Improving speech understanding of cochlear implant users with neural dead regions in the cochlea

Supervisors: Prof Colette McKay, Dr Maureen Shader

Many cochlear implant users do not understand speech very well. One reason for this is the presence of neural ‘dead regions’ in the cochlea. These dead regions affect speech understanding by making it difficult for each component frequency in a speech signal to be independently heard. Thus, implant users experience a ‘scrambled’ speech signal.

In this project, conducted with adult cochlear implant users, we will use a psychophysical method to determine which parts of the cochlear contain neural dead regions in each individual. Then we will construct an individualised program for each individual that avoids using intra-cochlear electrodes that are near those dead regions. We will then evaluate whether this new individualised program improves their speech understanding. This project is a major opportunity to actually improve the quality of life of cochlear implantees and contribute to novel clinical management techniques.

This PhD project would suit a graduate with qualifications in audiology, neuroscience, engineering, experimental psychology or related disciplines. 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 cochlear implant programming.

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