Audiology is the field of science dedicated to the problems of hearing and balance. Since the conditions need to be diagnosed and treated by highly specialized computer based gadgets, a considerable amount of research is always going on in the field.
Research locations can vary from the bench to the bedside, depending on the project. There are dedicated specialized institutes, centres and departments in both hospitals and universities that work in audiology research.
What Does a Research Audiologist Do?
There are many different aspects to audiology - a research audiologist could work on a single aspect, or a combination of many. Most research tends to be multidisciplinary in nature in this field. Different specialists tend to work together to get the most out of the research project. You may have biologists, engineers, and software professionals all coming together for a single project.
For instance, consider a case there is research being conducted to develop better equipment to detect hearing deficiency. There will be field researchers who record hearing ability, technical researchers who use the raw data and get analysis done, and also others who may be looking at new ways to record the raw data.
Conversely, there may be researchers who are just studying the cellular makeup of the inner ear. They spend time focusing just on the study of the structure and problems that disruption to the structure may cause. They aren’t involved in devising solutions to overcome such problems; this is left to another set of researchers.
Different Fields of Audiology Research
Fast changing technology makes it the mainstay of audiology research. Using the latest technology to aid detection and rehabilitation is a major focus of research. However there are other fields that need research done in as well. Some research fields for the discipline of audiology are as follows:
Hearing detection and conservation – Diagnosis of the state of hearing for a person is made in this. They may conduct research into how the person’s hearing changes given certain external circumstances or internal reasons. This enables the audiologists to get a better idea about how hearing works and how it may get disrupted.
Hearing loss disorders – Here the faults with hearing are diagnosed using different methods to determine the best way to pinpoint the problem. Research may include making improvements in current methods as well as experimenting with new ones that help make quick diagnosis. Also corrective devices may be developed based on the research.
Managing audiological disorders – While hearing loss can affect the patient’s ability to live a normal life, with corrective gadgets and some therapy it is possible to retain the semblance of a productive life. Research into improving the quality of a hard of hearing person’s lifestyle is also conducted.
Rehabilitation research – Once a problem is diagnosed it is possible to come up with different methods to rehabilitate the patient; however, not all methods work well with every patient. Developing different rehabilitation methods to see what works best is also focus of considerable research.
Technological developments and audiological equipment – The assistive technology used to aid listening in audiology keeps changing. The improvements in acoustics mean that gadgets need constant innovation and testing to remain up-to-date. Developing new gadgets and improving old models also requires constant research.
Audiological Research Institutes
There is no typical day in audiology research. Some researchers may spend the entire time locked up in a laboratory and never meet a patient. Other audiologists may constantly be working with different patients to record their experiences and gathering more data to work on. There are premium research institutes located all over the world, some of which are listed below:
- Auditory Perception Group, University of Cambridge, UK
- The Ashmore Lab, University College London, UK
- Department of Clinical Engineering, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, UK
- Imperial College London, Academic Department of Neuro-Otology, Uk
- Institute of Hearing Research Glasgow, UK
- Institute of Hearing Research Nottingham, UK
- UCL Ear Institute, University College London, UK
- Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR), UK
- De Oor Greop, Belgium
- Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, Poland
- University Hospital Zurich, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Switzerland
- University of Ferrara, Audiology Department, Italy
- The Bionic Ear Institute, University of Melbourne, Australia
- All India Institute of Speech and Hearing, India
- National Acoustic Laboratories, Australia
- University of Melbourne, Department of Otolaryngology, Australia
- Jeddah Institute for Speech and Hearing, Saudi Arabia
- Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Communicative Sciences, USA
- John Hopkins Center for Hearing and Balance, USA
- Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, USA
- NIH – National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, USA
- UBC School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, University of British Columbia, Canada
Most of the institutes share details of clinical assessments of hearing disabilities, management methods, as well as progress of patients with other experts in the field.
Reviewed by Afsaneh Khetrapal BSc (Hons)