The overall goal in our research is really to improve outcomes for patients with cochlear implants. We have two different main projects that are going on right now. The first project is aimed at comparing objective measures to perceptual measures. What that means is the objective measures are basically measures that we make from the auditory nerve when we stimulate a cochlear implant.
The purpose of what we are doing here is to see if we can use these objective measures from the auditory nerve to tell us about what people hear with the implants. What is soft? What is loud? Can you tell apart these different pitches? That kind of thing.
When we try to program the sound processor for a young child with a cochlear implant, the young child isn’t going to be able to tell you these things that you need to know in order to program the implant. So a lot of it is guess work. If we can find better ways to program the implant earlier on, then hopefully that will lead to better outcomes with the implant.
The second project that we are working on is using tele practice to deliver practical services with cochlear implants. That project has three different experiments. The first one is looking at programming the speech processor for really young children. One of the concerns is, is all of the video equipment going to be distracting for the child? Is it going to be difficult to not have that human face to face interaction with the clinician? These are the things that we are really looking at, the feasibility of even being able to use pediatric programming techniques via video conferencing.
The second experiment is really looking at alternatives to speech perception testing in a sound booth. In most cases you are not going to have access to a sound booth in more rural areas. So we are looking at things like direct connect, so directly connecting to the cochlear implant processor to present the speech stimuli that way rather than having a sound booth.
For the third experiment, that one is looking at remote service delivery for aural rehabilitation. So we are going to compare whether or not remote therapy is just as good as in person therapy and whether both of those with a clinicians are better than auditory training at home, sort of self-directed at home by yourself.
In the big picture part of this research project is really expanding access to specialized care because cochlear implants represent a specialized service within hearing healthcare, so there are not cochlear implant centers is as many places so it would allow access for a lot of people independent of distance or state boundaries.
The Cochlear Implant Research Laboratory at Boys Town National Research Hospital is committed to improving the outcomes of patients with cochlear implants.
There are currently two lines of research in the laboratory. The goal of the first research project is to determine whether certain objective measures can be used to predict perceptual measures with the cochlear implant. In the future, we hope this research can be used to better program cochlear implant speech processors for children and adults.
The second line of research is investigating ways to expand cochlear implant service delivery through telepractice, which uses the internet and videoconferencing technology to connect a patient and health care provider. If validated, telepractice for cochlear implants could expand access to specialized care for individuals who do not have easy access to clinical services.