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Dissertation Defense for Melissa Kokx-Ryan

To: Students, Faculty and Staff

From: Gaurav Mathur, Ph.D., Dean of the Graduate School

Re: Dissertation Defense for Melissa Kokx-Ryan

It is my pleasure to announce that Melissa Kokx-Ryan, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences, will defend her dissertation on “Evaluation of low-gain hearing aids as treatment for auditory processing deficits in service members with normal hearing thresholds and history of mTBI” on Friday, April 10, at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The first forty minutes of the dissertation defense are open to the Gallaudet community via a live webinar.  Click here to attend.

The aim of Melissa Kokx-Ryan’s study was to examine the efficacy of low-gain hearing aids (LGHAs) in an active duty military population with a history of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and blast-exposure who have acquired auditory processing deficits (APD) in the presence of near-normal hearing thresholds (NHT). Adult patients diagnosed with APD are often offered LGHAs as a treatment option despite the presence of NHT. This treatment method, which is arguably becoming the standard of care in the private sector and military medical system, is based on anecdotal patient reports and minimal published research. While peripheral hearing loss remains pervasive in Service Members (SMs), injury to the peripheral and central auditory system is increasingly related to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and blast-exposure. The functional communication and hearing deficits reported by these individuals often occur in the absence of elevated pure-tone thresholds, are identified as APD, and then treated with LGHAs.  There were four objectives of this study investigating the use of LGHAs over a two-week period: (1) Determine if subjective benefits occur measured by the Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit (APHAB) and Likert scale rating following soundfield testing; (2) detect objective benefit measured by soundfield Quick Speech-in-Noise test (QuickSIN) and Modified Quick Speech-in-Noise test (mQuickSIN); (3) examine if individual measures of peripheral auditory function predict aided outcomes; and (4) investigate if individual pre-fitting attitudes of hearing difficulty or hearing aids predict outcomes. These results will influence the standard of care these individuals receive, thus improving the ability to treat and limit the associated functional impairments of APD in patients with NHT.

The members of Melissa Kokk-Ryan’s dissertation committee are Dr. Larry Medwetsky, Department of Hearing Speech and Language Sciences, co-chair of the dissertation committee; Dr. Matthew Bakke, Department of Hearing Speech and Language Sciences (retired), co-chair of the dissertation committee; Dr. Dragana Barac-Cikoja, Department of Hearing Speech and Language Sciences (retired); Dr. Kenneth Grant, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; Dr. Douglas Brungart, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; and Dr. Samira Anderson, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, University of Maryland.

Melissa Kokx-Ryan received her Au.D. from Gallaudet University in 2014 and is an audiologist at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). She entered the Ph.D. program at Gallaudet University in 2012 with a research focus on the study of auditory processing deficits, traumatic brain injury, hearing aid applications, and hidden hearing loss. She was previously a research audiologist at the National Military Audiology at Speech Pathology Center at WRNMMC, where she continues as a collaborator and remains involved in several ongoing research protocols.

Please join me in extending best wishes to Melissa Kokx-Ryan for her dissertation defense. 

Posted by Elizabeth Gibbons | Posted April 6, 2020 at 11:11 AM

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