“Look over here!”: Using visual cues to support spatial hearing in children with hearing loss

Grant Award: $99,194

Principal Investigator: Karen A. Gordon, PhD
Institution: The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)
Co-Investigators: Sharon Cushing, MD, MSc, FRCSC, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Blake Papsin, MD, MSc, FRCSC, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)

Project Summary:

Children who are deaf can hear with cochlear implants (CIs) but struggle to listen in many situations. Providing hearing in both ears might help them recognize where sound is coming from, making hearing easier. Unfortunately, spatial hearing remains poor even when we give CIs in both ears or give one CI to children with one deaf ear.

We have been working on several ways to solve this problem but we may be able to help in the short term by showing children how to move their head and eyes to find where sounds are coming from.  If we make spatial hearing worse by plugging one ear in children with normal hearing, they move their head and eyes around to find sound locations. Children with CIs don’t do this well; they remain relatively still and make large localization errors.  In 100 children with CIs, we will test whether those who make less head and eyes less have the worst sound localization abilities.

Next, we will test whether some children with CIs avoid making these important movements because their balance systems are not working properly.  The balance system keeps the eyes focused while the head moves but is often abnormal in children with hearing loss (~50% affected).  Finally, we test whether brief light presentations from the same position as the sound can encourage children with CIs to use head and eye movements for improved sound localization. Results will define a novel way to improve hearing for children using CIs.

View all 2023 recipients.