Human Auditory Development Lab
Lori Leibold, Ph.D., Boys Town National Research Hospital
We’re interested in hearing and how it changes from infancy through to the end of childhood. Our major focus is on how children learn to hear and process important sounds such as speech when there are competing sounds in the background.
We’ve known for a long time that the ability to hear in the presence of competing background sounds takes a long time to develop and this is an issue because children spend most of their days in environments that contain competing sounds so we rarely listen in a quiet environment yet many of our research studies that we’ve done in the past, as a field, have involved assessing hearing and quiet. It turns out that the ability to listen and process sounds in different background sounds is much harder for children and adults. It really depends on the type of background sound and how old the child is.
All of our tests are what we call behavioral tests of hearing so the children listen to sounds and respond in some way. Now sometimes we teach a baby to turn their head to a mechanical toy reinforce in a booth similar to what we do in the audiology clinic. Other times we have them touch buttons on a touchscreen monitor or repeat back sentences. Almost all of the time when we do our studies we have different kinds of competing sounds in the background.
There are three overall goals for our research program. The first goal is to develop better ways to assess hearing in infants and children. A second goal that we have is to understand how hearing develops across the lifespan so that we can better support children in the classroom at different ages. Finally by understanding how hearing loss influences the ability to hear and understand speech in noisy environments, we’re going to be in a better position to provide intervention and technological innovations to improve hearing for these children.
Research in the Human Auditory Development Lab aims to understand how infants and children hear and process target sounds in the presence of competing background sounds. The results from our research will improve our understanding of how hearing develops. Our results may also lead to enhancements in how sounds are delivered to infants and children who are hard of hearing.