I am a Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Alberta. I hold a joint appointment at the Institute for Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine (iRSM) where I am program director for audiology and bone conduction amplification (BCA). I obtained a B.A. (Psychology) and M.Sc. (Audiology) from the University of Western Ontario and a Ph.D. (Rehab Sciences) from the University of Alberta.
Appointments, Affiliations and Memberships
I have 4 research areas: 1) How do we improve upon the prescription, fitting and verification procedures for bone conduction hearing aids? 2) How do we improve uptake and adherence to hearing services? 3) how do we maximize outcomes by considering/manipulating additional, non-auditory factors that exist in the treatment context, and, 4) what is the relationship between hearing and reading, in individuals with hearing loss and dyslexia.
I teach in the areas of hearing science/audiology, research methods and statistics and aural rehabilitation.
Bone conduction hearing devices are used for individuals with chronic middle ear problems or for individuals who do not have a normal ear canal. Instead of sending signals to the ear through the eardrum, bone conduction devices vibrate the entire head.
Our work in this area to date has focused mostly on the prescription and verification of output targets on an individual basis. We are in the process of validating a number of these tools and approaches on a variety of patient populations.
These projects occur in two locations: The University of Alberta and the Institute for Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine (iRSM).
Cognitive Load: It is likely that we have all had the experience of looking for an address or a landmark while also listening to the radio, perhaps with children or friends making noise in the background. This situation leads to a perceived strain on our resources that leads drivers to feel the need to “shut down” at least some of the distraction (reduce the noise in the car) or enhance some other wanted signal (turn up the volume on the GPS), so that we can “focus” on finding the address or landmark. This is a real life situation where we have to “make sense” of a variety of incoming inputs from our eyes and ears while performing a task that requires our attention. Working with collaborators (J. Cummine, D. Aalto), we are trying to understand how cognitive load impacts various tasks in individuals with and without hearing loss.
Sensory Integration: We are studying the relative contributions of the visual, auditory and somatosensory systems during various cognitive tasks. More specifically, we are interested in how the reliance on these systems shifts as a function of impairment (e.g., hearing loss, dyslexia) and/or the susceptibility of these systems to perturbations. Such information is necessary for us to better understand the impacts of cognitive load and also the potential to inform remediation approaches.
To identify the status of the hearing loss and to recommend a technology solution is to address only one aspect of the complex human we have the privilege to help. It is no mystery that many additional factors accompany each individual that comes into, or avoids, the audiology clinic. These factors are important to consider if we are to more clearly understand why some people are open to hearing help and others are not. Audiologists continue to struggle to get people who need hearing help to seek it and, unfortunately, we also struggle to get people who have sought hearing help to consistently adhere to it.
Recently, we published a paper in this area looking into the influence of the type of message on individuals intentions to seek hearing services. We found that individuals were 20% more likely to recommend/seek hearing services when presented with an exclusionary message. That is, people were much more likely to recommend hearing services or like the message when it showed someone being “left out” than when being “included”. Of course, intentions do not always map directly onto behaviour, so we have several projects ongoing looking into how to change actual behaviour.
Hodgetts, B., Ostevik, A., Aalto, D., & Cummine, J. (2017). Don’t Fade Into the Background: A randomized trial exploring the effects of message framing in audiology. Canadian Journal of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, 41(2), 175-202.