North Texas Daily

University department receives $300k grant to conduct hearing aid research

University department receives $300k grant to conduct hearing aid research

University department receives $300k grant to conduct hearing aid research
August 05
12:00 2022

The Health and Public Service Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology will use the $300,000 grant from the Hearing Industry Research Consortium to study hearing aid users and their social, emotional and physical wellbeing. 

During the study, participants will answer questions about their hearing, emotions and stress levels. Faculty and research facilitators Erin Schafer, Sharon Miller and Boji Lam will examine 40 participants between the ages of 50 to 85 with permanent hearing loss. Those who qualify for the study are required to visit the center several times for a set of tests and provide their own set of hearing aids. Each participant will receive three $300 gift cards and a remote microphone to help listen in loud environments. 

“People respond to hearing loss in different ways,” Schafer said. “It [can] be very stressful for them because it hinders communication, particularly in noisy environments so we are hoping the hearing aids will reduce that stress.” 

During the study, participants will answer self-report questions about how they feel about their hearing loss, emotions and stress levels. Additional tests will consist of “hearing surveys, assessments and non-invasive brain and eye response tests,” according to a UNT press release. While part of the grant will fund the gift cards for the participants, the rest will go toward  equipment, summer salaries for involved faculty and research assistance.

“I specialize in looking at brain measurements and cortical measures,” Miller said. “I look to see if using the hearing aid has improved neuro processing for speech sounds.” 

Miller says that you can determine a person’s listening effort by observing their pupils. In doing so, it makes it possible to study changes of the body’s physiological mechanisms. Additionally, anyone who is unsatisfied with their hearing aids can return them, by law, within 30 days. The research team hopes to observe the people who return the hearing aids to determine if their results stand out. 

Schafer said if they are able to prove their hypothesis that hearing aids impact emotions and stress levels, they can come up with intervention strategies. 

“We aren’t very clear with why people do and do not keep their hearing aids,” Schafer said. “It takes time to adjust, we want to figure out how to respond in the situation.”

American Sign Language professor Jo Ann Nunnelly believes that one of the biggest misconceptions is that Deaf and hard of hearing people are not as intellectually gifted as other people. 

“I think that the biggest difficulty for Deaf [and] hard of hearing individuals is not their hearing loss – instead, I think it is the reactions that they get from people who don’t make an effort to communicate with them,” Nunnelly wrote in an email to the Daily.  “Hearing people sometimes get upset when things don’t happen instantly and they may not be patient about repeating themselves.”

Featured Image: The speech and hearing center stands at 907 W. Sycamore Street on July 6, 2022. Photo by Daniel Pope

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Abby Wormsbaker

Abby Wormsbaker

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