In Australia, it is estimated that 3.6 million people suffer from hearing loss. Speech perception in background noise is one of the most often reported cognitive difficulties. So far, assistive hearing devices are not matching up to users’ expectations and because there is a considerable variability across listeners, the optimal fine-tuning of hearing-aids is often unlikely. Recent advances in non-invasive neuroimaging methods such as high-density electroencephalography (hdEEG) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) elucidate connectivity and whole brain dynamics at a subsecond temporal scale. Therefore, these objective measures are ideal to study temporal aspects of auditory processing in the cortex as well as the advantage of being less expensive and easier to implement than structural MRI, PET or SPECT, for example.

In line with current hearing-aid fitting procedures, which essentially relies on the pure-tone audiogram, we would like to bring neuroimaging techniques as part of the evaluation of hearing-impaired patients in order that specific compensation needs can be better addressed in the future. As a start, the present study will focus on recording hdEEG & fNIRS in bilateral hearing-impaired patients prior to any treatment to reveal saptiotemporal dynamics of auditory information flows across widespread cortical regions. Results will be associated with audiological data to work around the hypothesis that hearing-impaired listeners can be categorized according to a cerebral “hearing profile”. The mid-term goal is to use this knowledge to better fit hearing-aids.

Suitable background of students: Audiology, Neuroscience, Biomedical, Electrical Engineering

Supervisors: Prof Colette McKay, Prof Gerard Loquet

For all student queries please email: [email protected]