Communication Disorders Department seeks subjects for children’s hearing loss study

June 10, 2014

(Courtesy UMass Amherst News Office)

Audiology doctoral candidate Amanda Griffin of the Department of Communication Disorders is seeking children ages six to 12 years old who either have normal hearing or permanent hearing loss in just one ear, for a study looking at the impact of classroom listening environments on speech understanding and comprehension.

“The goal of this project is to better understand the effects of congenital unilateral sensorineural hearing loss, that is hearing loss in just one ear, on the auditory capabilities of these children,” says Griffin. “Specifically, we’re interested in investigating how this type of hearing loss affects basic and complex auditory skills in noisy environments typical of a classroom.” 

Griffin is seeking 60 subjects from across western and central Massachusetts to participate in a single, 90-minute session for this experiment at testing locations in Amherst and Worcester. Families who travel over 30 miles round trip can be reimbursed for travel expenses. All participants will earn a small gift and $20 for their time.

Subjects will sit in a room designed for hearing testing and listen to and repeat back sentences. They will also listen to short stories and answer simple questions about them. All subjects will also have their hearing and language abilities screened. “This is a great opportunity for families to learn more about their child’s auditory abilities when listening in classroom-like environments.”

Griffin notes that children with hearing loss in just one ear have historically been underserved by hearing care professionals, who once believed that having normal hearing in just one ear was sufficient for children to develop typically. However, since the mid-1980s researchers have discovered that children with unilateral hearing loss are at significant risk for speech and language delays, academic underachievement, and behavior problems, she adds. Despite this knowledge, clinical practice has not changed, in part because some clinicians feel there is a lack of data directly tying this auditory disorder to difficulties experienced by some of these children.

“This is where my study can help make a difference,” Griffin says. “We need more information to support new approaches to treatment.”

Children with developmental disabilities, neurological disorders, below normal intelligence, or who are not native English speakers are not eligible for this study. For more information, contact Amanda Griffin at (413) 279-4327 or