The Hearing Loss Game

“What?” is a collaborative party card game that simulates mild to severe hearing loss through noise reduction means and requires players to complete group tasks. “What?” fosters empathy for the hearing loss experience within social circles and alleviates the stigma and emotional barriers older adults with presbycusis face in their social lives.


UX Studio 1

UXDG 330 Fall 2020


10 Weeks

SEP 2020 - NOV 2020


Nandika Gupta

Eduardo Alfonso

Andrea Castro-Yanes

Leo Caballero

Danlei Xiang


Research Lead


Product Visuals


The Problem

One in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

Older adults with presbycusis, or age related hearing loss, experience poor communication which leads to anger, frustration & depression, and as a consequence, strained relationships and social isolation. We focused on alleviating the barriers of communication and helping with the emotional side effects faced by older adults with presbycusis.


Hearing Loss Leads to Social Isolation

Hearing loss in older adults creates miscommunication and strain in social relationships which eventually leads to the older adult isolating themselves to stay away from negative interactions. This social isolation can lead to...

Social Health

  • Negatively impacts personal and work relations

  • Increased social isolation

Mental Health

  • Decrease in cognitive ability

  • Higher risk of dementia

Physical Health

  • Higher mortality rate

  • Independent living is jeopardized






Contextual Inquiries


Cultural Probes


User Tests

Top User Insights

We interviewed 14 older adults, all of which had been screened to determine if they reached our hearing loss criteria. Through these interviews  and contextual research we gained the following insights...

Older adults feel guilty, frustrated, and embarrassed when they cannot hear others.

Older adults prefer loud conversations whether through speaker phone, high volume, or in person.

Older adults rely on non-verbal cues to understand others.

Older adults avoid scenarios with a lot of noise & disturbances because they feel lost.

Many older adults feel embarrassed when using hearing aids and actively avoid it.


From these insights and their frequency we developed the following how might we's to define our design direction.

How Might we help older adults with hearing loss...

return to their normal flow of conversation?

improve their situational awareness?

not feel guilty or embarressed during social interactions?

release their stigma of hearing aids?


Customizable Lighting

To help with sensitivity, Cocoon enables users to adjust light brightness to their needs. An additional green light option is offered to help lessen migraine pain.

Adjustable desk

Maintaining blood flow, posture, and comfort is important for anyone at work, mostly when trying to find comfort during a migraine. An adjustable desk helps users continue to customize their environment to their needs.

air flow 

Some users prefer cooling sensations during a migraine. Controlling the airflow strength allows users to control their temperature and environment to their comfort level.

Corresponding Interface

Users are able to track their Cocoon usage and preferences to monitor their migraines, make reservations of a Cocoon, and customize their Cocoon settings to fit their migraine needs.


Cocoon contains a corresponding interface that allows users to reserve Cocoons, check their personal logs, and change their Cocoon environment virtually. 

What I Learned


Overcoming barriers is exciting

Due to COVID-19, my team and I had to meet virtually through the span of 9 weeks, and throughout the interview and user testing process we experimented with various methods of testing to gather substantial results. Despite this barrier of virtual meeting, my team worked tirelessly to understand our users and their needs and develop a strong bond with one another as we worked towards a common goal. 


Unique users means unique solutions

Migraines are a very individualistic neurological disease that affects each user differently. Unlike other disabilities which tend to either be outwardly seen or more spoken about, migraines are still a very minimally researched disease that many people tend to misunderstand. Due to this, our users requested we help create workplace understanding while allowing them to care for their migraine in peace and privacy. These design criteria enabled us to create a private workspace that adjusts itself to the user that can help create a norm in the workplace for needed isolation and mental health self-care.