Lecture on listening and language

Professor Suzanne Purdy, an expert in speech science, will deliver her inaugural lecture as professor at The University of Auckland on Thursday 1 December. She will discuss the science of listening and speaking, and the links between psychoacoustics, communication and quality of life.

“Communication can occur in many ways, through written text, gesture, sign language, and through speech,” explains Professor Purdy. “Psychoacoustics – the ability to perceive subtle differences in sounds – underpins the remarkable speech perception and speech production abilities of humans. Psychoacoustic abilities develop as children mature and then deteriorate as people age. They depend on hearing sensitivity and the brain’s auditory processing capacity.”

“Oral communication is a key human activity that underpins language learning and other areas of development and participation in everyday life for most people. So quality of life can be affected for people who have difficulties with hearing, auditory processing, speech perception and/or language.”

“Since communication is a shared endeavour, families and communities can also be greatly affected. Discriminating speech sounds, listening and speaking are abilities that most people do not attend to greatly until they encounter someone who was born with a communication problem or who acquired a problem as a result of accident, illness or aging.”

In the lecture Professor Purdy will review her 30 years of research and clinical work aimed at understanding the diagnosis, impact and treatment of communication disorders in children and adults.

Professor Purdy is Head of Discipline of Speech Science in the Department of Psychology. Her research interests include the electrophysiological assessment of auditory function in infants and children, objective assessment of hearing aid performance, auditory processing disorders and reading delay, aural rehabilitation in hearing impaired adults, and speech perception in children. She is currently running a study into singing as a therapy for people with stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

Professor Purdy is a clinical audiologist who began her career at Auckland Hospital and National Audiology Centre. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study for her PhD at the University of Iowa and returned to New Zealand in 1990 when the country’s first academic programme in audiology was established. Professor Purdy worked for several years at the National Acoustic Laboratories in Sydney during which time she established a new clinical technique for evaluating hearing aid function in infants with hearing loss. She returned to New Zealand with her family eight years ago to head the newly established Discipline of Speech Science at The University of Auckland.

Professor Purdy’s talk is part of The University of Auckland’s 2011 Inaugural Lectures for new professors. It will be held in room 732.201 at the Tāmaki Innovation Campus from 6pm on Thursday 1 December, with refreshments at Café Europa, Building 733, from 5:30pm. It is open to the public and free of charge, and anyone is welcome to attend.