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April 11, 2005

Two Audiology Grad Students
Win National Research Awards

Two UConn graduate students are among five recipients selected nationwide for the American Academy of Audiology’s annual research awards.

Jennifer Shinn and Brooke Soderstrom received a stipend and an invitation to present their projects at the Academy’s convention last weekend in Washington, D.C. Shinn, a Ph.D. candidate, and Soderstrom, a student in the Au.D. program, are the first UConn awardees since the Academy began offering the award in 1996.

Under the direction of Professor Frank Musiek, director of auditory research in the Department of Communication Sciences, Shinn and Soderstrom studied the auditory steady state response (ASSR), an important measurement in clinical audiology that gauges levels of hearing sensitivity and hearing loss.

In her project, “ASSR Thresholds in Individuals with Lesions of the CANS,” Shinn found that the presence of neurological damage can result in an exaggerated ASSR reading rather than yielding the actual “behavioral threshold.”

In a project titled “The Effect of Contralateral Masking on the ASSR”, Soderstrom investigated a particular “masking procedure” involved in ASSR application, and found the “masking stimulus” yielded elevated ASSR thresholds, indicating that there are obstacles to the accuracy of this clinical procedure.

Musiek said the awards were a major focus of the convention, which also included a number of presentations by clinicians from around the country and a banquet luncheon to which the awardees were invited. The awards serve to promote research in audiology at the graduate level, he said, noting that the Academy rarely recognizes two students from the same institution.

Shinn said it was an honor to be recognized for her research. “I hope this research will be a springboard for my research career in audiology,” she said.

Research for both projects was completed in the Department of Communication Sciences’ Neuroaudiology Lab, a cornerstone of the audiology program’s clinical Au.D. degree. The four-year program, the only one of its kind in Connecticut, trains students in clinical diagnosis and treatment and includes a one-year residency. The lab is unusual in its focus, emphasizing research on neurological function and the brain, rather than the ear.