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The impact of hearing difficulty on conversational interaction

About This PhD Project

Project Description


This project focuses on how hearing difficulty impacts individuals’ ability to interact successfully.

Conversational interaction is fundamental to the development of social attachments. It facilitates psychological wellbeing, and protects against the ill-effects of stress and other health issues. However interacting with others is a highly complex task, and during conversation individuals must rapidly switch between comprehending the speech of a partner and producing speech themselves. This includes prediction – the preparation of responses before one’s conversation partner finishes speaking.

Noisy environments make interaction particularly challenging due to degradation of the auditory signal. Yet most interactions are held in non-ideal conditions, for example chatting in a pub, cafe, or talking on a busy street. People with hearing impairment, who already show increased effort to perceive the speech of others, often shun these noisy environments. Recent research suggests that one aspect of their difficulty could relate to reduced use of prediction mechanisms. It is critical to understand how noisy environments impact the ability of individuals with hearing impairment to interact with others successfully, in order to reduce the prevalent issues of social isolation and loneliness in the hearing impaired population.

This project will explore the impact of degraded auditory information on prediction and cognitive processing during interaction. The research will be situated in the eMotion lab at GCU, which supports a range of interaction research technology, including an interaction observation/recording studio, physiological evaluation, body movement capture, and depth interviewing. Additionally, research will be carried out at Hearing Sciences Scottish Section, situated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

In summary, this research will move on from addressing fundamental audibility issues experienced by individuals with hearing impairment, to addressing the difficulties that they experience in everyday interaction with others.


The main aim of this research is to investigate how hearing impairment impacts people’s ability to make, and benefit from, predictions during conversational interaction. Specifically, how poor auditory information impacts prediction (and prediction confidence) during interaction.

External collaboration
The project is a collaboration between the Applied Games and Engaging Technologies Research Group at GCU, and Hearing Sciences Scottish Section (formerly the MRC Institute of Hearing Research), based at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Dr Lauren Hadley, Hearing Sciences Scottish Section, University of Nottingham, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences. Dr Hadley has experience in prediction in musical and linguistic interaction. Throughout the project Dr Hadley will be involved in project guidance, experiment design, implementation and analysis.

Dr William Whitmer, Senior Investigator Scientist, Hearing Sciences Scottish Section, University of Nottingham, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences. Throughout the project Dr Whitmer will be involved in project guidance, experiment design, implementation and analysis.

Specific requirements of the project

The successful candidate should primarily have demonstrable expertise in qualitative and quantitative research methods and interaction analysis. They should ideally also have an interest in hearing research, and the application of research and technology for health and wellbeing.

Research Strategy and Research Profile

Glasgow Caledonian University’s research is framed around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, We address the Goals via three societal challenge areas of Inclusive Societies, Healthy Lives and Sustainable Environments. For more. This project is part of the research activity of the Applied Games and Engaging Technologies Research Group, and is a collaboration with Hearing Sciences Scottish Section.

How to Apply

Applicants will normally hold a UK honours degree 2:1 (or equivalent); or a Masters degree in a subject relevant to the research project. Equivalent professional qualifications and any appropriate research experience may be considered. A minimum English language level of IELTS score of 6.5 (or equivalent) with no element below 6.0 is required. Some research disciplines may require higher levels.

Candidates are encouraged to contact the research supervisors for the project before applying. Applicants should complete the online GCU Research Application Form, stating the Project Title and Reference Number (listed above).

Please also attach to the online application, copies of academic qualifications (including IELTS if required), 2 references and any other relevant documentation.

Please send any enquiries regarding your application to: Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview.

For more information on How to apply and the online application form please go to

Dr Don Knox ,


Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (2017). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation. In Interpersonal Development (pp. 57–89). Routledge.
Strawbridge, W. J., Wallhagen, M. I., Shema, S. J., & Kaplan, G. A. (2000). Negative Consequences of Hearing Impairment in Old Age. The Gerontologist, 40(3), 320–326.
Signoret, C., Johnsrude, I., Classon, E., & Rudner, M. (2018). Combined effects of form- and meaning-based predictability on perceived clarity of speech. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 44(2), 277–285.

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