Exploring the effect of neural dead regions in the cochlea on hearing with a cochlear implant

Supervisors: Prof Colette McKay, Dr Maureen Shader

Neural dead regions in the cochlea are regions of the cochlea in a deaf person where there is poor survival of auditory nerve cells. Such regions are not suitable for electrical stimulation with a cochlear implant, but are difficult to identify. The presence of these regions is one main reason that some cochlear implant users do not understand speech well. This project, undertaken with cochlear implant users, will develop an objective method for identifying these dead regions in individuals.

Currently we have psychophysical methods that provide clues to the presence of dead regions, but these methods are not suitable for clinical use, or in young children. The project will use electrophysiological methods combined with psychophysical methods to both develop an objective diagnostic tool and to understand more fully what the impact of dead regions are on hearing ability with a cochlear implant. This project will potentially lead to new clinical procedures to optimise the programming of cochlear implants for individual people.

This PhD project would suit a graduate with qualifications in audiology, neuroscience, engineering, experimental psychology, or related disciplines. Experience with EEG would be an advantage and strong skills in data analysis. Strong interpersonal skills are required as the student will be working directly with deaf individuals with a cochlear implant.

The general methods that will be used in this project include psychophysics, electrophysiology, and speech understanding assessment.

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