Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology - Research
Research led by the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology has a strong focus on Healthy Aging Across the Lifespan. Our researchers in the Healthy Start to Life hub work with collaborators such as the Victorian Department of Education and Training, the Royal Children’s Hospital, The Eye & Ear Hospital and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. The Disability and Inclusion hub researchers have a primary focus of working with individuals and their families with a range of communication disorders with a primary goal of delivering the highest level of care. Researchers in the Optimising Health and Wellbeing hub are focused on using evidence-based practice to help guide recommendations for those with communication disorders. Key to this work is our engagement with industry (particularly hearing device manufacturers) via a range of researcher-initiated projects and industry-generated programs run through the Department’s Clinical Trials Network.
A major theme across all research hubs in the Department is Digital Health. We aim to utilise digital technologies and services to enhance research and patient outcomes. Additionally, research activities within the Department place a large emphasis on Implementation and Health Service Research. We aim to reduce gaps in knowledge and care of patients and their families, by providing clinical recommendations supported by high-quality evidence.
The Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology offers entry-to-practice degrees (Master of Clinical Audiology and Master of Speech Pathology), as well as post-graduate research training (Master of Philosophy, Doctor of Philosophy) to high achieving candidates who demonstrate compassion for others, enthusiasm for learning, and determination in their studies.
Explore our programs of research - Audiology
Hearing loss is a major international health problem which currently affects 430 million people (World Health Organisation) and at least one in six Australians (predicted to rise to one in four Australians by 2050). The annual economic cost resulting from hearing loss is 1.2 billion in Australia alone.
Identification and Management of Hearing Disorders
This research theme investigates both clinical/patient-based and population-level research in the fields of diagnostic audiology, auditory neuroscience, remediation of hearing deficits and the impact of hearing loss across the lifespan.
- Diagnosis, investigation and management of
- Auditory Neuropathy and neurodegenerative listening disorders
- Neurodevelopmental listening disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)
- Development of teleaudiology practice for infant diagnostics, hearing screening programs and global healthcare
- Design of population-based hearing assessment protocols and investigation of the impacts of congenital hearing loss on development
- Identification and remediation of classroom listening deficits and the development of healthy classroom listening environments
- Diagnosis, investigation and management of listening disorders in musicians (including tinnitus)
- Evaluation of hearing aid technology and wearable auditory devices
We have research ties with health services, hospitals and institutions, including the Eye and Ear Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital (Melbourne), Royal Melbourne Hospital, Alfred Hospital, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Bionics Institute, The Victorian Clinical Genetics Service, the Florey Institute, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.
The group also has strong links to industry (Cochlear Pty Ltd and Sonova AG), government (Department of Education and Training Victoria) and international collaborators in Europe, North and South America, Scandinavia and Asia.
- Diagnosis, investigation and management of
This research theme covers all clinical aspects of the application of cochlear implants in adults and children. Current research focusses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of clinical management practices using digital technologies including applications of artificial intelligence, mobile-health and e-health.
Hearing and Cognition Research Program
With an ageing population, the prevalence of both hearing loss and dementia are increasing. Hearing loss has many physical and mental co-morbidities and has been identified as the largest potentially modifiable risk factor for dementia.
This research program is multi-disciplinary, involving the professions of audiology, psychology, neuroscience, implementation science, neuroimaging and health economics.
The research team is investigating:
- the mechanism/s linking hearing loss and cognitive decline
- whether treatment of hearing loss with either cochlear implants or hearing aids can delay cognitive decline/dementia
- other co-morbidities of hearing loss (e.g. social isolation, mood, physical health, falls)
- brain and other biomarkers of hearing loss
- the effects of auditory deprivation on brain structure and function (using neuroimaging)
- the effects of hearing loss treatment on the brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity (using neuroimaging)
Identification and Management of Vestibular Disorders
This research theme examines the balance system of the inner ear, and the nature of how this system is influenced by disorders and conditions affecting processing and function.
- Diagnosis, investigation, and management of vestibular disorders in children
- Improving efficiency of standard clinical assessment protocols
- Identification and management of vestibular disorders in adults
Meet the team leader: Ms Donella Chisari
Research under this theme covers basic and pre-clinical auditory anatomy and physiology. We are interested in normal function and pathology of the inner ear.
Specifically, the program of research is interested in understanding the development of inner ear hair cells, using patient-derived stem cells to model both normal hearing and disease mechanisms.
Working with bioengineers, electrochemists and materials scientists, we are developing novel ways to use these three-dimensional, inner ear cell models to investigate platinum dissolution from cochlear implant electrode arrays (ARC Linkage Project LP190101139). We lead additional projects in auditory brainstem neuroanatomy and structural MRI of the auditory brainstem.
Meet the team leader: A/Professor Bryony Nayagam
Explore our programs of research - Speech Pathology
Communication is a fundamental human right yet 1.2 million Australians have a communication disability and swallowing disorders are almost as common. The way we speak is a core predictor of our later life success, in terms of education, employment and our psychosocial health and wellbeing.
Neuroscience of Speech (NeuS)
The Neuroscience of Speech (NEUS) research group undertakes discovery, clinical and translational research into communication and swallowing deficits. The multidisciplinary team in NeuS work to improve how we recognise, measure and treat speech, language and swallowing dysfunction in people with progressive and acquired neurological conditions including Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease, depression and fatigue.
Clinical research is embedded in leading health and medical institutions across Australia including clinics at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Eastern Health, Queensland Children’s Hospital, Monash Health and Calvary Health – Bethlehem, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. The group has strong ties to industry, supporting large multi-national, multi-language natural history studies. International collaborator sites include the Hertie Institute of Clinical Brain Research (Tubingen, Germany), University of California – San Francisco, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Improving diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of childhood Speech and language disorders
The work of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Speech and Language focuses on: (i) identification of new gene pathways leading to child speech disorders, (ii) conducting genotype- speech phenotype studies for rare genetic syndromes leading to more targeted therapies, and (iii) elucidating the neurobiology of genetic-based speech and language disorders using quantitative brain imaging techniques.
The team consults on speech outcome measures for pharmacological trials in children with rare genetic conditions. They lead the phenotyping arm of a large genome wide association study examining biological contributions to stuttering.
The other area of focus for the group is the development of a digital speech assessment tool for improving diagnosis and prognosis of child speech disorder, funded by an NHMRC development grant.
Meet the team leader: Professor Angela Morgan
Research under this theme focuses on: (i) epidemiological studies to understand the developmental trajectories of childhood stuttering with a particular emphasis on recovery from stuttering; (ii) intervention studies to develop novel treatments and improve management of people who stutter and (iii) exploration of psychosocial impacts of stuttering.
This research group collaborates with other leading national and international research institutions and universities. The team has also established a recent collaboration with Australia’s first national not for profit organization supporting young people who stutter (Stuttering Association for the Young: Australia).
Meet the team leader: Dr Elaina Kefalianos
Melbourne Hearing Clinic and Melbourne Speech Pathology Clinic
The Melbourne Hearing Clinic and Melbourne Speech Pathology Clinic are key collaborators with the Department in clinical research. The clinic provides a teaching environment for Audiology and Speech Pathology students at the University of Melbourne and delivers an extensive range of communication, hearing and balance (vestibular) services to the public. The clinic provides patient-centred, evidence-based and clinical-based practice for all, while enhancing clinical research capabilities available at the Department.