Speech-Processing Fatigue in People With Hearing Loss Benjamin Hornsby looks at speech-understanding difficulties of adults and children with hearing loss and how these difficulties affect their quality of life. Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions  |   February 01, 2017
Speech-Processing Fatigue in People With Hearing Loss
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Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions   |   February 01, 2017
Speech-Processing Fatigue in People With Hearing Loss
The ASHA Leader, February 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.22022017.np
The ASHA Leader, February 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FQ.22022017.np
Benjamin W.Y. Hornsby, PhD, CCC-A, associate professor, Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center
ASHFoundation support: 2012 New Century Scholars Research Grant ($10,000), “Fatigue and Listening: Quantifying the Relationship Between Speech Processing and Mental Fatigue”
What is the focus of your research?
My research focuses on the speech understanding difficulties of adults and children with hearing loss and the subsequent effects of these difficulties on quality of life. I’m particularly interested in understanding why there is such large variability in speech understanding abilities among individuals with similar degrees of hearing loss. Likewise, I want to better understand how these issues relate to an individual’s perceived hearing difficulties, the psychosocial impact of their hearing loss, and the benefit they receive from rehabilitation. My current line of research focuses on relationships between hearing-loss-related communication difficulties (like speech understanding problems), mental effort and fatigue.
How did your award from the ASHFoundation lead to your current work?
Examining speech-processing-related fatigue in people with hearing loss is a relatively new research area. Methods for eliciting and measuring speech-processing fatigue in a laboratory setting are not well-developed. My ASHFoundation award funded pilot work that helped me to develop and evaluate methods we had been developing in a group of adults with normal hearing. These control data have proven critical in supporting our related work in people with hearing loss, which is now funded by the National Institutes of Health-National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIH-NIDCD).
What do you hope to demonstrate through your research—or what has it already demonstrated?
As audiologists we know that speech-understanding difficulties resulting from hearing loss can have broad negative effects. We believe that fatigue is one such important—but understudied—potential consequence that can negatively affect quality of life for adults and children with hearing loss. Research from our laboratory, using validated generic measures, has demonstrated that adults and children with hearing loss are at increased risk for experiencing fatigue in their everyday lives. Likewise, our ongoing work examining speech-processing-related fatigue in a laboratory setting suggests people with hearing loss may have an increased susceptibility to fatigue under difficult listening conditions. An initial goal of this line of research is to identify the underlying mechanisms and modulating factors of speech-processing-related fatigue in persons with hearing loss. This knowledge will be critical for achieving our long-term goals of developing assessment metrics and interventions to reduce the negative effects of fatigue on adults and children with hearing loss.
Why did you choose this particular research focus?
My research focus is broad, and developed during my time as a clinical audiologist back in the mid-1990s. As a clinician, I worked primarily with older adults with hearing loss who had trouble understanding speech. Similar to today, our primary intervention strategy was providing appropriate amplification and counseling. Although many of my patients said they received some benefits from their hearing aids, many others told me that—despite my best efforts—they continued to have significant problems understanding speech, especially in noisy settings. I became very interested in the underlying factors responsible for those difficulties and understanding why the impact of hearing loss varied so widely among my patients. This interest continues to motivate my research today.
How has ASHFoundation funding affected your professional life?
Clearly, the financial support was critical in helping fund my initial work in this research area. But equally important was the fact that senior scientists who reviewed my application and provided constructive critiques were positive about the proposed work and research focus. The intellectual and financial support from the research community via the ASHFoundation was a wonderful source of encouragement for me as a junior researcher trying to develop long-term research goals.
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February 2017
Volume 22, Issue 2