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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.

The Problem

The Solution


“What?” is a collaborative card game that 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.

How it works

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The Cards

The game presents 10 types of fun & engaging activities such as Say it Loud, Broken Telephone, Clap that Number & many more!

The card includes a visual representation of the activity, instructions & the level of difficulty.

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The Levels

Each type of activity has a different level of difficulty indicated by the ear icon at the bottom of the card.

The distance indicates how far apart each player stands at to increase difficulty & encourage movement.

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The Headphones

The game comes with earplugs & earmuffs to provide noise reduction means that simulate varying levels of hearing loss. The earmuffs come with 4 foams pads that increase the level of hearing loss from mild hearing loss (32 dB) to moderately severe hearing loss (57 dB)

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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...

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Social Health

  • Negatively impacts personal and work relations

  • Increased social isolation

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Mental Health

  • Decrease in cognitive ability

  • Higher risk of dementia

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Physical Health

  • Higher mortality rate

  • Independent living is jeopardized

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How did we get here?

How it works
The Journey





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...

300+ Data Points

70 Clusters

10 Key Insights

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Our 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.

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Final Product

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?

User Testing

Once our direction was formed we user tested two versions of "What?". The first consisted of large tangible cards while the second contained a more technologically advanced component which displayed the tasks on a central screen.

Version A

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Cards; tangible & movable

Version B


Physical hub; fixed position, visual representation

total user testing subjects


Domain Experts


Hearing Participants



  • Wizard of Oz

  • Concierge


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Deciding between products

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What I Learned


Accessibly Design

Designing for accessibility is incredibly important to keep in mind while working with products that are intended to target a large range of users. While working with Older Adults who have hearing loss, I learned a lot about minute details that might not matter to the young and able bodied but create a world of difference for those who are aging and have imparements.


Designing for Older Adults

Older adults are a demographic I have not worked with before, however, with older adults consisting of nearly 25% of the US population by 2050, I deemed it important to begin my journey with them now. This product has shown me that older adults tend to get overlooked in designs and they really appreciate when we ask for their insights. I genuinely enjoyed my experience working with this demographic.

User Testing
What I Learned
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