David Benjamin Ryan completed his doctoral degree in Experimental Psychology December 2014 at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). He has over six years of research experience working primarily in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research laboratory of Eric Sellers Ph. D. During that time he focused on advancing cognitive psychology by utilizing non-invasive methods of the electroencephalogram (EEG) of visual event-related potentials (ERPs) in brain-computer interface (BCI) paradigms. Dr. Ryan?s primary research interests have expanded to include EEG measurements of listening effort. He is currently funded temporarily by the Hearing and Balance Research Program at the Mountain Home Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) as he works towards establishing his own grant funding. The Career Development Award 1 (CDA-1) would provide Dr. Ryan with the opportunity to develop new research skills and mentoring needed to expand his research interests and to become an independent VA investigator. There are four mentors for this proposal: (1) Sherri Smith, Au. D, Ph.D., is Service Chief of the Audiology and Speech Pathology Service, VA-funded Clinician Investigator, Director of the Audiologic Rehabilitation Laboratory, Mountain Home, and Associate Professor in Department of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology (ASLP) at ETSU, (2) Eric Sellers, Ph. D, Director of the BCI Laboratory and Associate Professor in Psychology at ETSU, (3) Mark Eckert, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Otolaryngology at Medical University of South Carolina, (4) Kim Schairer, Ph. D., Clinician Investigator, Director of the Applied Hearing Research Laboratory at Mountain Home, and Associate Professor in the Department of ASLP at ETSU. Dr. Ryan has proposed a rigorous training plan including coursework, seminars in EEG analysis, hands on training in Bayesian statistics, and travel to conferences for continued professional development and education. The research will be conducted in the Audiologic Rehabilitation Laboratory at Mountain Home, TN VA Medical Center. The Hearing and Balance Research Program has a rich research environment and houses a renowned auditory and vestibular research program with state-of the-art facilities. The broad long-term goal of this research is the development of a clinically relevant measurement of listening effort to improve clinicians? ability to assess and to formulate a rehabilitation plan for listeners with hearing loss. The goal of the current project is to understand the underlying neurological mechanisms associated with listening effort from which to modify interpretation of current measures or develop a clinically-relevant procedure to measure and quantify an individual?s listening effort during speech perception. This goal will be achieved through three objectives: (1) by examining perceived effort and EEG variables while the listener is engaged in a speech-in-noise task and an auditory working memory task, (2) by examining differences among perceived effort and EEG signals between those with and without hearing loss to determine the effect that hearing loss has on listening effort, and (3) by analyzing the measured variables that will inform development of a clinically-feasible method to assess listening effort in patients with hearing loss.

Public Health Relevance

Hearing loss is among the top service-connected disabilities in Veterans. Older listeners with hearing loss report difficulty understanding speech in a noisy background and must rely on their mental resources in order to follow and understand conversation. Even with hearing aids, however, many older listeners still report that understanding speech in adverse listening situations requires considerable mental effort, or listening effort. The goal of this project is to measure the perceived effort, cognitive investment, and cognitive processing ability required for speech understanding in listeners with and without hearing loss. The long-term goal of this research is to develop a clinically feasible paradigm to quantify listening effort. The results of this study should help clinicians better understand listening effort of their patients with hearing loss and provide a method to measure listening effort. Ultimately, the study results should assist clinicians in making better-informed clinical recommendations for older listeners with hearing loss and improve quality of care.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Veterans Affairs (VA)
Veterans Administration (IK1)
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Career Development Program - Panel II (RRD9)
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James H Quillen VA Medical Center
Mountain Home
United States
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