Speech Pathology and Audiology Research

Dr. Jan Bedrosian, professor in Western Michigan University's Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, has recently completed a research project funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The project developed and tested a model predicting the outcome of conversational choices by people with severe communication impairments who use speech-generating computer systems in public settings. The findings are being used to design and develop a prototype communication system, which will eventually be tested. The long-term goal is to develop systems that will enhance the communication effectiveness of the individuals using these systems so that they can more successfully accomplish their goals in public settings.

Dr. Greg Flamme is an associate professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. His primary research interest is in hearing loss prevention and the evaluation and treatment of hearing loss. He has published papers on the prevalence of hearing impairment in the U.S. population, hearing loss prevention, hearing aid use, benefit, and outcome measures. Flamme has been collecting data on two federal research contracts. His lab in the College of Health and Human Services has been used to complete almost 2,000 lab visits for data collection and enrollment in his research conducted on site. He has also published five papers in peer-reviewed journals; presented at 12 national- and international-level meetings; and conducted field data collection in collaboration with one federal research laboratory, three other universities and industry. In addition, he has participated in national-level review of the science related to damage-risk criteria for impulsive noises. Work on six manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals is underway with two manuscripts nearing submission.

Ms. Sandra Oslager Glista, a master clinical faculty specialist with the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, studies contemporary issues in the group treatment of people with chronic aphasia. Her most recent work focuses on the therapeutic use and application of commercially available communication tools and technologies, such as smart phones, email systems, and computer mediated voice and video calling, by adults with language disorders.    

Dr. James Hillenbrand is a professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. His research has focused mainly on trying to understand the auditory and pattern-matching mechanisms that are involved in recognizing speech, a surprisingly difficult task. In recognizing speech, listeners need to cope with wide variability in the acoustic structure of the speech signal that results from variation in factors such as individual differences in vocal tract anatomy, dialect, rate of speech, and the phonetic environment in which a particular speech sound occurs. The effect of all this variability is that a given speech sound can be realized with a wide array of different acoustic signatures. Research experiments typically involve acoustic analyses of speech recorded from a variety of different speakers, developing hypotheses about underlying pattern-matching mechanisms on the basis of those analyses, and then testing those hypotheses with listening experiments that use computer-generated or computer-modified speech signals. The laboratory is also involved in research that is designed to improve our understanding of the physiological and perceptual mechanisms that are responsible for variations in voice quality.

Dr. Yvette D. Hyter, associate professor in Speech Pathology and Audiology, is involved in several research projects. She is conducting research designed to develop an assessment measure of social communication and pragmatic language skills of preschool children. She also is conducting a research project to compare the social communication and pragmatic language skills of children between the ages of 6 and 15 with histories of maltreatment and prenatal alcohol exposure to age-matched peers with histories of maltreatment only. Since 2000, Hyter and her collaborator, Dr. W. F. Santiago-Valles, associate professor in Africana Studies at WMU, have been investigating the consequences of economic globalization. As part their second College of Education Fulbright-Hays Grant award, they are explaining language policies, linguistic culture and literacy practices, as well as the ways popular culture is used to address consequences of globalization in West Africa and in the U. S. Midwest. Other members of the research team are Drs. Joseph Kretovics and Yuanlong Liu, WMU College of Education and Human Development, and Stephanie Evergreen, doctoral student in the WMU Evaluation Center. Finally, as a founding member of the Children's Trauma Assessment Center, Hyter received an NIH-SAMSHA funded grant to develop a school-based intervention program for children. As part of the second NIH-SAMSHA grant awarded to CTAC, she collaborates with the CTAC team on the development and delivery of assessment training to teams of service providers and educators in Michigan, and serves as the cultural competence consultant responsible for developing and facilitating the implementation of culturally and linguistically appropriate programming.

Dr. Nickola W. Nelson, professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology and director of the Ph.D. program in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, is conducting research leading to the development of a standardized Test of Integrated Language and Literacy Skills.

Audiology Professor Gary Lawson, Ph.D. and Faculty Specialist II Mary Peterson, Au.D. recently published Speech Audiometry, a volume in the Core Clinical Concepts in Audiology series by Plural Publishing.   

Dr. Helen Sharp is an associate professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology.  Her research focuses on speech-language pathologists’ practice patterns and patients’ perceptions of clinical outcomes.  Current projects include a normative study of speech resonance an adults, evaluation of factors that affect nasalance measures, and validating self-assessment of speech outcome in the oral cleft clinic.

Dr. Stephen Tasko is an associate professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. His broad research focus is to gain an improved understanding of the motor processes that underlie normal and disordered speech and voice production. Dr. Tasko is currently engaged in several lines of research. One line of work is aimed at evaluating the hypothesis that stuttering is a speech disorder that arises from faulty speech motor control.  A second line of research focuses on understanding the various dimensions of normal speech motor control and learning. Dr. Tasko oversees a well-developed speech physiology laboratory that is equipped for recording speech acoustics, chest wall, vocal fold and oral articulatory motion, orofacial muscle activity and speech-related aerodynamic events. Therefore there are a variety of opportunities for those interested in exploring the acoustic and physiological bases of speech production.

Dr. Ann Tyler is professor and chair of the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology.
Her research focuses on examining aspects of intervention effectiveness for different populations of children with speech and co-occurring language impairment, as well as professional development for implementation of evidence-based practices in speech sound disorders intervention.