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‘Sorry doctor….I didn’t hear that….’: phenomenological analysis of medical students’ experiences of simulated hearing impairment through virtual reality
  1. Niamh McLaughlin1,
  2. Janet Rogers1,
  3. John D’Arcy2,
  4. Gerard Gormley1
  1. 1 Centre for Medical Education, Queen’s University Belfas, Belfast, UK
  2. 2 Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Gerard Gormley, Centre for Medical Education, Queen’s University Belfast School of Medicine Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Medical Biology Centre, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK;g.gormley{at}


Introduction Hearing impairment is a common condition that can have a significant impact on an individual. Ineffective communication between such individuals and doctors remains an important barrier. There is a need to provide medical students with a deeper understanding of such challenges. Increasingly, simulation is being used to develop empathy skills. In this study, we aimed to seek a deep understanding of medical students’ experiences of being placed in the role of a hearing-impaired patient by means of a virtual reality (VR) simulation.

Methods A multidisciplinary group developed a 360° VR video-learning experience. This experience portrayed a consultation with a doctor from a hearing-impaired individual’s perspective. A qualitative study approach, using hermeneutic phenomenology, was conducted. Following the VR experience, students were interviewed, and transcripts of interviews were analysed using a Template Analysis approach.

Results Analysis yielded four main themes: (1) ‘much more than just watching a video’: a VR experience of hearing impairment; (2) ‘hearing through their ears’: experiencing a person’s world with hearing impairment; (3) ‘not just what you can’t hear…but how it makes you feel’: reactions evoked by a VR hearing impairment experience and (4) redirecting my future professional self?

Discussion This study provides an insight into medical students’ experiences of a novel VR hearing impairment simulation. VR simulation has the potential to provide a novel complementary training method for medical students. By providing an immersive learning experience, VR can offer an empathic stepping into the ears of those that live with hearing impairment.

  • Virtual Reality
  • Simulation

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  • Twitter GerardGormley@DrGerryGl.

  • Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank all the students and faculty staff who participated in the study. Thanks also to Professor Jayne Woodside and James Bailey for their guidance and support in this study. Finally, we would like to thank the Clinical Skills Education Centre (CSEC) staff for their help in this study.

  • Contributors All authors (NMcL, JR, JDA and GG) contributed to conception and design of the study, analysis of the data and reviewed and approved the final manuscript. NMcL and GG drafted the initial manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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