Developing a digital technology to meet the support needs of parents of young cochlear implant recipients


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Please note that applications are no longer being accepted for this project

In Australia, most children with congenital hearing loss receive a cochlear implant between 6 and 12 months of age. The implant operation is a critical event for parents and the early postoperative period is challenging and stressful, with a high need for support from cochlear implant clinicians (usually audiologists or speech pathologists).

Parents must also learn strategies for supporting the development of hearing, speech, and language. With individual progress being highly variable, it is difficult for parents to know what to expect and when. It is also difficult to monitor progress and to identify, collate, and share information of value for the implant clinicians in the child’s ongoing management. Parents who have limited contact with others with similar lived experiences lack important peer support during this challenging time.

Across many different health conditions, digital technologies have been developed which support patients and/or carers, including parents. These technologies have variously provided condition-specific information, intervention-specific information, rehabilitation activities, goal setting, monitoring of progress, motivation, data logging, data sharing with clinicians, alerts, and peer-to-peer connections. There are clear opportunities for digital technology to provide support to parents when their child receives an implant.

Such a technology would supplement the care provided by a clinician and may facilitate the delivery of more evidence-based and efficient clinician care. In the context of a pandemic, or other requirements for remote care delivery, and in low resource settings where limited clinician care is available, a digital technology to support parents would be particularly valuable. Development of a useful, useable, and used digital technology requires careful exploration of the support needs of parents and how they would prefer to have these needs met.

Project goals

Key research questions in this PhD are:

  1. What are the support needs of parents in the first 6 months after their child receives a cochlear implant at a very young age (between 6 and 12 months of age)
  2. What is the priority order for the support needs identified by parents of children implanted at between 6 and 12 months of age
  3. Related to digital technology to meet their support needs, what are the parent preferences for digital functionality, format for content delivery, and device types
  4. Do these needs differ substantially when the child is implanted at a somewhat older age (2 years and over)

Supervision team

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Who we are looking for

We are seeking a PhD candidate with the following skills:

  • Demonstrated experience in the field of science in audiology, psychology, or speech-language therapy and an interest in quantitative and qualitative research
  • Demonstrated experience with interviewing and/or thematic analysis of qualitative data would be beneficial.
  • Previous clinical and/or paediatric experience will be preferred.
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date)
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Demonstrated organisational skills, time management and ability to work to priorities.
  • Demonstrated problem-solving abilities.
  • Candidates with lived experience of disability or as a parent or carer of someone living with a disability are encouraged to apply.
  • Candidates from an Indigenous background are also encouraged to apply.

Further details

The PhD candidate will benefit from the combined expertise of the project supervisors, and the embedding into two research environments. A/Prof Karyn Galvin has expertise in the clinical management of children and adults using cochlear implants, evaluating everyday listening experiences, and working with families to understand barriers and facilitators to the use of hearing technology. Dr Karolina Kluk-de Kort has expertise in cochlear dead regions, psychoacoustics and electric-acoustic stimulation.

This PhD project will be based at the University of Melbourne with a minimum 12-month stay at the University of Manchester.

The candidate will be enrolled in the PhD program at the School of Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne and in the PhD program at the School of Health Sciences at the University of Manchester.

Melbourne University and the E&E Cochlear Implant Clinic are world-renowned for the development of the multichannel cochlear implant in the 1970/80s, and subsequent decades of collaborative, cutting-edge research and clinical practice in the field. Supervisors Associate Professor Prof Karyn Galvin and Dr Jaime Leigh have collaborated on multiple projects related to paediatric clinical management over 18 years. Melbourne University is also at the leading edge of the digital health revolution. The Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences combined with the Faculty of Engineering’s School of Computing and IT to establish the Centre for the Digital Transformation of Health in 2019.

The School of Health Sciences identified Digital Health as a key research theme in 2019, with the theme lead being health informatician Dr Mark Merolli. Within their School, the candidate will have access to Dr Merolli, Professor Lynette Joubert (social worker/psychologist; developer of apps to support carers), and Dr Camille Short (digital health behavioural scientist) as relevant experts.

Please note that applications are no longer being accepted for this project

First published on 1 December 2021.

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