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Hearing and Speech Perception Research


Audiologist tools on a medical chart

​​​Our Hearing and Speech Perception labs support basic research efforts aimed at understanding hearing, promote translational clinical hearing research, and train early-stage hearing scientists in areas related to hearing, audiology, auditory development, and speech perception. Our researchers often work closely with audiologists and clinical colleagues to directly contribute to patient care.

Some of the questions we’re interested in​ are:

  • How do our ears encode sound?
  • How do our brains decipher speech in the presence of competing background noise?
  • How do people who are hearing impaired understand speech and develop language skills?
  • How can we improve hearing and communication outcomes for people with cochlear implants and/or hearing aids?
  • How do visual and auditory systems work together to help us understand speech?



Audibility, Perception and Cognition Laboratory McCreery, Ph.D.Audibility, Perception and Cognition LaboratoryResearchLab
Audiovisual Speech Processing Laboratory Lalonde, Ph.D.Audiovisual Speech Processing LaboratoryResearchLab
Auditory Perceptual Encoding Laboratory Bosen, Ph.D.Auditory Perceptual Encoding LaboratoryResearchLab
Auditory Prostheses and Perception Laboratory Chatterjee, Ph.D.Auditory Prostheses and Perception LaboratoryResearchLab
Auditory Signal Processing Laboratory M. Rasetshwane, Ph.D.Auditory Signal Processing LaboratoryResearchLab
Center for Perception and Communication in Children (COBRE Grant) E. Ambrose, Ph.D.;Karina Blair, Ph.D.Center for Perception and Communication in Children (COBRE Grant)ResearchArea
Communication Engineering Laboratory Neely, D.Sc.Communication Engineering LaboratoryResearchLab
Human Auditory Development Laboratory Leibold, Ph.D.Human Auditory Development LaboratoryResearchLab
Physical Acoustics Laboratory Keefe, Ph.D.Physical Acoustics LaboratoryResearchLab
Psychoacoustics Laboratory Jesteadt, Ph.D.Psychoacoustics LaboratoryResearchLab
Translational Auditory Physiology and Perception Laboratory Merchant, Au.D., Ph.D.Translational Auditory Physiology and Perception LaboratoryResearchLab
Working Memory and Language Laboratory AuBuchon, Ph.D.Working Memory and Language LaboratoryResearchLab


