Current Research Projects

Environmental sound testing and training with patients with cochlear implants

The purpose of this study is to 1) investigate if computerized training with environmental sounds versus speech leads to an improvement in the perception of these sound classes in cochlear implant patients, 2) investigate if the improvement is symmetrical (does speech training also affect environmental sounds and vice versa), and 3) investigate the relationships among speech, environmental sound perception, temporal and spectral psychoacoustic and cognitive measures.

Effects of training on the identification of spectrally impoverished environmental sounds

Listeners’ ability to identify the sources of environmental sounds suffers considerably when sounds’ spectral resolution is decreased. Spectral resolution needed for the identification of a large number of common environmental sounds requires a greater number of frequency channels than can be provided by any available cochlear implant. The lack of sufficient spectral resolution limits cochlear implant listeners’ ability to know what is happening in their environment (what objects and events are making sound), and decreases their awareness of the environment. This research project is designed to test the hypothesis that identification of spectrally impoverished environmental sounds can be improved through training. It is further designed to determine whether training effects obtained with specific sounds can generalize to other sounds and compare performance of cochlear implant users to normal-hearing listeners tested with acoustic simulations.

Perceptual processing of simultaneously occurring sounds

In most cases, human auditory perception takes place in an environment where multiple independently produced sounds are competing for our attention. Successful performance on a number of real life tasks often requires attending to several simultaneous sound streams in order to find the one containing relevant information. Existing auditory perception tests, however, have only marginally addressed listeners’ ability to simultaneously perceive information from multiple sound streams. Thus, the goal of this project is to determine whether listener ability to detect a change in a sound stream changes as a function of the number of sound streams present and existing expectations of which stream will contain a change.