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.


Our faculty investigates health, development, and aging, and disability related to speech, language, deglutition, and hearing, and aims to develop new ways to assess, prevent, and treat communication disabilities.

Research in the department is supported by grants from leading funding agencies including the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Education, and Department of Defense.

Getting involved in research

Volunteering in a lab can be a great opportunity to learn about research, get more in-depth knowledge of the field, and build connections with students and faculty in the department. Every lab has different needs based on the nature of their research and the tasks they need help with. For example, some labs may require native English speakers. Other labs may require people who are good with kids. Additionally, how many volunteers are needed in a lab can vary from lab to lab and semester to semester. While different labs have different processes for joining, here are some initial steps you can take for joining a lab:

  1. Go to the research section of the department’s website (https://ahs.illinois.edu/speech-%26-hearing-science/research) and learn about the type of work that the different labs do
  2. When you find a lab that interests you, contact the faculty member in charge of that lab via email or stop by their office hours
  3. When you meet with the faculty member, find out if there are openings in the lab, what the application process is for joining the lab, and the time commitment required by the lab

Tips and useful information

  • While approaching a faculty member about joining a lab can be a nerve-racking task, when there are openings in their lab, faculty members are happy to have students join. The bar for joining a lab is usually relatively low, often based on interest and availability
  • Labs fill up, but this also changes over time.
    • If a lab is full, there are two (not mutually exclusive) options:
      • Find a different lab
      • Wait until the next semester.  Labs often have turnover at the start of each semester, especially the fall semester
  • Follow up
    • If you email a professor and have not heard back within a week, send a follow-up email.  Faculty get many emails and it is easy to miss one
  • While many labs will ask you to commit to one to two semesters in the lab, joining a particular lab is not a decision that will govern your research experience for your whole time at UIUC. Many people join multiple labs or switch labs over time. If you are planning on leaving a lab, give the faculty member a heads up as early as possible
  • If you are interested, with agreement from the faculty member you can receive course credit for working in a lab. Kathi Ritten can help you determine how best to fit this into your program of study. There are three options:
    • SHS 291 – credit/no credit and a good option when starting in a lab
    • SHS 390 – graded (minimum of 2 credits)
    • SHS 395 – graded, honors (minimum of 2 credits)
  • Many of your fellow SHS students have worked in a lab during their undergrad career. They can be a great resource for getting a better sense of what working in a lab is like.

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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