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Chatterjee Group Study Published in Nature Scientific Reports Group Study Published in Nature Scientific Reports2019-02-08T06:00:00Z<p>​Monita Chatterjee, Ph.D., Director of Auditory Prostheses and Perception lab, recently co-authored an article published in Nature Scientific Reports. Dr. Chatterjee worked with collaborators in Canada, Taiwan and San Francisco to test children with cochlear implants on their ability to differentiate pitch inflections.<br></p><p>One downside of cochlear implants is that they don't adequately transmit pitch information, which can be problematic in languages where tone is crucial to comprehension.</p><p>In tone languages such as Mandarin Chinese, the lexical tone (pitch inflections within spoken syllables) can define a word. For example, the same word spoken with a rising or falling pitch might have very different meanings. Dr. Chatterjee's group set out to determine if native Mandarin-speaking children with cochlear implants have a greater sensitivity to changes in pitch compared to English-speaking children with cochlear implants. They hypothesized that immersion in a tone-language environment from birth would help the Mandarin-speaking children to process pitch changes better than English-speaking children in the US.</p><p>"Even for children who are implanted early, the adaptability of their brains to catch the differences in pitch is very limited," Dr. Chatterjee said. "It's a major device limitation."</p><p>Dr. Chatterjee and her collaborators tested 97 children in Taiwan and 97 children in the US on two pitch perception tasks. Each test group had both normal hearing children and children with cochlear implants.</p><p>"Compared to children speaking English in the US, children with normal hearing in Taiwan who speak a Mandarin showed an advantage in both tasks," Dr. Chatterjee said. "Children with cochlear implants who spoke Mandarin showed large deficits in both tasks, which was expected, but even they showed the tone-language advantage in labeling the changes in pitch."</p><p>Results of the study have concluded that the demands of a tonal language have helped Mandarin-speaking children with cochlear implants develop a better ability to determine pitch changes. While their ability is limited and the sound quality is still highly degraded, the results suggest that the natural training provided by one's native language can substantially affect young brains' ability to perceive sounds.</p><p> <a href="">The full report can be read here.</a></p><p>According to their website, Nature Scientific Reports is a weekly international publication for peer-reviewed research in scientific and technological fields. The research is published based on originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions.<br></p><p> <br> </p>
Chatterjee Article Awarded as 2018 Technical Area Pick Article Awarded as 2018 Technical Area Pick2018-11-21T06:00:00Z<p>​The "musician advantage effect" is an auditory phenomenon used to explain how musicians can sometimes achieve better speech recognition in noisy backgrounds than non-musicians. A recent article co-authored by Monita Chatterjee, Ph.D., Director of the Auditory Prostheses and Perception Laboratory at Boys Town National Research Hospital, titled <a href=""><em>Similar abilities of musicians and non-musicians to segregate voices by fundamental frequency</em></a><em> </em>was selected as the Technical Area Pick for Psychological and Physiological Acoustics. The article was chosen among all the articles from the same technical field published in the past year in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA).</p><p>It is not known what causes the "musician advantage", but one hypothesis is that it arises from better pitch processing by musicians, which might allow them to better track the target talker's voice and separate it out from competing talkers or background noise. The authors conducted a series of studies with musicians and non-musicians to test this hypothesis.</p><p>In these studies, they tested listeners' ability to detect target voices embedded in competing backgrounds. In addition, listeners heard a beeping tone with the same pitch as the target voice, presented before they heard the speech and designed to focus the listener's attention specifically to the target voice. In another case, the pitch of the tone was designed to deliberately mislead the listeners. If musicians benefit from pitch processing, they should show a stronger response to these helpful or confusing tones than non-musicians. The results confirmed the musician advantage, but did not show the predicted effects of manipulating the pitch cues. The authors concluded that the musicians' advantage in hearing speech in background noise does not in fact stem from a better ability to process the target speaker's voice pitch.</p><p>Dr. Chatterjee is the principal investigator and lab director of the <a href="">Auditory Prostheses and Perception Laboratory</a> at Boys Town National Research Hospital. She also co-directs the Technology Core, as part of the <a href="">Center for Perception and Communication in Children</a>. The primary goal of her research is to understand basic mechanisms underlying auditory and speech perception by individuals with normal hearing, hearing loss, and cochlear implants. Experiments include psychophysical measures of listeners' sensitivity to subtle differences between sounds, measures of listeners' sensitivity to speech intonation and lexical tone recognition, and the processing of degraded speech by the normal and impaired auditory system.<br></p><p><br></p>
