Effects of Substance Use on Auditory and Vestibular Function

The goal of this project is to evaluate the feasibility of assessing auditory and vestibular function in people who chronically use illicit drugs, prescription opioids, or other substances. Single-subject case reports and small-scale studies suggest that misuse of alcohol, illicit drugs, and/or prescribed opioids can have temporary or permanent impacts on hearing. Vestibular impacts are not well documented and may be under-reported due to the balance system’s ability to compensate for reduced vestibular function. The incidence and underlying mechanisms for substance-induced hearing or vestibular loss are therefore not well understood. Furthermore, the literature does not address the influence of health comorbidity or substance use patterns on hearing or balance. We suspect that chronic substance misuse affects the inner ear similarly to known oto-vestibulotoxic medications, resulting in cochlear hearing loss in the extended high-frequency range.

Recently Completed

Physiology as a Potential Predictor of Perception

The overall goal of this research project is to better understand how physiological measures of temporal and spatial interaction in cochlear implants (CIs) relate to performance on psychophysical and speech-perception tasks. Speech-processor program parameters such as stimulation rate, number of electrodes, or stimulus timing (i.e., simultaneous or sequential stimulation) can be manipulated to some extent to reduce interaction in either the temporal or spatial domain. However, it is not clear what the relative contributions of temporal and spatial interaction are to speech-perception ability and how these effects vary across individual CI users. It is possible that interaction affects CI recipients in different ways based on differences in peripheral physiology. Further, differences in peripheral physiology may account for differences in performance as a function of programming choices across individual CI recipients. It is anticipated that research findings from this project may translate into objective methods that can be used to choose specific CI speech-processor programming parameters to maximize performance on an individual basis.

Telepractice in Cochlear Implants

The goal of this project is to test methods for expanding the use of telepractice for clinical service delivery for CI recipients. Because CIs are a specialty area, implant centers are more sparsely located and are more likely to be in larger metropolitan areas. CI recipients may live several hours from the implant center. This distance can limit access to clinical services and can be burdensome to families (i.e., missed school or work, transportation expenses). Such limitations are particularly an issue within the first year of CI use when as many as 7-10 visits are routinely required for proper follow-up. Lack of proper follow-up may result in sub-optimal outcomes or even non-use of the device. Remote CI service delivery could provide an avenue for increased access to clinical services and potentially better outcomes for recipients. This study has three main experiments: 1) Programming Young Children: For children with CIs, we will measure map levels obtained using traditional play techniques; 2) Speech-Perception Testing: For older children and adults with CIs, we will measure speech understanding in different listening situations such as quiet, background noise, or reverberation; 3) Adult Aural Rehabilitation: For adults with CIs, we will measure communication outcomes with the implant before, during, and after participation in a rehabilitation program.