My research is focused broadly on how our auditory and cognitive systems interact to promote successful listening and how this differs between individuals and changes across the lifespan.

Current work

Effortful listening and fatigue in older adults

Everyday listening feels fairly effortless and even trivial for most of us. However, age-related decline in cognitive ability (e.g., memory and attention) can make listening tiring and effortful for many individuals (just ask your grandparents!). A better understanding of the experience of effortful listening will help to mitigate these problems in a rapidly-ageing population. This is the focus of my current ESRC-funded research at University of York.

Underlying mechanisms of effortful listening and fatigue

Changes in physiological arousal often accompany the perception of mental effort. One way to measure changes in arousal during listening is by using pupillometry – an eye tracking technique used to monitor changes in the size of the eye’s pupil. My previous work (link) has found that changes over time in pupil size may reflect an inability to sustain attention and arousal during a listening task. My current ESRC-funded work aims to better understand the mechanisms that underlie the experience of effortful listening and fatigue.

Additional project involvement

  • Unpacking the underlying mechanisms of informational masking during speech perception (Sven Mattys & Sarah Knight, UoY)
  • Investigating speech perception in noise within a cognitive framework (Alex Mepham & Sven Mattys, UoY)
  • Language switching costs in bilinguals (Angela de Bruin, UoY)
  • Examining fatigue from audiovisual speech processing (Violet Brown, WashU)
  • Development of a questionnaire for measuring listening-related fatigue in individuals with hearing loss with collaborators at VUMC (link) (Ben Hornsby, Hilary Davis, Sun-Joo Cho, Stephen Camarata, & Fred Bess, Vanderbilt University)

Previous work

Effortful listening and fatigue in hearing loss

Listening-related effort and fatigue is a common complaint for individuals with hearing loss. For audiologists, a reliable objective index of listening effort and/or listening-related fatigue could help to supplement current clinical tools, providing a more comprehensive assessment of the disability associated with hearing loss. In a discussion ‘white paper’ (link), we discussed the theoretical underpinnings and clinical value of these concepts, with contributions from experts in the field. In an experimental study (link), we found that children with hearing loss process speech more slowly than their normal-hearing counterparts.

Effortful listening and fatigue in the classroom

School classrooms are notoriously poor acoustic environments which poses a threat to the acquisition of key academic skills. Beyond that, it is likely that these suboptimal conditions result in the experience of effortful listening and fatigue in school-aged children. My previous work (link) demonstrated that school-aged children experience heightened physiological arousal in a typical classroom-like listening condition compared to that which is considered ideal for classroom listening.