Daniel Rasetshwane Awarded Great Plains IDeA-CTR Scholars Grant Rasetshwane Awarded Great Plains IDeA-CTR Scholars Grant2017-07-21T05:00:00Z<p>​Daniel Rasetshwane, Ph.D., Director of the Auditory Signal Processing <br>Laboratory at Boys Town National Research Hospital, has been awarded the Great Plains Institutional Development Award for Clinical and Translational Research (IDeA-CTR) Scholars Program grant.</p><p>This program is administered through an National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) grant to the Great Plains IDeA-Clinical Translational Research (CTR) Network. The network is a collaborative effort between nine institutions in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Kansas designed to reach medically underserved populations and transform health delivery and outcomes in the Great Plains region.  Institutions in the network include University of Nebraska Medical Center, Boys Town National Research Hospital, University of Kansas Medical Center, North Dakota State University, University of North Dakota, University of South Dakota, University of Nebraska at Kearney, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.</p><p>One of the primary goals of the program is to develop successful clinical and translational research (CTR) investigators. To achieve this goal, selected Scholars are provided with the protected time and seed grant funding to develop competitive CTR projects for submission to the NIH.  The award provides partial salary support and up to $50,000 annually to support preliminary research efforts for up to four years. This competitive Request for Application ( RFA) received an overwhelming response in which four scholars were chosen.</p><p>Dr. Rasetshwane's project focuses on a physiologically-based and technically rigorous approach to treating hearing loss. Rasetshwane states, “Many people with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids choose not to use them because of limited benefit and poor sound quality. We have developed a fitting algorithm that utilizes categorical loudness scaling data and a signal-processing algorithm that restores suppression (referred to as the suppression hearing aid), and evaluation of both algorithms resulted in promising outcomes. Ultimately, we believe that work from our laboratory will lead to improved quality in hearing aids and patient satisfaction with their use."<br><br>To learn more about the Great Plains IDeA-CTR Network and our educational and funding opportunities, visit <a href=""></a> or call our office at 402-552-2260.<br></p><p><br></p>
Telepractice Study for Cochlear Implants Aimed at Extending Access to Care Study for Cochlear Implants Aimed at Extending Access to Care2016-10-03T05:00:00Z<p>​​​​​​​Because cochlear implants are a specialty, implant centers are few and sparsely located. Cochlear implant programming, testing and follow-up require frequent visits and substantial time commitments from patients and their families. Many families must travel long distances to reach their clinic appointment, which can be costly and often results in missed time from school and work. And, if a child is unable or unwilling to engage in the programming process, additional appointments would be necessary. </p><p>Boys Town National Research Hospital researcher, <a href="" target="_blank">Michelle Hughes, Ph.D.</a>, Director of the <a href="" target="_blank">Cochlear Implant Research Laboratory</a>, is studying the effectiveness of remote cochlear implant service delivery.</p><p>“Our research on remote cochlear implant service delivery will hopefully provide an avenue for increased access to clinical services and better outcomes for all cochlear implant recipients, especially for children who are still developing listening skills,” said Dr. Hughes. </p><p>Dr. Hughes and her team are currently conducting three studies that make up the research project, <i>Telepractice for Cochlear Implants</i>. The studies focus on how to effectively deliver a range of cochlear implant services through remote technology for individuals in varying geographical locations. </p><p>The first study focuses on validating the use of telepractice for pediatric-specific hearing testing procedures that are used to program the cochlear implant. Remote programming of cochlear implant sound processors for adults has been validated in earlier studies, but test methods for young children are much more challenging. Young children do not understand the concepts of soft and loud, nor do they have the language to tell the audiologist about what they hear through the implant. </p><p>Because of this barrier, audiologists use behavioral conditioning methods in a clinic setting that either engage the child with games or reinforce certain behaviors that indicate when they hear a sound. This method requires two clinicians – one who is manipulating the cochlear implant programming software and one who is engaging the child and watching for responses. Recreating the behavioral conditioning for a remote setting adds to the complexity of the task because both clinicians must coordinate communication and timing efforts. Lapses or delays during remote testing may alter results.</p><p>Two other studies in this project are examining ways to test speech understanding with the implant in a remote setting and evaluating outcomes of aural rehabilitation conducted in person versus remotely via videoconferencing. </p><p>“While we still have more work to do, our recent research shows promising results that we believe will greatly expand access to specialized cochlear implant services,” said Dr. Hughes.</p><p>Dr. Hughes’s research team includes Sangsook Choi, Ph.D., Sara Robinson, M.A., CCC-SLP, and Alexis Mills. The Telepractice for Cochlear Implant research project is part of a $212,500 per-year five-year grant funded by the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). </p><div class="embed-container"> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"></iframe>​ </div>​​ ​
