Research that changes lives
Jeannine Campbell was 12 when her youngest brother was born. Within a year and a half, he became the inspiration for what is becoming her life’s work.
As a toddler, James began speech therapy to address the language disabilities caused by Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, a rare childhood neurological disorder affecting the part of the brain that controls comprehension and speech.
“I got to see him grow up and, when I was in high school, I had lots of questions,” says Campbell, who is from Lincoln, Maine. “I wanted to know more about everything he experienced and the professionals who worked with him.”
When she came to the University of Maine, Campbell pursued a major in communication sciences and disorders. Last year as a junior, she was involved in independent study, working with UMaine professor Nancy Hall on research focusing on language impairment in youngsters up to age 7.
This past summer, Campbell was one of five students selected nationwide to participate in a six-week intensive research program at Indiana University called TRACCS — Training for Research and Academic Careers in Communication Sciences. There, she collaborated with professor Larry Humes in his longitudinal study of the effects of aging on hearing.
In an effort to better understand when hearing decline begins as people with normal hearing age, Campbell’s data analysis focused on the auditory sensitivity of middle-aged adults, ages 40-55, as compared to younger and older adults. In particular, she looked at auditory thresholds — the points at which the softest sounds can be heard — and auditory gap detection — the ability to hear temporal gaps in sound.
While at Indiana, Campbell also had the opportunity to observe therapy sessions at the university’s Robert L. Milisen Speech-Language Clinic as part of the 25 hours required to fulfill her UMaine degree requirements. And it’s there that she met three clients who are war veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The experience solidified her decision to pursue a clinical doctorate in audiology.
“One of the issues for individuals returning from Iraq with TBI is their (permanent) sensorineural hearing loss (due to inner ear damage). In addition, many more returning soldiers have tinnitus (ringing in the ears),” Campbell says. “One day, I’d love to be doing research in conjunction with a VA medical center.”
For wounded soldiers like those Campbell met in Indiana, there is little early intervention to evaluate and begin to address speech and hearing damage and deficits. Campbell hopes to change that.
Her senior capstone project at UMaine will begin to explore the possibilities of early speech and hearing intervention and treatment for soldiers with TBI. She will further her research on the subject in graduate school.