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Measuring the Consequences of Distractibility in Children who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing


Faculty Mentor: Samantha Gustafson
Title: Assistant Professor
College: Health
School / Department: Communication Sciences and Disorders

Project description

Focusing on a task amidst distracting sounds is a common experience – one that we, as adults, may not consider particularly challenging. However, recent findings from our lab show that even healthy, young adults must work hard to ignore distractors when completing a listening task. Referred to as ‘listening effort’, adults may not notice this increased work; however, children are much more susceptible to the negative consequences of effortful listening (e.g., degraded performance, listening-related fatigue). Considering that typical classroom environments are filled with potential distractors (e.g., children passing notes amidst an algebra lesson, noisy footsteps in the hallway), it is important to understand the consequences of distraction in school-age children. Our lab is particularly interested in children who are Deaf or hard of hearing, as they are twice as likely to be distracted in classrooms as their peers who have typical hearing abilities. The purpose of this project is to measure the effect of distractors on speech perception and listening effort in children with typical hearing and in children who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing. This work will explain the role that distraction plays in children’s communication breakdowns, particularly those who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing. This research could expand our ability to predict which children are at risk for communication challenges in the classroom so that we can evaluate the efficacy of appropriate clinical and educational interventions.

Student Role: In the Auditory Processing and Pediatric Listening Lab, we aim to provide students with a wide range of research-related activities and professional development training. A student joining this project will become part of a research team that meets regularly (once a week) to discuss project progress, related research, and professional development topics (e.g., applying to graduate school, interviewing). Working directly with the mentor and with current lab members who are graduate students in the University of Utah’s Doctor of Audiology program, the student will take part in recruitment of study participants, data collection, data processing, and data analysis. Specifically, the student will learn to evaluate hearing abilities in children, administer standardized and research-based assessments, and process audio data. Students do not have to have any prior experience with these tasks. Importantly, the student will present preliminary results related to their internship at the OUR summer symposium and will be offered the opportunity to be included as an author on future presentations and publications.
Student Benefits: This undergraduate research opportunity will provide extensive experience in human subjects research and will prepare the student to work with children who have typical hearing abilities and those who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing. Specifically, the student will: (1) receive training in research ethics and good clinical practices in human subjects research, (2) learn how to interact with scientific collaborators and with research participants and their families, (3) learn basic principles for analyzing behavioral data (participant speed and accuracy during testing) and standardized tests, (4) learn basic principles of audiologic testing with children, and (5) gain experience with presenting data and scientific writing. These outcomes and experience offer an ideal mix of general human-subjects research skills (i.e., ethics, writing, presenting) as well as skills related to working with patients who have communication disorders (i.e., audiology assessments, standardized tests). This experience will ultimately provide the student with an excellent foundation for pursuing graduate training in any allied health profession, particularly in audiology or speech-language pathology.
Project Duration: This study is expected to begin December 2023 and continue through December 2024. Undergraduate students can choose to work between 5 and 40 hours per week. Opportunities for funding through the lab and through the Office of Undergraduate Research (e.g., UROP) are available!
Opportunity Type: Research Position
Opportunity Location Type: In Person
Is this a paid opportunity: ToBeDetermined
Paid Description:

Volunteer, This is a paid research position, This is a work-study research position, Prepare a UROP proposal, Write an Honors Thesis or Senior Thesis, Earn independent study credit

Minimum Requirements: None
How To Apply: Contact Samantha Gustafson samantha.gustafson@utah.com