. This in turn helps to construct mental models, which could reduce anxiety and uncertainty felt by some in relation with technology.

Digital games have largely done away with manuals, with the familiarisation process now built into the gameplay. It should therefore be possible to use similar familiarisation processes for devices, whereby the user 'plays' the manual.


[1] The provision of social care for people with hearing loss, research report from Action on Hearing Loss http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk (April 2014)

[2] http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2012/08/serious-games-now-a-multi-billi... (April 2014)

[3] http://www.designingdigitally.com/blog/2013/09/mobile-boom-boosts-growth... (April 2014)