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      Developing a clinical test of listening effort in cochlear implant users

      If this study can help us to find ways to reduce the listening effort required to use a cochlear implant, this will greatly improve outcomes for cochlear implant users.

      This is a PhD studentship being carried out by Helen Willis, in the laboratory of Professor Stuart Rosen at University College London. Her project started in October 2014 and will finish in September 2017; we are jointly funding it with Cochlear Ltd.


      A common complaint among people with hearing loss is that listening takes much more effort. People with hearing loss need to concentrate harder and focus more attention to listen than people without hearing loss. This is especially true of those listening through a cochlear implant. This increased 'listening effort' can cause debilitating, long-term health consequences for people with hearing loss; in particular, it causes increased mental fatigue. A clinical measurement of listening effort is clearly needed.


      Helen is developing an accurate tool to assess listening effort in cochlear implant users. As a cochlear implant user herself, Helen has a very good understanding of the experiences of the people taking part in her study. Four participant groups have been recruited and investigated, including those who have recently received a cochlear implant, and those who are more-experienced cochlear implant users, as well as people with normal hearing (listening to simulations of cochlear implant-processed sounds). Helen is assessing the impact of listening effort, during key phases of cochlear implant rehabilitation, using a behavioural measure of listening effort.


      Helen is developing a clinical test to assess listening effort, which can be used during cochlear implant programming sessions. The information gained could be used to develop strategies to reduce this listening effort, and improve the way cochlear implant users process speech information. This would really increase how much they benefit from using a cochlear implant.