The Cochlear Implant Psychophysics Laboratory, housed in the University of Washington’s Dept. of Speech and Hearing Sciences, was established in 2005 by its principal investigator, Dr. Julie Bierer . The primary goal of the laboratory is to improve the listening experience of cochlear implant wearers by tailoring each device to the specific way that it activates the auditory system. As you can imagine, this part of our nervous system, from our ears to the highest cortical centers of the brain, is vastly complex, handling everything from the constantly changing sounds of the environment, both soft and loud, to the intricate nuances of speech and music. Our main research approach is based on a branch of psychology known as psychophysics, which is the study of perception (in this case hearing) based on the systematic variation of a sensory input (in this case sound). But we also apply other research methods, from electrophysiology (the recording of small electrical signals that the brain produces when it processes sound) to anatomy (via specialized x-ray images of the cochlear implant and its position within the ear). Ideally, our research efforts will lead to improved speech and music perception with cochlear implants, not just for the patient test subjects who participate in our research program, but for cochlear implant listeners everywhere.

The primary funding of the CI Psychophysics Laboratory is through the National Institutes of Health, with competitive grants awarded to Dr. Julie Bierer. Other funding has been provided by the University of Washington, Royalty Research Fund, and the VM Bloedel Hearing Research Center. We also have close working ties with two leading manufacturers of cochlear implants in the U.S., Advanced Bionics and Cochlear Corporation. We are grateful for the technical support provided by these companies over the years.

Click on the navigation links at the left to learn more about the laboratory and how to participate in our research studies.