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Talia Mango, student in the Doctor of Audiology program, was awarded the Student Research Grant in Audiology from The American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation), supported by the Ira M. Ventry and Brad Friedrich Memorial Funds. This grant is for doctoral students studying audiology or speech and hearing sciences, and up to three grants of $2,000 are awarded annually.

Mango is a second-year student in the Doctor of Audiology program and holds a master’s degree in severe and multiple disabilities and deaf blindness from Boston College. She explains that the grant’s proposed project will “develop a novel clinical outcome measure

of speech adaptation using eye-tracking for pediatric cochlear implant users.” Her hope is that the outcome measure will allow for more sensitive tracking of speech adaptation compared to current standardized clinical outcome measures.

“I am grateful to have the support of my mentor, Dr. Julia Drouin, who supported me throughout the application process and will continue to do so throughout the completion of the project,” said Mango. “The opportunity to complete this project with the support of a faculty mentor will allow me to develop the foundational skills necessary to complete independent research on related topics in the future.”

Her mentor, Dr. Drouin, is an assistant professor of audiology in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences. She explains the significance of Mango’s work to support children with cochlear implants.

“Research estimates that hearing loss affects 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States,” said Drouin. “Cochlear implantation is an increasingly utilized management option for children with significant hearing loss, however the speech signal transmitted through a cochlear implant is acoustically degraded, resulting in a signal with low intelligibility for new users. Many pediatric cochlear implant users show significant improvement in speech comprehension with months and years of practice, suggesting that experience supports adaptation, but the rate of speech adaptation varies significantly among user.”

With Mango’s combined interest in clinical practice and research, this award will allow her to grow as a researcher by offering the opportunity to spearhead her own project within her area of interest in the ALLears lab. She is interested in working with complex pediatric patients, particularly because eye-tracking is well-suited for medically complex children. Through this work she hopes to gain a deeper understanding of eye tracking to allow for better support of her future patients.

“I am grateful for this award because it serves as a stepping stone toward achieving my

long-term goals within the field,” said Mango. “My ultimate goal as a future audiologist is to improve diagnostic care for patients with multiple and/or complex disabilities by contributing to the development of more inclusive methods of testing and evaluation.”