The HEARing Cooperative Research Centre is offering two PhD scholarships to undertake research focused on:

  1. Hearing Aids and music (supervised by Adj Prof Harvey Dillon and Dr Jorg Buchholz) – closing date 30th October 2015
  2. Applying virtual sound environments to measure and improve the performance of Cochlear Implants in the real world (supervised by Dr Jorg Buchholz) – closing date 15th October 2015.
More information about (1) Hearing aids and Music:

Currently, hearing aids are adjusted to compensate for individual hearing loss primarily to maximise the clarity and comfort of speech. Music has acoustic properties that differ greatly from speech, and this has led to so-called “music programs” for hearing aids. However, there are large variations of acoustic properties between, and probably within, music genres. Modern hearing aids now have sufficient processing power to not only recognise when music is present, but also to analyse its temporal and spectral characteristics and to adjust the hearing aid amplification characteristics accordingly.

This research, to be conducted at the National Acoustic Laboratories at the Australian Hearing Hub, will involve experiments to determine how the acoustic characteristics of music vary in ways that might affect optimal amplification, determine what amplification characteristics are preferred by hearing impaired people for each style of music (e.g. degree and rate of amplitude compression, relative gain given to different frequency regions), and whether there are any existing signal processing features (e.g. feedback cancellation, noise suppression) within hearing aids that are not conducive to the greatest enjoyment of music by their wearers.

The project would suit an engineer with an interest in the human perception of sound. It might also be undertaken by an audiologist with a flair for the technical aspects of audiology. An interest in music would also be helpful.

More information about (2) Applying virtual sound environments to measure and improve the performance of cochlear implants in the real world:

It is very difficult for cochlear implant recipients to understand speech in complex conditions, where room reverberation and multiple sound sources interfere with the speech signal of interest. To date, researchers have had limited success in developing signal processing techniques that objectively improve speech understanding under such severe conditions. Even though many of the proposed algorithms have demonstrated benefits in basic laboratory settings, outcomes in the real world do not necessarily match up. This is, at least in part, due to a lack of ecological relevance (or realism) of both the acoustic environments as well as the listeners’ tasks used in the laboratory.

This PhD project will first establish a research environment that combines the loudspeaker-based, 3D sound environment available at the National Acoustic Laboratories with a fully-programmable, real-time cochlear implant research platform. The resulting research environment will then be used to better understand the limitations of the signal processing strategies that are applied in current cochlear implants to improve speech intelligibility in reverberant multi-source conditions. Based on the research outcomes, novel signal processing strategies that take advantage of the different signals arriving at the two ears will be developed and tested.

The ideal candidate will be an Engineer with an experience and/or strong interest in hearing devices as well as 3D sound reproduction. The PhD student will be located and supervised at the National Acoustic Laboratories, Australian Hearing Hub, Macquarie University, and will be part of a multi-disciplinary group of researchers and PhD students. The project will be carried out in close collaboration with Cochlear Ltd.

Scholarship rate:

The HEARing CRC offers a PhD scholarship valued at the standard APA rate of $25,849 per annum (2015 rate), indexed annually and tax exempt, for up to 3 years.

How to apply:

Prospective PhD applicants should have completed the equivalent of Macquarie University’s Master of Research (MRes) degree, MPhil or other 2 year Masters degree with a major research component with excellent results. Refer to the HDR Entry Criteria for more information about this.

Interested applicants should forward a letter of interest and their CV to jorg.buchholz@nal.gov.au.

Applicants will also need to complete a Macquarie University HDR Candidature and Scholarship Application form and arrange for two academic referee reports to be submitted to the Higher Degree Research Office. Refer to: http://www.hdr.mq.edu.au/information_about/applications for further application instructions. Macquarie University will advise the successful applicant of entitlements at the time of scholarship offer. Please quote the scholarship application code ‘Hearing CRC’ on your application.