This VA Career Development proposal is designed to support the development of the applicant into an independently funded VA research scientist investigating the contribution of central auditory encoding to successful rehabilitation of hearing impairment. The career plan is made up of coursework, publication and presentation of results, audiology clinic time, and mentoring from Drs. Marjorie Leek, Kelly Tremblay, and Harry Levitt. The long-term goal of this line of research is to improve perception in noise in older individuals and individuals with hearing loss. The specific goals of this study are to clearly demonstrate the physiological and behavioral signal-in-noise encoding abilities in hearing impaired and older individuals, and to use that understanding to explore how perception and neural encoding can be improved through speech-in-noise training. First, signal-to-noise ratio and background noise type will be varied to understand important factors and to establish a baseline in young normal-hearing individuals, older normal-hearing individuals and individuals with hearing loss. Then, speech-in-noise training will be administered and measured using both perception-in-noise tasks and cortical auditory evoked potentials. This combination of behavioral and physiological information will be used to determine the time course, generalization, and retention effects of speech-in-noise training.
Listening in background noise is a major challenge for many individuals, including older individuals and individuals with hearing loss. This project builds on our past research that demonstrates that cortical neurons are highly sensitive to noise. Behavioral and physiological measures will be used to measure the effects of speech-in-noise training with the long-term goal of improving perception in noise in older individuals and individuals with hearing loss.