The concept of aural diversity (Drever, 2017) has recently emerged as a novel way of reconceptualising hearing differences. Aural diversity aims to accommodate the whole range of aural experience, including examples such as the musician with tinnitus, the lip-reading churchgoer and the autistic school student.
This PhD project will focus on a group of people who generally combine more than one type of aural divergence in an interesting and complex way. Autism is heavily stigmatised, including in the autism research literature, where the complex pattern of hearing and listening differences are either ignored or underexplored. Although hearing differences are not part of the diagnostic definition of autism, most autistic people report more than one aural divergence. Anecdotally, hyperacusis and difficulties processing speech are common and almost always viewed as disabling by autistic people. However, increased capacity for detail and structure in sound also seem to be common and often a source of joy. Researching sensory differences such as these is one of the top ten research priorities chosen by the autistic community.
This project will aim to more fully characterise autistic listening, using a mixed methods approach. You will begin with a qualitative study, recruiting and engaging with autistic individuals to build a rich account of their auditory experience, both good and bad. Following this, you will pick one important aspect of autistic listening experience to focus on (such as hyperacusis or speech processing or detail mapping). You will use the results of your qualitative study to design behavioural listening experiments to quantify your chosen listening experience. Further work might involve exploring possible changes to typical acoustic environments to improve the experience of autistic people.
Candidates will need a 1st class or high 2:1 honours degree in a relevant subject such as psychology. As the project will require both qualitative and quantitative methods, experience in both would be an advantage. A good understanding of statistics and an interest in auditory perception and acoustics are desirable. Personal experience of autism (including but not limited to being autistic yourself) would also help. You will benefit from being supervised by a professor of psychoacoustics who is himself autistic.
For informal enquiries contact Prof Bill Davies [Email Address Removed]
How to apply:
Submit a formal application at this link: http://webapps.ascentone.com/Login.aspx?key=5d4b012a-bb6c-495b-b2e4-b5a56b3ccf00
You will need to have the following documents ready to upload to the application site: