Our research is focused on trying to understand the factors that influence how children understand speech and learn language. The work that we do includes both children who have normal hearing, so we can understand what the typical processes are that affect speech understanding, as well as children with hearing loss who wear hearing aids. A lot of the work that we do is based on children with normal hearing, but is applied to children who wear hearing aids, so that we can figure out how we set hearing aids optimally, so that children will understand speech and learn.
Children need their hearing aids to develop speech and language, to function in the classroom, to have relationships with their friends and peers and so the work that we do is really designed to try to optimize those outcomes for those kids so they can function just as well as their peers with normal hearing.
One of the most important tests that we do is really just regular hearing tests to see how much hearing loss children have, so that we can appropriately provide the right amount of amplification through the hearing aid.
We also test the hearing aids to make sure the hearing aids are amplifying speech so that it is audible to the child and then we look at their hearing and the audibility of speech through the hearing aid and use that to predict their performance on speech recognition tasks, so tasks where children have to repeat back words or remember words and repeat them back later. We also do test of their language and working memory abilities to see how those skills impact their recognition of speech.
So there are some really exciting areas that this research could move into in terms of understanding how hearing aids affect cognitive development in children. We are also interested in taking the work that we are doing here in the lab and trying to move it into more realistic situations like classrooms, where noise and reverberation are much more unpredictable and less controlled than they are here in our laboratory.
The work that we do here we hope will have a direct impact on the way that we care for children who wear hearing aids and we hope that the information can be used by audiologists and professionals who work with these children to help them to achieve the best outcome that they can.
Research in the Audibility, Perception and Cognition Lab aims to describe how amplification, language and cognition support speech recognition in children who are hard of hearing. The results from our research will help to maximize the auditory abilities of children who are hard of hearing who wear hearing aids.