When Sydney Perry first began her education at IU, she had interests in therapy, psychology, journalism, and language but had not decided which degree she wanted to pursue. It was not until a suggestion made by her mom’s co-worker that Perry realized her potential in the field of Speech and Hearing Sciences.
Now a senior conducting research a part of the department’s honors program, Perry is continuing to learn how expansive the field of speech is. While her primary interest had been in speech therapy to help people with speech impediments, she has enjoyed researching speech perception under the guidance of Dr. Tessa Bent.
Perry’s project focuses on how excessive hospital noise (over 55 dB while hospital guidelines are set around 35 dB) affects speech intelligibility and how this is impacted by word familiarity and frequency. The goal of her research is to conclude how hospital noise (machines, alerts, moving carts, other people, etc.) hinders communication and understanding between healthcare providers and patients within hospital rooms.
The project is comprised of four organized steps. For the first step, Perry collected 800 medically related terms and each term’s frequency rating including use in media. The second step was to determine the public’s understanding of these terms and collect familiarity data by conducting surveys.
Perry is beginning the third step in which she will collect data on the predictability of sentences by measuring how easily people can determine 3 keywords in a sentence based upon the content of the sentence. Once the sentences are recorded, the fourth step is to conduct a study to determine the intelligibility of the sentences within the context of excessive hospital noise.
Hospital noise has been a concern for decades. Evidence has indicated negative physiological effects, including poor sleep, both in patients and healthcare providers. However, in-depth intelligibility ratings have not been conducted before using medically related sentences within the context of excessive hospital noise.
“If doctors are trying to speak with their patients, especially if the patient has a hearing impairment, they’re not going to properly hear the instructions for taking care of themselves at home and that can cause problems,” Perry said. “Even during a patient’s stay, mishearing the doctor can directly impact their health outcome.”
By conducting research, Perry has learned the importance of investing time into guaranteeing the reliability of her sources and maintaining the integrity of her data. After collecting survey data online, Perry had to review the data and eliminate responses that did not provide honest feedback.
Otherwise, Perry has enjoyed conducting research remotely and believes it has advantages. Administering surveys online acquires data much more quickly than the in-person clinic did, as rapid as 40 responses in three hours.
To undergraduates hoping to get involved with research, Perry said, “Don’t hesitate.”
Perry herself had doubted she was capable of conducting research when her academic advisor recommended the departmental honors program. As a junior, she was intimidated by the work she observed honors students doing.
It was only two days before the application deadline that Perry made a quick decision to put herself out there and try to secure a position as an honors student. Now, with two grants and half of her project under her belt, Perry is a true researcher.