Meet the Researcher: Samira Anderson, Au.D., Ph.D.

By Tine Aakerlund Pollard

Samira Anderson, Au.D., Ph.D.  received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University, and also holds an Au.D. from the University of Florida. Anderson is an assistant professor in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at the University of Maryland and is a 2014 Emerging Research Grant recipient.

My experience as a clinical audiologist inspired my research. I worked for 26 years as an audiologist before deciding to pursue a Ph.D. Part of my motivation came from working with patients who struggled with their hearing aids. I was frustrated that I was unable to predict who would benefit from hearing aids based on the results of audiological evaluations.

Two people who have identical audiograms and who are fit with the same advanced hearing aids may experience vastly different results when hearing in the presence of noise. I wanted to study the way the brain processes sound, and how deficits in this process may impact the accuracy of the auditory signal reaching the brain.

To examine the neural processing of auditory input across the life span, I study the development of speech sound differentiation in infants, and the relationship between speech encoding and later language development. This information may lead to earlier identification and treatment of language-based learning impairments. 

In older adults, I am looking at the effects of aging and hearing loss on the ability to understand speech in complex environments. As we age, we begin to notice a gradual decrease in our ability to process incoming stimuli, in part due to slower speed of processing. These changes are exacerbated by hearing loss and deficits in cognitive abilities, such as memory and attention. 

Specifically in the future, I hope to determine the effects of manipulating hearing aid settings on the ability of the brain to accurately encode speech. Understanding the effects of amplification on the brain’s processing of speech means that better hearing aid processing algorithms can be developed. I would also like to compare changes in the brain’s processing of sound after wearing hearing aids alone vs. wearing hearing aids and using auditory training.

Studying language development made me interested in hearing science. My mother immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon just before I was born, and I grew up hearing both English and Arabic. This exposure led to an interest in languages and how we first acquire spoken language as children. I was born in Southern California but grew up all over the U.S. as my father was a career Marine.

Both of my parents have hearing loss, so I have witnessed firsthand their struggles with hearing. My mother’s father was an agronomist and had a large farm in Damascus, Syria. When visiting him in Syria I would hear street vendors calling out that they had “Miqdadi cucumbers”—Miqdadi was his last name. I believe that my interest in the scientific field came from him as well as from my mother.

Read Anderson’s first-person account of her switch from the clinic to the lab and details about her research in “A Closer Look,” in the Winter 2014 issue of Hearing Health.

Samira Anderson, Au.D., Ph.D., is a General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons International award recipient. Hearing Health Foundation would like to thank the Royal Arch Masons for their generous contributions to Emerging Research Grantees working in the area of central auditory processing disorders (CAPD). We appreciate their ongoing commitment to funding CAPD research.

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To donate today to Hearing Health Foundation and support groundbreaking research, visit hhf.org/name-a-grant.

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