‘Huh, what?’ Exploring Auditory Development in Teens and Young Adults

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Dr. Huyck Headshot

Julia Huyck, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences at Kent State University, was granted $431,000 over three years by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to delve into the unknown science concerning adolescent hearing and cognitive development.

“There is scientific evidence to suggest that teenagers don’t hear and listen the way adults do.” Huyck said.“Their encoding process is still developing.”

Through her research, Huyck hopes to uncover more information about the auditory processing of teenagers and identify the mechanisms underlying the development of audible perception. 

“This research could assist in creating future therapies that aim to support or improve the process underlying auditory perception in adolescents with communication disorders,” Huyck said.

This grant will allow extensive research into two elements that affect communication between adolescents and adults, cognitive and auditory development. 

“I am not looking to see which one is at play when an adolescent is spoken to, there is good evidence to suggest that both are,” Huyck said.“I am looking to see how much of their performance is determined by each function.”

Cognitive and auditory stimulation both play a part in the communication styles of teens. While previous research has looked into either/or, Huyck wants to understand how both can play a role in listening in neurotypical teenagers and those with communication disorders.

Although Huyck hopes to start her research in the spring due to COVID-19, she anticipates it may be pushed back to summer or fall 2021. 

This research will consist of recruiting people ages 10 to 23, with roughly 12 people in each age group and a relatively equal gender representation. Each participant will complete multiple auditory tasks as well as cognitive tests. 

“An example of a test will be simply observing the dilation of the pupil and the natural response from the brain when it’s presented with a certain sound,” Huyck said.

The participants that are classified as adults, due to age and cognitive development, will be seen as the control group. The younger ages will be seen as the experimental group in which differences are expected. 

Huyck indicated that a majority of the NIH funding will go to supporting undergraduate student research assistants.  

It’s not always easy to find and involve qualified and passionate undergraduates, she said. “Many simply don’t have the time for unpaid work especially if they are financially independent,” said Huyck. “This way, financial compensation is provided to aid undergraduates in pursuing their research goals.”

To learn more about the School of Health Sciences, visit https://www.kent.edu/ehhs/hs.

POSTED: Thursday, November 5, 2020 11:46 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 01:07 PM
Theresa Lovrak