Boys Town’s Monita Chatterjee, Ph.D., Receives the American Auditory Society’s Carhart Memorial Award
Monday, April 10, 2023
Boys Town National Research Hospital's Monica Chatterjee, Ph.D., Director of the Auditory Prostheses and Perception Laboratory, delivered the Carhart Memorial Lecture and received the Carhart Memorial Award at the 50th Annual Scientific & Technology Conference in Scottdale, Arizona, in early March.
Established by the American Auditory Society (AAS), the Carhart Memorial Lecture and Award were created to honor Professor Raymond Carhart as the “Father of Audiology." The award recognizes one scientist whose current research is having a significant impact on clinical practices and auditory science and whose career is promised to have lasting impact.
Dr. Chatterjee's recent research and Carhart Lecture presentation revolved around the challenges people with cochlear implants (CI) face when trying to hear pitch, or how people are feeling from their speech. Pitch is often the dominant acoustic cue for identifying mood or emotion, and CI patients' problems identifying pitch cues can lead to difficulties in understanding emotions.
“We've been working with children who are congenitally deaf and have a cochlear implant and with adults who had hearing throughout the period of language development and later lost their hearing, resulting in a cochlear implant," said Dr. Chatterjee, “Compared to hearing counterparts, both populations show significant deficits in their ability to identify spoken emotions. There's also a lot of individual variability, and we are currently studying the sources of this variability in order to develop effective treatments for individual patients."
An individual's ability to identify a speaker's mood or emotion and convey emotion in their own speech can impact their social interactions within their families, schools and workplaces. People who interact with CI patients often assume they have “normal" hearing and can understand pitch, which is not the case. Therefore, misunderstandings can easily happen when a CI listener doesn't perceive a sad or angry pitch to a voice or doesn't effectively verbalize their own emotions.
These miscues are important because they may cause isolation for the CI patient when spoken interactions don't go well. In both children and adults with cochlear implants, quality-of-life measures have been shown to be lower in those who scored lower in spoken emotion perception.
“It's hard to think of children having poorer quality of life for any reason," said Dr. Chatterjee. “But if future studies show that poorer emotion perception actually has a negative impact on quality of life, and if our research can do something about that…it's very motivating for me."