There is natural variance in how different people perceive sound (”aural diversity”), but there can be a disabling mismatch between somebody’s hearing abilities and the demands of their day-to-day environments. This research focuses on adolescents who use cochlear implants (CIs) – a type of neural prosthesis that can help deaf people hear speech. These adolescents often attend mainstream schools, but the technology currently doesn’t provide sufficient support to hear in noisy settings, or participate in conversations with multiple speakers. Especially in adolescence, communication barriers can lead to isolation and in turn, contribute to mental health problems. This project aims to better understand how factors of the high-school sound environment affect young CI-users’ social participation and wellbeing.
The project uses different methodologies, such as “soundscape” evaluations (assessing the sound environment objectively and subjectively) and interviews with adolescent CI-users, to get insight into their lived experience. In close collaboration with surgeons and researchers at the ENT department of Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), we aim to improve audiometry test set-ups that contribute to the technological development of CIs. At the same time, we hope to understand how real-world environments like schools can be made more inclusive and welcoming to young CI-users, by collaborating with members of the DHH community and experts from adjacent fields like Architecture and Disability Studies.
Psychology, Leiden University - Claudia Libbi, Carolien Rieffe, Adva Eichengreen.
Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) - Johan H.M. Frijns, Chris H. Stronks.
Architecture, TU Delft University - Alexander Koutamanis.
This project is funded via INTENSE (link: https://intenseproject.eu/work-packages/deafness), which is a multidisciplinary effort to research, improve and evaluate brain implants like CIs and their effect on the people who use them in their daily lives.