Functional Hearing Laboratory


​​What is functional hearing?

Functional hearing refers to our ability to use a multitude of auditory information to help with listening in noisy and challenging environments. The auditory information—or “auditory cues" as hearing scientists prefer to call them—becomes distorted and less useful in indoor places that have reverberation, like classrooms and restaurants.

What is the problem?

In indoor auditory environments, it takes children a long time to develop the skills to pick and choose the distorted auditory cues that are most useful to help them navigate the space and listen to other people. There are additional challenges for children with hearing loss, even though they may wear hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. Currently, we lack an effective way to configure hearing devices for pediatric patients that help maximize functional hearing in real-world listening environments.

What are we trying to learn and solve?

Our lab has two big goals:

  1. To understand how children with normal hearing develop functional hearing abilities. This will help us set realistic intervention goals for children who grow up wearing hearing devices.
  2. To develop personalized auditory (re)habilitative tools for children with hearing devices that maximize functional hearing. These tools will not only help clinicians set up devices that are specifically tailored to each pediatric patient, but also provide long-term (re)habilitations for families to use in their homes.

What do we really do?

We use virtual reality (VR) to simulate indoor auditory environments when we study functional hearing by children in our lab. We assess how well children navigate spaces and hear speech in these virtual environments. Some of the techniques we use include psychoacoustics, eye-tracking, and neuroimaging.