speech clinician demonstrating throat technique to 5-year-old girl

Speech & Hearing Science

Promote effective communication, a human right, through research and clinical practice. Prepare for a career that improves lives.

Core Research Themes

Theme #1: Communication diversity across the lifespan

Successful communication abilities, and the understanding of interpersonal differences in communication practices, are important for health and well-being across the lifespan. Collectively, our faculty contribute to research on the genetic, biological, sensory-motor, and cognitive-linguistic bases of interpersonal communication and its development. We use a wide variety of research designs to identify cultural and age related expectations for development and to identify predictors of change in speech, language, literacy, hearing, and voice. Our research improves the early identification and diagnostics of communication disorders and to support communication practices that will enhance quality of life in family, social, educational, and vocational contexts.

Theme #2: Neural bases of communication

Neural processes are important to all aspects of communication. Our faculty study brain anatomy and physiology of human communication and swallowing. In doing so, we examine the sensory/neural mechanisms that mediate sensory-motor integration, perception and cognition related to speech, hearing, and language. Through a variety of methodological approaches, our research advances understanding of the sensory/neuro-pathological bases of speech, language, hearing, cognitive, and swallowing disorders in pediatric and adult populations. Our research leads to deeper understanding of neural processes and brain functions for human communication and speech, language, and hearing disabilities.

Theme #3: Treatment research in communication science disorders

Communicative competence is a foundation for all human social interaction, whether learning in schools, engaging in family life, working effectively, or participating as citizens in public life. Our faculty implement assessment, diagnosis, and intervention strategies for healthy communication practices across the lifespan, including individuals with recognized communication disorders, disability, and those from linguistic minority groups. We have a particular interest in the role of assistive technologies, broadly construed, as well as the development of evidence-based practices, prevention, and treatment models.

Department of Speech and Hearing Science Core themes

The Speech and Hearing Science faculty has identified inter-related themes to reflect areas of excellence and expertise. They represent three distinct focal points to concentrate scholarly attention and resources, guide departmental decision-making, and provide an interface with our professional programs. Each core theme characterizes a research agenda that channels opportunities for learning and reflects a targeted area of impact to advance knowledge and practice.

Auditory-Hearing Labs

Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Lab
Dr. Fatima T. Husain

The ACN Lab focuses their research on hearing and speech perception, as well as the disorders (e.g., hearing loss, tinnitus) associated with them. We use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain detailed images of the structure and function of the brain, in particular, to investigate the differences between patient populations and healthy controls. This allows us to evaluate therapies and to propose novel treatment methods for a particular disorder.

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Auditory Electrophysiology Laboratory/Auditory Neuroscience and Perception
Dr. Ron Chambers

This research lab pursues research and instruction in auditory evoked responses that are generated from the cochlea to the cortex for the study of stimulus detection, neuro-diagnostics, and auditory processing. Studies have recorded the auditory brainstem response, auditory steady state response, frequency following response, auditory middle latency response, and auditory cortical late potentials.

Current research focuses on the use of the P50 auditory cortical response in the assessment of sensory gating in clinical subpopulations, as well as parametric studies to identify optimum stimulus and recording parameters for the P50 and to evaluate the nature of sensory gating.

Auditory Neuro Experience Lab
Dr. Brian Monson

The research in this lab focuses on the development of the human auditory brain and speech perception skills across a variety of populations, with the goal of discovering how experience with the environment shapes the auditory brain and affects perceptual capabilities.

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Binaural Hearing Lab
Dr. Justin Aronoff

The Binaural Hearing Lab focuses on bilateral cochlear implant patients and binaural hearing. The goal of this research is to develop a greater understanding of how signals presented to the ears are combined and to use that knowledge to develop new techniques and technologies to improve bilateral cochlear implant patients’ performance.

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Child Speech Research Lab
Dr. Mary Flaherty

Dr. Flaherty’s research focuses on speech understanding in children with and without hearing loss. In particular, her research program investigates the way that age and listening experience impact speech perception for younger listeners in complex acoustic environments. Her most recent work aims to characterize children’s immature ability to use acoustic voice differences between talkers to improve speech-in-speech recognition. In addition to improving our understanding the factors that contribute to children’s ability to recognize speech in multi-talker environments, the long term goals of her research include finding ways to improve communication outcomes for children with hearing loss.

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Hearing Research Lab
Dr. Ian Mertes

This lab aims to understand how the inner ear and brain work together to allow us to hear in noisy situations. Studies also focus on how permanent hearing loss impacts the inner ear and brain. The long-term goal of the research is to contribute to the improved diagnosis and treatment of hearing disorders.

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Speech Perception Lab
Dr. Karen Kirk

This lab investigates the factors influencing spoken word recognition and speech perception in adult and pediatric cochlear implant users. Our current interests involve developing speech perception assessments to accurately predict real-world speech recognition performance for cochlear implant users as well as developing training strategies to improve cochlear implant performance outcomes.

Language & Cognitive Communication Labs

Aging and Neurocognition Lab
Dr. Raksha Mudar

The research in this lab strives to understand the effects of neurodegenerative disorders on higher-order cognitive functions and examine the effects of strategy-based cognitive training in individuals with neurodegenerative disorders. Some examples include the impact of hearing loss on the brain and cognition in older adults and strategy-based cognitive training in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.

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Applied Psycholinguistics Lab
Dr. Pamela Hadley & Dr. Matthew Rispoli

Children attain the power of human language as they develop the ability to comprehend and produce sentences effortlessly. This expressive power is attained during the preschool years through a productive grammar that allows speakers to predicate anything about any subject for any time. Our recent work documents that children develop grammar in a relatively uniform sequence, but they differ substantially in the rates of grammatical development.

The Psycholinguistics Lab is currently investigating the relative contributions of biological, environmental, and developmental predictors of these individual differences. This will help us to identify young children at-risk for language impairments at younger ages and design more effective early grammatical interventions to develop the language readiness needed for school success.

The Child Language Lab
Dr. Cynthia J Johnson

Research in this lab focuses on syntactic, narrative, and phonological development in children, both with and without speech or language disorders, and examines the relationship between language competency and early writing skills.

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Development in Neurogenetic Disorders Lab
Dr. Laura Hahn

This research lab is currently interested in understanding:

  • Early development—cognition, language, and social skills—and physiology in children with Down syndrome
  • When children with intellectual and developmental disabilities begin to understand the intentional actions of others
  • More about how children who have Down syndrome learn and problem solve

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Intellectual Disabilities Communication Lab
Dr. Marie Channell

The IDCL aims to better understand how individuals with different types of intellectual disability learn to communicate. Their overarching goal is to characterize the development of skills that support everyday communication in these individuals so that we can identify optimal strategies for supporting their social and academic success.

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Voice and Speech Rehabilitation Research Lab
Dr. Keiko Ishikawa

This lab focuses on the development of assessment and treatment strategies for individuals with voice and speech production disorders.

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