Developing a new clinical test to quantify listening effort in cochlear implant users

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23 November 2015

Presenter(s): Ms Helen Willis
Time: 13.00 -14.00
Location: NHBRU, Meeting Room 1



Listening effort is known to lead to debilitative long term health consequences for people who are hearing impaired. Even mild degrees of hearing impairment lead to increased levels of listening effort but this is little appreciated by physicians, parents and teachers. The effort needed to listen is similarly easy to dismiss for cochlear implant (CI) users: as soon as the CI is implanted, recipients may be thought to be free of listening problems because their audiograms become similar to those seen with minimal hearing loss. Whilst there is active research on listening effort, much remains to be understood and there are no clinically applicable measures of listening effort. Current emphasis in clinical assessment for cochlear implant patients is on speech comprehension, although the importance of listening effort is being increasingly recognised by researchers. Considering the health consequences associated with chronic increased listening effort, processing strategies that reduce this listening effort in the cochlear implant population could be just as beneficial as those that improve speech comprehension. This PhD project will attempt to create a clinical test capable of quantifying listening effort in cochlear implant users (with validation provided by use of the pupillometry technique, as well as extensive assays of hearing ability and cognitive, executive and intellectual function). Data from the pilot of the first attempt of creating such a test will be discussed.


Helen recently graduated from Oxford University (St. John’s College) with a First Class Honours in Physiology and Psychology and also a MSc in Neuroscience. She is now completing her first year of a doctorate at University College London, with Prof. Stuart Rosen and Dr. Deborah Vickers as supervisors and funding jointly provided by Action on Hearing Loss and Cochlear UK. Being an experienced cochlear implant user of 20 years (having been totally deafened by meningitis at the age of 19 months), Helen is hoping to use her personal experience and neuroscience training to help execute research that will contribute to the field of listening effort, and most importantly of all, help all cochlear implant users like herself gain optimal benefit from the cochlear implant technology.