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Student Projects

Below is a list of some research areas and project ideas we would like to explore in the future. If you are a current student, let us know if you are interested in getting involved in one of these projects, projects currently underway or have a project idea you would like to explore. These projects are listed in no specific order. Wherever applicable, it is clarified if any work has been done before; however, information may not be up to date. Please check with us for details.

Depending on the topic, methodological complexity and the amount of previous work, some of these projects will lead to a comprehensive literature analysis, a proposal for an experimental design, or will involve data collection and analysis. We will discuss and decide on the specifics of each project on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of what we decide, remember as a general rule that in research everything takes at least four times longer than what you originally think it will take. It is never too early to start searching for a topic for your investigative project and discussing it with others.

Music perception by cochlear implant users

Music can be a major source of satisfaction for cochlear implant patients; however, limitations imposed by the nature of electric hearing are known to interfere with many aspects of music perception. This project will examine one such aspect: the ability to identify musical instruments. It will examine how variation in the amount of spectral detail and spectral asynchrony produced by implant processing affect normal-hearing listeners and cochlear implant patients' ability to identify musical instruments.

Comprehensive test of environmental sound perception

A systematic interest of environmental sound perception is a relatively new area of behavioral research. Its further development is considerably hampered by the absence of comprehensive standardized environmental sound tests that could evaluate different cognitive dimensions and acoustic parameters of environmental sound perception. This project will determine the desirable structural elements and the composition of a comprehensive environmental sounds test and provide initial data on its reliability and validity.

Auditory memory and attention in normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners

This project will explore the effects of hearing impairment and associated sensory limitations on the individual's memory of items perceived through the auditory modality and ability to shift attention among different aspect of acoustic stimuli. Effects of restoring partial hearing through amplification or implantation on the ability to perform various cognitive tasks in the auditory modality will also be examined. The goal of this project will be to develop a hypothesis on the effects of hearing impairment on auditory information processing and design a study that will provide a test of this hypothesis.

Assessing the validity of acoustic simulations of hearing loss and auditory prostheses

Acoustic simulations of hearing loss and auditory prostheses have been used to a great effect as research tools and as demonstrations of perceptual handicap for normal-hearing listeners; however, any such simulation makes assumptions about the perceptual deficit associated with the hearing impairment, the representation of this deficit by a signal processing algorithm and perceptual processing of the simulation by the normal-hearing listeners. If some of these assumptions are incorrect, the result may lead to misleading conclusions. This project will examine currently available simulation methods and their applications to determine pros and cons for each particular application and design a strategy for evaluating their validity.

Internet surveys of the hearing impaired

Surveys and questionnaires can provide a wealth of information useful in assessment of health and treatment outcomes. The advent of the internet has made it easier to reach a greater number of people, but it has also changed how the information is accessed and processed by respondents. This project will examine the types of surveys traditionally used with the hearing-impaired populations and assess the advantages and disadvantages of conducting hearing health surveys on the internet.

Sound source identification and annoyance caused by ambient sound

Industrialization has, by and large, been accompanied by substantial increases in ambient noise levels and introduction of machine-generated sounds. Contemporary urban listening environments are typically saturated with a variety of sounds produced by independent sources. Often, only some of these sources can be identified by the listeners at a given time, while other treated as "meaningless" noise. This project will review the existing literature to examine factors in noise annoyance and design an experimental study that could assess the effect of ambient sound identifiably on the level of annoyance.

Speaker identification by cochlear implants users

Cochlear implants have helped many profoundly deaf individuals to improve their understanding of speech; however, they seem to have been less successful in restoring the listener's ability to identify a speaker. This project will examine cochlear implant users' ability to identify speakers, review known acoustic parameters important for speaker identification and identify factors that can lead to improved speaker identification by cochlear implant users.

Alarm sound design for the hearing impaired

Sound alarms contribute to listeners' awareness of the current state of affairs in the immediate environment. Although the specific significance of sounds varies from one alarm to another, alarm sounds play a role in almost all areas of daily living in industrial society, from household appliances and fire alarms to car horns and airplane controls. Given a variety of existing and potential uses of alarm sounds, it is important and interesting to examine how well alarm sounds are understood by hearing impaired individuals, what factors play a role in perceiving an alarm sound and how alarm sounds can be modified to accommodate the hearing impaired.

Relationships between auditory agnosia and aphasia

A damage to brain tissues following a trauma or a stroke often leads to deficits in language and auditory perception. These deficits can be manifested in the perception of speech and, sometimes, in the perception of music and environmental sounds. This project will examine similarities and differences in perception of these three types of sounds following cerebral damage with a general aim to determine the neurological and cognitive bases for processing these different sound types.

Development of expert listening skills: Heart sounds

Listening to heart sounds is an ancient diagnostic tool that has been used by doctors. Variations in sound patterns provide information about the state and function of the patient's heart. The ability to diagnose a heart condition through auscultation is a skill that requires extensive practice. This project is designed to determine some perceptually salient acoustic cues that signal cardiac pathologies and examine differences in attention paid to different cues by novice and experienced practitioners.