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Aging effects on behavioral and neural processing of speech

The goal of this study is to investigate the changes in the brain that are contributing to the speech-understanding difficulties experienced by older adults. We use magnetoencephalography and electroencephalography to better understand age-related changes in the brain’s processing of speech in quiet and in noise. Currently we are comparing younger and older adults’ responses to words containing phonemes that differ along a temporal dimension (e.g., wheat vs. weed are distinguished by vowel duration).

Neuroplasticity in aging

The long-term goal of this study is to develop effective strategies for improving speech understanding ability in older adults. The immediate goals of the project are to investigate the following different approaches to restoring degradations in neural processing and speech perception that accompany aging: (A) improve detection of signals in noise, (B) improve perception of rapid speech or perception of temporal components of speech, and (C) increase auditory-cognitive brain connections to enhance speech understanding.

Neural processing in younger and older cochlear implant (CI) users

The goal of this study is to investigate biological aging effects on central auditory processing by comparing younger and older normal-hearing and CI participants’ electrophysiological responses to speech stimuli. The long-term translational science goals are to: (A) determine how to adjust devices in older individuals to maximize the benefit of a CI, (B) determine the utility of age-specific evaluations to be included to monitor outcomes in older CI users, and (C) provide age-related guidance on CI candidacy.

Optimizing bilateral cochlear implants (CIs) for functioning in complex auditory environments

The goal of this study if to use electrophysiology to minimize the frequency mismatch between ears that may occur in an individual who has been implanted with bilateral CIs. Electrically-evoked recordings are compared between right, left, and binaural stimulation to maximize binaural processing.

Hearing aid amplification effects on neural processing and perception of speech

The long-term goal of this study is to develop a clinical protocol that incorporates perceptual, cognitive, and electrophysiological assessment strategies to optimize hearing aid settings for individuals, thus improving clinical outcomes in older individuals with hearing loss. To accomplish this goal we are investigating the following: (A) the effects of fast vs. slow hearing aid compression settings on the brain’s processing of sound using magnetoencephalography and electroencephalography, (B) the effects of fast vs. slow hearing aid compression settings on an individual’s ability to identify timing contrasts in phrases, and (C) a personalized method of hearing aid fitting that incorporates individual cognitive, electrophysiology, and behavioral testing.

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