Hearing and Language Lab
at Northwestern University
How does background noise interfere with speech understanding, cognition, and learning?
Children live in a noisy world. Our lab is interested in understanding how background noise in the environment interferes with children’s ability to perform various tasks such as understanding speech, learning new information, or remembering sequences of auditory or visual information. Our projects explore the influence of different types of background noise and aim to identify individual differences in performance when listening conditions are not optimal. Our ultimate goal is to have a better understanding of how children’s listening environments, including the home and the classroom, influence development of language and cognition in children.
How do cognitive abilities influence speech understanding?
Our cognitive skills, such as attention, working memory, and executive functioning, play a role in our ability to understand speech. This is particularly true during moments when speech is degraded by background noise or filtering. Cognition changes across the lifespan: children have immature cognitive skills, whereas older adults have declining cognitive skills. We are interested in understanding how these age-related changes in cognition relate to individuals’ ability to understand speech in adverse listening conditions. In our lab, we use a number of behavioral measures to determine the influence of cognition on speech understanding. This research will help us gain insight into how individual factors, other than hearing ability, influence speech perception.
How do children with hearing loss learn their native
Young infants are able to pick up on the patterns that occur in speech and use these patterns to learn about their language. We know very little about these processes in infants and young children with hearing loss. Our lab has a series of experiments that are aimed to identify how qualities of degraded speech interfere with language learning as well as how young children with hearing loss learn language.