Kathryn Beauchaine Becomes an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Fellow Beauchaine Becomes an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Fellow2016-09-30T05:00:00Z<p>​Kathryn L. Beauchaine, B.S., M.A., CCC-A, Clinical Coordinator in Audiology at Boys Town National Research Hospital, was elected as a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).<br></p><p>The recognition is one of the highest forms of acknowledgement ASHA bestows, honoring an individual's professional and scientific accomplishments. Every year, only 10 to 12 professionals are chosen by colleagues, marking a lifetime achievement in the field of audiology.</p><p>Beauchaine's contributions include research and publications contributing to the educational knowledge for state Speech-Language-Hearing Associations and national organizations. She has given more than 65 professional presentations and through her collaborations with other professionals in the scientific field, she has co-authored 59 published articles and has appeared in Tier 1 journals, nationally.</p><p>Allan O. Diefendorf, Ph.D., FASHA, and Professor Emeritus at the Indiana University School of Medicine, recently explained why Beauchaine was deserving of this distinguished achievement.</p><p>“Kathy and I are contemporaries and because of our mutual clinical and research interests, we have enjoyed working together over the past 15 years," said Dr. Diefendorf. “Through my collaborations and time with her at events, I've seen her continued national leadership shine. She has a reputation for delivering what her audiences have come to expect from a seasoned authority with experience and knowledge. Based not only on scholarly pursuits, but through thoughtful studies and laboratory research, she has shown how much she truly cares about the advancements toward the field of audiology."</p><p>Beauchaine first started at Boys Town Hospital as a student in the spring of 1979. After an internship with the Mayo Clinic, she returned as an employee and has been an integral part of the audiology team for 37 years. She dedicates her time to working on the daily operations of the audiology clinics, provides quality patient care and participates in hearing research projects. She has served on committees and working groups including ASHA, Nebraska Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI), Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p><p>“I love being a part of the Boys Town mission and incorporating my love of audiology and research to the change that helps communities across the world," said Beauchaine. “I am honored to join the dedicated Fellows of ASHA and will continue collaboration with my wonderful colleagues and friends!"</p><p>Her work with pediatric audiology has impacted and accelerated service provision to many infants, young children and families. Congratulations to Kathy Beauchaine on her Fellowship Award!<br></p><p><br></p>
Michael Gorga, Ph.D. Earns High Honor for His Impact on Audiology Research Gorga, Ph.D. Earns High Honor for His Impact on Audiology Research2016-09-22T05:00:00Z<p>​On March 3, 2016, Michael Gorga, Ph.D., Director of the Human Sensory Physiology Laboratory at Boys Town National Research Hospital, gave the Carhart Memorial Lecture at the annual meeting of the American Auditory Society.  T his lecture, named after the "father of audiology," Raymond Carhart, is considered the most prestigious lecture in audiology.</p><p>During his lecture, Michael presented a sampling of 35 years of high-impact translational research from his laboratory.  Work from his group has had major influences on the implementation of universal newborn hearing screening and the identification and quantification of hearing loss in infants, young children and patients with developmental disabilities who are unable to provide voluntary responses to sound. In addition, Michael has contributed to research that has increased our understanding of auditory function in both individuals with normal hearing and those with hearing loss. </p><p>Michael began working at Boys Town Hospital i n 1981, spending much of his early career focused on directing clinical services.  This direct clinical experience led to his observations of the inadequacies of assessment tools and the need for translational research to improve the services provided to patients. To address this important clinical issue, Michael sought and received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH-NIDCD), which has been continuous for the past 20 years. </p><p>With support from the NIH and Boys Town Hospital, Michael has been able to lead a creative and productive research program.  He has produced over 130 publications in archival, refereed and scientific journals, which is the second-highest level of published research in the history of Boys Town Hospital.  Michael frequently acknowledges the contributions of his colleagues at Boys Town Hospital have made to his success.  He considers himself fortunate to have had so many smart colleagues throughout his career.  This group includes co-investigators, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.  Michael readily admits that without the help of these individuals and the environment at Boys Town Hospital, any success he has had would have been greatly diminished. </p><p>As Michael's career winds down, he looks back fondly on his work experiences and is thankful for the opportunities he has had to contribute to the body of knowledge related to the identification and diagnosis of hearing loss.  He considers his invitation to give the Carhart Memorial Lecture a wonderful recognition and a fitting capstone to a career well-spent.   Those who have worked with him can't help but agree.</p><p> "Michael deserves this award not only because he has done good work, but because he has mentored a lot of scientists, including me," said Ryan McCreery, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Audiology. "If you just look at the people who have worked with him - students and postdocs – they have gone on to be very successful in their own right. He has that academic family tree that shows he not only did a lot of great work himself, but he enabled other people to do really amazing work as well."</p><p>Michael Gorga epitomizes translational science. Boys Town National Research Hospital thanks Michael for his contributions to the mission and the impact he had on the field of audiology and congratulates him for his accomplishments locally, nationally and internationally, as recognized by this prestigious award. <br></p><p><br></p>

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