Jill Coulter ’20 is conducting research to better understand the misperceptions of, and biases toward, hearing aids.

Bluetooth or Hearing Device?

Hearing aids can greatly enhance a person’s quality of life. But, all too often, people affected by hearing loss choose not to wear them. Research in audiology suggests that embarrassment, fear, and misunderstanding often influence these decisions.

Dispelling the stigma behind hearing aids might have a simple fix, however, according to a new study by Jill Coulter ’20 and Brittney Carlson, Au.D., Ph.D., director of the communication sciences and disorders (CSD) program at Elms.

“Our goal is to determine if perceptions of ear-level devices change based on how they are labeled,” said Jill, a CSD major and bioethics minor from Chicopee.

Originally interested in speech-language pathology, Jill (left) changed her focus to audiology after taking classes on hearing science with Dr. Carlson.

To test their hypothesis, Dr. Carlson and Jill asked their subjects (n=50) to evaluate a series of eight photographs showing people wearing a variety of hearing aids. Half of the group was told they were looking at images of Bluetooth technology; the other group was told they were looking at conventional hearing aids. In addition to scoring each photograph in terms of attractiveness and intelligence, participants also indicated whether or not they themselves would wear a similar device if their own hearing was impaired. 

Dr. Carlson has inspired me to potentially pursue a Ph.D. in audiology after I complete my Au.D, so that I may continue to conduct research during my professional career. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to have this experience.

Jill Coulter ’20

“My hope is that doing research with a faculty member will help distinguish myself among other applicants when I apply to graduate school,” said Jill, who was responsible for preparing the survey materials, scheduling meetings with participants, and administering the survey.

One of the main reasons that Jill was drawn to Elms was the strength of its CSD program. “The program is small and tightly-knit, so our professors and advisors can really focus on us,” she said. “Collaborating with Dr. Carlson on this research study has been the most wonderful learning experience. “

“My hope is that this experience will show how passionate I am about the field, and demonstrate how strong and ambitious I am as a student,” she added.

Once they analyze and interpret their data, Dr. Carlson and Jill will present their findings at the International Adult Aural Rehabilitation Conference in Woburn, MA, as well as the Sisters Kathleen Keating and Maxine Schneider Experiential Learning Showcase at Elms.