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Project information

This is the page of the project Meeting the Challenge of Overlapping Talk for Cochlear Implant Users. The aim of this project is to develop useful training materials for cochlear implant users to practice handling simultaneous or overlapping talk in conversation.

Overlapping talk is known to be a particular problem for individuals who have a hearing loss, even when using a conventional hearing aid or cochlear implant. Until recently, even in one-to-one settings many users would need optimum conditions in order to hold a satisfactory conversation, e.g. a quiet environment and the communication awareness of both participants that they should avoid taking at the same time.

Recent technological improvements in cochlear implant devices mean that it is now more realistic for users to attempt to engage in natural conversations in which overlapping talk is a common occurrence. However, currently there are no established training materials that hearing professionals can use to help cochlear implant users deal with the problem of simultaneous talk.

In this project we will develop software based training materials that address this gap and promote key conversational competencies in cochlear implant users. We suggest graded tasks to enable users to repeatedly practise (i) crucial listening skills (identifying the main speaker, recognising the semantic content of the speech signal, and understanding the social action underlying the conversational exchange) and (ii) speaking skills fundamental to multi-party conversation (using competitive and non-competitive overlaps appropriately).

These materials will draw mainly on the outputs from our earlier project on overlapping talk, where we have developed a unique corpus and some key findings about overlapping talk in conversation. To the best of our knowledge, this will be the first training software for hearing implaired users that specifically addresses the problems raised by overlapping talk.

The project is a collaboration between  the University of Sheffield and NHS and will run from March 2014 to February 2015. It is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under its Follow on Fund for Impact and Engagement scheme. The scheme provides funds to support innovative and creative engagements with new audiences and user communities.