advanced vIrtual reality Temporal bone surgical simulator

Academic freeware software for training of temporal bone surgical procedures from mastoidectomy to cochlear implant surgery with integrated guides, different training cases, automated performance assessment, and easy export for 3D-printable files.

Explore The visible ear simulator

VES has many features to support learning temporal bone surgical procedures in a patient-safe virtual environment at the convenience of your trainees. The software is academic freeware and backed by many research studies on the effects on learning.

Multiple cases and scenarios

The Visible Ear Simulator features several temporal bone models: the original Visible Ear model based on digital cryo-sections and six new models based on high-resolution cone-beam CT. Each case allows free drilling to explore the temporal bone and different drilling scenarios for training have been prepared including anatomical mastoidectomy, cochlear implant surgery, and translabyrinthine approach.

On-screen guides and integrated tutoring

Each of the predefined scenarios have on-screen, step-by-step guides with images and explanatory text to aid the novice trainee in learning the procedure. Further, corresponding volumes can be green-lighted to visualize the bone to be drilled in each step.

automated performance rating

The most recent version of the Visible Ear Simulator includes a scenario for practicing anatomical mastoidectomy with automated final-product rating based on the modified Welling Scale. This is a useful feedback tool that allows the trainee to track and monitor their progress towards competency.

Getting started

You can try the Visible Ear Simulator using just your mouse, however, for a realistic drilling experience you need a setup with a haptic device for interacting with the virtual temporal bone with force-feedback.

evidence-based temporal bone surgical training

We believe that surgical training should be made available for all trainees—also those training in low-resource settings. Therefore, our solutions are based on the cheapest possible, commercially available solutions and a DIY approach. Importantly, we actively research how simulation and the Visible Ear Simulator can be employed for the best possible educational effects. Based on >10 years of research, we have iteratively improved the Visible Ear Simulator

3D-printed temporal bone models

VR simulation training is even more effective if supplemented by training on physical models. The recently published Copenhagen Temporal Bone model is based on the Visible Ear dataset and can easily be printed on cheap, commercially available 3D-printers using different filaments such as ABS or PLA. After printing, only a couple of postprocessing steps are needed to enhance the educational value.

All temporal bone cases in the Visible Ear Simulator can be exported from the software as .stl files for 3D-printing either before or after virtual drilling. Below we have also provided a direct link for the .stl files so all you need to do is “slice” the file for your specific printer and choice of material.


“We use the Visible Ear Simulator for our multimodal temporal bone surgery beginner course in Geneva as well as for the basic training in our Department. The Visible Ear Simulator provides a very user-friendly and efficient tool to familiarize the beginner with the surgical anatomy of the temporal bone and the basic principles of mastoid surgery. Apart from being useful, it’s also fun to work with – implicating the gamification concepts of modern education. I am very thankful to the team of developers to provide the Visible Ear Simulator and the constant optimization for free – what a chance for us all, who really like to work with it.”

Pascal Senn

Professor, Head of department, dept. of ORL, Hopitaux Universitaires de GenEve, switzerland