NHBRU and IHR in Nottingham, PhD in Experimental Psychology

Effect of hearing loss on auditory spatial attention in older listeners

with Dr Brian Gygi, Dr Christian Füllgrabe and Dr Peter Chapman
brian.gygi@nottingham.ac.uk, christian @ihr.mrc.ac.uk, peter.chapman@nottingham.ac.uk

It is well known that cognitive abilities decline with age. For instance, in the auditory domain, it has been shown that the ability to focus on a target speaker in the midst of other, spatially distributed, interfering speakers starts to decline from middle age onwards (Ruggles et al., 2011). This PhD project will investigate whether this decline can, at least partly, be explained by hearing loss in the inner ear, which is particularly prevalent in older listeners (> 60 years).

The main goal of this project will be to develop novel training regimes for auditory spatial attention, and to test the efficacy of these regimes in older listeners (> 60 years) with normal or impaired hearing. For that, we will use dual-task paradigms. For instance, the listeners might be asked to identify a centrally located target sound, such as the barking of a dog, and, at the same time, localise distracter sounds at more peripheral spatial locations. The attentional load will be modulated by varying (i) the number of distracter sounds and (ii) the congruency of the distracter with the target sound (e.g., the barking dog against the rolling of waves on a beach versus the applause of spectators in a theatre).

Applications are welcome from graduates with a first- or upper second-class degree in a relevant discipline, such as psychology, cognitive science or hearing science. Applicants should have a broad range of research skills. A demonstrated interest in auditory perception or attention would be desirable.

Ruggles D, et al. (2011). Normal hearing is not enough to guarantee robust encoding of supra-threshold features in everyday communication. PNAS USA 108, 15516-15521.