inyong choi MTR.jpeg

Choi received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Seoul National University, South Korea, with focus on acoustics and psychoacoustics. He is currently an assistant professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Iowa. Choi’s 2017 Emerging Research Grant is generously funded by the General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons International.

Hearing in a noisy, real-world setting is not a trivial task. My research focuses on the understating speech-in-noise comprehension (or lack thereof), also known as the “cocktail party problem.” We study both the central and peripheral nervous systems, and how these systems interact to accomplish auditory focus. One promising solution is to develop an “intelligent” hearing device that can automatically select and amplify a target sound while suppressing competing sounds.

My high school music teacher suggested I study acoustics, the physics of sound, because while I had a passion for music, I did not have the talent. Under the supervision of my college professor Koeng-Mo Sung, a pioneer acoustician in South Korea, we designed piano soundboards, developed a new concept of surround audio systems, and implemented biology-inspired algorithms for sound-quality evaluations. My postdoctoral adviser, Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, showed me how to recognize the beauty of mathematical models that explain biological systems in straightforward, elegant ways.

When I was a doctoral student, I was a huge fan of Cambridge Professor Brian C.J. Moore, Ph.D.’s textbook, “An Introduction to the Psychology of Hearing.” I attended a visiting lecture by him when I was conducting research at Boston University and even I brought his book with me to get autographed. After his talk, I was unable to reach him through he crowd and instead went out to dinner with a friend. Shortly after our meal started, incredibly, he came into the same restaurant and agreed to autograph my book!

Three years later, I crossed paths with Moore again and asked if I could translate his book into Korean. He agreed, and it took me the next took two years to finish and publish the translation. This work enabled me to deeply understand the fundamentals of hearing science more than ever before.

Outside of the lab, nothing compares to playing with my 5-year-old daughter. We sing and dance together to Earth, Wind & Fire songs. Her favorite song is “September,” the month of her birthday.

My father suffers from high-frequency hearing loss, a common issue for those his age. I hope my fellow hearing scientists and I can soon help him and other patients with hearing loss. My understanding of hearing improves every year, and I am optimistic that we will be able to develop novel hearing solutions in the near future.

Inyong Choi, Ph.D.’s grant is generously funded by the General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons International. We want to thank the Royal Arch Masons for their ongoing commitment to research in the area of central auditory processing disorders.