EASY LISTENING: Optimizing the consequences of effortful listening in occupational settings

PHD position 5: From real-life to lab and back

About the project

Engaging in tasks that require effortful listening—for instance, having a phone call with a client in a noisy open-space office—is instrumental to be productive and successful in many occupational settings. However, these benefits of effortful listening also come with costs: Increased listening effort can lead to stress, fatigue, and exhaustion, which may translate into a general decrease in productivity, health, and wellbeing. The Horizon Europe Doctoral Network project “EASYLI” (Easy listening: Optimizing the consequence of effortful listening in occupational settings”) aims to develop the tools to optimize the ratio between the costs and benefits of effortful listening in occupational settings.

The project will train six doctoral candidates to develop and apply a toolbox of ambulatory and laboratory measures that can be used to assess listening effort in occupational settings in normal hearing individuals and in individuals with hearing loss. This vacancy is for the fifth PhD position in the project—see here for a general description of the EASYLI project and the 6 positions.

About  the role

In this project, you will use virtual acoustic scenarios to create laboratory-based listening scenarios that are ecologically valid and predictive for performance and adverse effort effects in daily life of hearing impaired people, and analyse the extent to which hearing aids may improve the balance of positive and negative effects of increased effort. This project combines several scientific and technological methods and draws on expertise from the three groups involved in the project: University of Oldenburg and Hörzentrum Oldenburg provide technology for creating virtual acoustics scenes, as well as example scenes from previous projects. Hörzentrum Oldenburg has expertise in assessing speech understanding and subjective listening effort, and in working with hearing impaired people. The Effort Lab at Liverpool John Moores University provides expertise and equipment to assess effort and fatigue objectively and subjectively. Working in this project provides a unique opportunity to develop a diverse skillset: you will be able to acquire the technical skills required to understand and work in virtual acoustics/virtual reality, as well as the scientific skills to perform empirical research which draws on psychology, statistics, and psychophysics.

The project is organised in several phases: You will spend the first 6 months in Oldenburg, then 18 months in Liverpool, and the final 12 months again in Oldenburg. In Liverpool, you will develop virtual acoustic scenarios that mimic real-life, challenging listening environments and induce fatigue and stress responses comparable to the responses experienced in the simulated real-life situations. You will also establish the validity of the scenarios for predicting every-day performance, fatigue, and stress in challenging listening situations. The work in Oldenburg will focus on testing the effect of hearing-aid interventions in the developed virtual acoustic scenarios.

During the entire 36 months you will be enrolled as a PhD student at Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg under the supervision of Prof. Volker Hohmann. Your supervisor at Liverpool John Moores University will be Dr. Michael Richter. Depending on the outcome of ongoing negotiations between Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg and Liverpool John Moores University, it may be possible to extend your PhD program to a joint PhD program with a dual degree award.

Profile

Essential

  • You must have a formal degree in audiology, electrical engineering, psychology or a similarly relevant discipline. The degree level must be at least MSc or equivalent.
  • If your degree is in audiology, electrical engineering or any other technical field, you must have a high affinity for empirical research.
  • If your degree is in psychology or a similar social science field, you must have a high affinity for programming and technical questions.
  • You must not hold a doctoral or equivalent degree.
  • You must comply with the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action mobility rule: Not having resided or carried out your main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Germany for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the starting date.
  • You must meet the requirements for admission to the PhD programme of Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg: Enrolment as a PhD student at UOL is subject to the decision of the PhD Committee of the Faculty, see here.
  • You must have excellent communication and collaboration skills and be fluent in English.
  • You must have previous experience with data collection and analysis.

Desirable

  • Previous experience in advanced statistics and programming (e.g., MATLAB) is desirable.
  • Previous experience with psychological and psychophysiological assessment is desirable.
  • Previous experience with conducting lab-based studies is desirable.
  • For the work with hearing impaired test subjects in Germany, good command of German is a plus

Our offer

  • A full-time, paid PhD position in a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action doctoral network project for three years.
  • An optional family allowance (terms and conditions apply).
  • Access to state-of-the-art training within the EASYLI doctoral network offered via local and international courses, workshops, and conferences.
  • A thorough training in the context of an industrial doctorate training program that includes spending 18 month at Hörzentrum Oldenburg gGmbH.
  • Opportunities to collaborate with world-leading researchers.
  • A friendly, collaborative work environment.
  • A starting date of 01/08/2024.

About the workplace

The project and the position is a collaborative effort of Hörzentrum Oldenburg, University of Oldenburg, and Liverpoool John Moore’s University. You will be formally hired at HZO with enrolment as a PhD student at UOL, with an extended stay at LJMU.

Hörzentrum Oldenburg

With its audiological products, services and research projects, the Hörzentrum Oldenburg gGmbH improves the technology of hearing systems and the provision of hearing systems for people with hearing impairments. We transfer the results of basic university research into customer-orientated services and products – always with the focus on people.

Our mission “We help people to hear better” motivates our team of 50 to give their best every day. We stand for strong values and principles that are practised in our daily work. We emphasise transparent communication, respectful cooperation and fair conditions. A family-friendly workplace is a matter of course for us. Our actions are based on a high ethical standard, which is also visible to everyone in our scientific work. The meaningfulness of our work is reflected in the result – the improvement of hearing in order to increase the communication skills, participation and quality of life of all people.

Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg

The goal of the “Auditory Signal Processing and Hearing Devices” lab is to better understand human acoustic communication under challenging listening conditions with noise, clutter, and reverberation, and to use this knowledge to improve signal processing in hearing aids. In particular, the group studies numerical models of auditory scene analysis, methods for hearing aid evaluation in virtual interactive environments, and algorithms for novel hearing devices. PhD students at CvO University can enrol in the Graduate School of Science, Medicine, and Technology (OLTECH) in the structured PhD programme Neurosensory Science and Systems (Curriculum)

Effort Lab of the School of Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University

The Effort Lab conducts research on the determinants and mechanisms of effort investment in goal-directed behaviour employing behavioural and physiological methods. The School of Psychology (https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/about-us/faculties/faculty-of-health/school-of-psychology) has more than 60 academic members of staff and a similar number of PhD students. All PhD students are part of the LJMU Doctoral Academy and the LJMU Research Centre in Brain and Behaviour and have access to the state-of-the-art research and training environment of these institutions.

Let’s meet

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Kirsten Wagener (wagener@hz-ol.de) and Michael Richter (m.richter@ljmu.ac.uk).

To apply, please submit your application to karriere@hz-ol.de. Your application needs to include the following documents:

  • A cover letter explaining your motivation for applying for the position and for undertaking a PhD in the field as well as elaborating on how you fulfill the criteria listed in the “profile” section.
  • CV
  • Certificates
  • Transcripts and diplomas for the BSc and MSc degrees.
  • Copy of the master thesis.