Cochlear implants (CIs) can restore speech perception of deaf subjects by electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve. Because CI users sometimes perform better than severely hearing impaired subjects with a hearing aid (HA), implantation criteria are changing, leading to a steeply growing population of patients with a CI in one ear and residual hearing, used with a HA, in the other. This is called bimodal stimulation. Currently more than half of all newly implanted patients have residual hearing. Nevertheless, the CI and HA are fitted individually and their signal processors function independently. In this project, the fellow will develop a unified bimodal speech processing strategy. Its use can lead to improved sound quality, pitch perception, speech perception in noise, and sound source localization by combining existing techniques that enhance pitch perception in CIs with contralateral acoustic stimulation. The project is strongly multidisciplinary and balances on the edge between signal processing (engineering) and audiology (medical science). As the applicant has an engineering background and holds a PhD in the field of biomedical sciences, the project is a perfect match for his profile. Worldwide, research into bimodal hearing is concentrated in Australia and the US. There are no European labs that research it on a large scale. During the applicant's PhD, he started up bimodal research at ExpORL, KULeuven. Transfer of knowledge from Melbourne to ExpORL will allow him to further extend this line of research. He will set up collaborations with the Bionic Ear Institute, the University of Melbourne, Cochlear Melbourne and NAL. By gaining international experience, increasing his network and learning new research tools, after the fellowship, the researcher will fulfill all requirements to apply for a tenure track position at KULeuven and he will have all skills necessary for a career as an independent researcher.
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