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KNOXVILLE — Patti Johnstone, assistant professor and director of the audiology clinics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is one of two researchers worldwide honored with this year’s New Investigator Research Award by the American Academy of Audiology (AAA).

Patti Johnstone
Patti Johnstone
In addition, UT graduate students from UT’s Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology received awards for excellence in student research given out by AAA this year.

Johnstone — who received the award at the AAA’s convention held earlier this month — won for her research project that looked at how hearing-impaired children determine the source of a sound.

“Our ability to know precisely where a sound is coming from is dependent upon a complex perceptual process that integrates information from both ears. Even very young children can tell where a sound is coming from if they have normal hearing in both ears,” Johnstone said. “This study determines how well children with a hearing loss in only one ear can identify the location of a sound and if a hearing aid in the impaired ear will improve hearing.”

The award carries a $10,000 prize that will fund the project for another year.

Johnstone’s research mentor is Anna Nabelek, UT research professor emerita.

Graduate students Kristy Lowery and C. Dane Bowers received the excellence in student research awards. They received two of only three student awards given by AAA this year.

National and international scholars in audiology and hearing science judged 67 student research poster presentations from around the country for their scientific merit and their potential to contribute to the field’s literature. Each student received $500.

Lowery won a student award for her research on a possible way to improve infant hearing tests.

When infants are tested, “a sound is presented from a speaker and the infant is conditioned to look toward the sound source. When they look, they are visually reinforced for turning their head to look for the sound,” Lowery said.

Traditionally, a mechanical toy has been used to reinforce infants for turning toward a sound. In her research, Lowery used a clip of “Finding Nemo,” a popular children’s movie.

Lowery is mentored by Assistant Professor Deborah von Hapsburg and Clinical Supervisor Erin Plyler.

Bowers was honored for his research that looked at the roles of the brain and brain stem in processing sounds in noisy environments. He is mentored by Associate Professor Ashley W. Harkrider.


Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,