Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Paige Juarez, local audiologist at Estes Audiology, helps make a custom earplug mold for local musician Roger Mason on Tuesday morning.

Photo Credit: Mariana Gonzalez | Daily Texan Staff

The Moody College of Communication helped educate local musicians about hearing loss and provided them with custom earplugs at the UT Speech and Hearing Center on Tuesday.

The program, which is a collaboration between Estes Audiology Hearing Centers, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) and UT’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, gives local musicians who are insured through HAAM accurate hearing tests and individual counseling about how to protect their hearing.

Soriya Estes, president and founder of Estes Audiology, said the main draw for musicians to come to the center is to have access to an affordable set of custom, filtered earplugs. Custom earplugs usually cost more than $200, but are available for a $25 co-pay through the center for musicians. Estes said, the program, which runs four times a year, has served about 1,500 local musicians since 2009.

“Many musicians with HAAM — and just musicians in general — don’t like foam plugs in their ear because it muffles sound, so they elect to not wear anything because they don’t want to compromise the sound on stage,” Estes said. “But then they’re damaging their hearing permanently, which then further compromises it later down the road.”

In individual counseling sessions, clinicians discuss the duration and intensity of each musician’s set because it helps them to customize the hearing protection, which is essential for preserving the musician’s livelihood and employment, Estes said.

Alison Barry, Spanish and communication sciences and disorders senior, said she would love if the center had resources to provide services to student musicians or to help stress the importance of hearing protection to those students.

“Musicians and people who enjoy concerts — specifically loud music, like rock, techno or metal — need to realize that they are incurring damage every time they attend a concert without proper hearing protection,” Barry said. “They need to take these precautions early in life if they want to be able to hear just as well in their old age.”

James Booth, communication sciences and disorders professor, said the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders got involved because the program fit its mission of community outreach and directly improving lives of community members.

“A startling figure is that adults with uncorrected hearing loss suffer from much higher rates of depression,” Booth said. “Not being able to hear isolates us from the world. Musicians help to make Austin a great place to live, and many are struggling financially, so we should do what we can to help.”

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

The National Institute of Health awarded a $3.3 million grant to professor James Booth to study the neural basis of language impairment in the developing brain. 

Booth, who became chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the Moody College of Communication in July, will use brain-imaging technology to better treat children with learning impairments such as dyslexia. 

Booth, who holds the John T. Jones, Jr. Centennial Professorship in Communication, said while there are good behavioral measures for determining which children struggle with language impairments versus those who do not, the neuroscience causing those behaviors is not well understood. 

“In terms of predicting who’s going to kind of continue to struggle with language in the future, or get better or fall further behind, we don’t really have the tools,” Booth said. “Using kind of neuro-imaging in addition to behavioral measures could be kind of quite helpful for making this prediction.”

The study, which began in September, will follow about 250 children between ages 5 and 9 for five years. It is the largest of its kind and will take place in the Brain Development Laboratory, which came to the Moody College this summer when Booth left Northwestern University. 

“The lab existed there and was a pretty big operation, and then part of the lab has moved here,” said Stephanie Herrin, the project coordinator for the lab. 

Herrin said that this research project will include both typically developing children and those who have a language impairment. 

Margaret Gullick, a postdoctoral fellow in the department, said that language development is a complicated process, involving numerous distinct sub-skills. While researchers know something about the brain areas that language skills rely on, not much is known about the causal relationships between them. 

“This research will help us get a better idea of the interactive relationships between these skills and for children who have difficulties with language,” Gullick said. “They’re a very understudied group in general, and, when it comes to brain imaging, we don’t know very much about what might be different about their brains.”

Booth said in a press release that at least 6 percent of U.S. children have developmental language impairments, and those with learning impairments struggle academically, limiting their potential as adults. 

“Obviously, it has critical relevance because, if we know who’s going to struggle with language when they’re older, then perhaps we could get them involved in a language intervention program to enhance their language skills,” Booth said. 

Christine Matyear, energetic teacher, cat-lover and skeet-shooter, died Thursday morning.

Matyear, a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, died while she was home with her family after fighting ovarian cancer for several months, department chair Craig Champlin said.

Matyear started working at UT in 1998. While teaching in the communications sciences and disorders department, she also taught the subject’s honors sequence, the Senior Fellows Program and signature courses in the School of Undergraduate Studies.

Champlin said Matyear advocated for students and took the vocation of teaching seriously.

“She had high standards and integrity,” Champlin said. “She was very conscious about insuring that learning was occurring. I think students really responded to that.”

Shannon Jacobson, communications sciences and disorders senior, said Matyear always had a smile on her face.

“To me, she embodied the phrase ‘age is just a number,’” Jacobson said. “She was a really passionate person in everything she did, from her cats, to her grandkids and to the classes that she taught.”

Jacobson said she took three classes with Matyear, who always made class engaging.

“Her classes were definitely tough, but they were really fair,” Jacobson said. “Her tests were notoriously hard, but I never felt like it was a burden to study, because she presented the subject material in such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic way.“

Allie Jensen, communications sciences and disorders sophomore, said Matyear was one of a kind.

“She was always super energetic in lecture and made a difficult subject like hearing science easy to understand,” Jensen said. “She had a personal story for every subject we talked about that complemented the massive amounts of information we were learning.”

Jacobson said Matyear also loved her cats. She said she had friends who took an online class with Matyear, and the professor would hold up her cats to the webcam.

Roderick Hart, dean of the College of Communication, said Matyear was of “inestimable” value to the college.

“Her generosity of spirit and breadth of vision will be profoundly missed by faculty and students alike,” Hart said.

Champlin said memorial services will be announced soon.

Printed on Friday, October 5, 2012 as: Senior lecturer dies, known for enthusiasm: Students laud professor's care, accessibility