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Major Grant Will Enable U of M Researcher to Study Hearing Aid Use in the Elderly

For release: April 18, 2011
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901-678-2843

Dr. Robyn Cox
Dr. Robyn Cox
Dr. Robyn Cox, a professor of audiology in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Memphis, has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health for $1.5 million over a five-year period.  Her research will compare the effectiveness of basic features and premium features in hearing aids used by older adults, and examine the benefits of using hearing aids at different technology levels and price points.

Cox said of her research, “We want to know more about when it is worthwhile to spend what is needed to obtain hearing aids that are technologically advanced, versus when that level of technology is not really needed by a particular individual.

“Practitioners and patients really want to know this, but there is very little independent research they can refer to.”

Cox said she will recruit people from throughout the community who will use hearing aids in the School’s laboratory, as well as in their daily lives.  She and her colleagues will measure the users’ performance with different hearing aids, and they will seek the users’ opinions of the devices they use.

“In the end,” she said, “we hope to be able to offer guidelines to hearing-impaired adults, and to practitioners who fit hearing aids, to help them choose the best technology for each individual.”

Dr. Maurice Mendel, dean of the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, said Dr. Cox is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities in the use and fitting of hearing aids.  “She has a very long and successful record of obtaining external funding to support her research into ways that hearing aids can best be fit and into ways that people can derive maximum benefit from the hearing aids they purchase” Mendel said.  “It is wonderful that the NIH has chosen to continue to support her pioneering research.  Her success serves as an inspiration to all our faculty.

Cox will be assisted in her research by graduate students Jani Johnson and Jingjing Xu.  Johnson, a native of Brewton, Ala., received a clinical doctorate in audiology from the U of M in 2007.  She is now studying for her Ph.D. degree in communication sciences and disorders, with a research focus in audiology and hearing sciences, which she will receive in August 2011.           

Xu is also a doctoral candidate seeking the same degree, with the same emphasis; he will graduate in May 2012.  A native of Guangxi Province in China, he holds a degree in civil engineering from China and a master’s degree in acoustical engineering from Denmark. 

Both graduate students will work with Cox in such aspects of the research as recruiting participants, setting up equipment, collecting and managing data, and analyzing the data.

Xu said he expects the experience to be invaluable to him in learning how to conduct his own research in the future.  Johnson said she believes the experience will help shape her future career path in an academic setting, where she will teach and conduct similar research.

Cox has taught at the University of Memphis since 1977.  She has also worked in the field with Indiana University, the University of South Alabama, and the City University of New York.  She holds a doctorate in audiology from Indiana University in Bloomington and  her bachelor of science degree in speech and hearing and her master of science degree in audiology and psychology from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.  She also has a diploma in speech therapy from the University of Queensland in St. Lucia, Australia.

She has received the highest faculty honor awarded by the University of Memphis, the Willard Sparks Eminent Faculty Award, along with several awards for her research at the U of M.  The American Academy of Audiology has also recognized her for her research, and she is a Fellow in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  She has published widely in refereed journals and other publications in her field.

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