Researcher explores new advantage to aid hearing in older Aussies

Julie Beadle

Ms Julie Beadle won the 2017 Showcasing Early Researchers Competition

We hear with our ears but we listen with our brains.

According to Western Sydney University PhD student Julie Beadle, when it comes to hearing in noisy environments, what we see can impact what we understand.

Ms Beadle, a MARCS Institute researcher, won the 2017 Cooperative Research Centre Association's (CRCA) Early Career showcase for her research on how visual distractions impact auditory processing.

Ms Beadle is now developing an auditory-visual listening test that is more reflective of communication in real life, and will evaluate how age and cognitive factors like attention and memory are related to test performance.

"Many older adults can have good hearing or have had their hearing corrected by hearing aids, but they still struggle to understand speech in everyday noisy situations," she says.

"Although hearing aid technology is progressing, hearing aids often amplify the background noise in addition to amplifying a person's voice."

Her preliminary research findings suggest that looking at the face of the person talking can assist in understanding speech in noisy situations. However, when multiple talkers are presented, speech perception in noise becomes more challenging. 

Professor Jeesun Kim from the MARCS Institute says that effective communication is the cornerstone of social interaction and inclusion.

"It's a vital ingredient in healthy aging and Ms Beadle is leading the way in showing that it involves much more than hearing," she says.

"Her research has the potential to make a real contribution to helping older adults to communicate more effectively."

In addition to Ms Beadle's success in the Showcasing Early Researchers' competition, she will also represent the MARCS Institute and Western Sydney University in Linkoping, Sweden, where she has been selected to give an oral presentation at the pre-conference for the 2017 Cognitive Hearing Science and Communication Conference.


9 June 2017

Media Unit