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DeVault Otologic Research Laboratory

The DeVault Otologic Research Lab carries out basic and clinical research for the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at IU School of Medicine. Studies performed in this laboratory provide groundbreaking knowledge on speech perception and language development in children and have led to a better understanding of children’s adaptive behavior development and executive function.

The DeVault Otologic Research Lab is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of research and teaching faculty and staff, including David Pisoni, PhDWilliam Kronenberger, PhD; Shirley Henning, MS; Allison Ditmars, BS, CCRP; Valerie Freeman, PhD; and Cynthia Hunter, PhD. The Principal Investigators in the DeVault Lab are currently collaborating with colleagues around the world at The Ohio State University, The University of Texas at Dallas, Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and Hannover Medical School in Germany.

Research Recruitment

If you’re interested in being contacted regarding current and future research participation opportunities at the DeVault Otologic Research Lab, we invite you to enroll in our Research Recruitment Database.

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Focus of Inquiry

The DeVault Lab research team investigates

  • Why some children with cochlear implants have good executive functioning while others do not: One of the goals is to identify the processes that contribute to good executive functioning in order to develop treatments to help children whose executive functioning is at risk.
  • How executive functioning is used by children with hearing aids or cochlear implants to help with language processing: By understanding the role of executive functioning in language development in children with hearing loss, new ways to improve language outcomes can be developed.
  • How families of children with hearing loss who use cochlear implants or hearing aids can help these children develop executive functioning and language skills: These discoveries can help families support young children with hearing loss in gaining these important skills.


Findings by investigators of the DeVault Otologic Research Laboratory demonstrate that cochlear implants, while providing access to sound and the ability to develop speech and language for most users, do not provide the same benefit to all users, and the variability observed in speech perception and spoken language outcomes cannot be completely explained by device type, age of implantation or communication mode. For the past decade, the DeVault Lab has focused on finding an explanation for these observed individual differences.

Increasingly, evidence suggests that a period of auditory deprivation and the accompanying language delays may affect a range of neurocognitive processes, and that some children with cochlear implants are at elevated risk for having problems with executive functioning, the brain-based processes that are responsible for staying focused, controlling behavior, and achieving goals. Explore the DeVault Lab’s active grants and recent papers.


An early pioneer in the field of cochlear implant surgery, Richard Miyamoto, MD, FACS, FAAP, chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine from 1987 – 2014, was instrumental in the conception and establishment of the DeVault Otologic Research Laboratory. Under his leadership, a core group of multi-disciplinary researchers was assembled to study speech perception, speech production, and language development in children with cochlear implants. This group included Karen-Iler Kirk, PhD, Mary Jo Osberger, PhD, David Pisoni, PhD, and Mario Svirsky, PhD. Named for its principal early benefactor, Virgil T. DeVault, MD (1901 – 2000), a native Hoosier and alumnus of Indiana University (BS, 1927; MD, 1929), the DeVault Lab continues to be a leader in advanced multi-disciplinary research with children and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.

DeVault Lab Testing Materials

To further advance treatment and outcomes for children with cochlear implants, researchers in the DeVault Lab have developed several tests of language, behavior, neurocognitive functioning, and family functioning. These tests are available to researchers and clinical professionals with the proviso that proper citation be provided when results are reported. Copies of any publications that may result from use of these tests are also welcomed.

Beginners Intelligibility Test

  • Beginners Intelligibility Test
    An objective measure of a child’s speech intelligibility, the Beginner’s Intelligibility Test  uses an audio recording of a child’s elicited production of ten sentences. If the child can read, it is acceptable to have them read the sentences. The digitized sentences are then played to a panel of listeners with no prior experience in listening to speech produced by children with severe to profound hearing impairment. The listeners write what they think the child has said. The average percentage of words correctly understood by the panel is determined.
  • Common Phrases Test
    The Common Phrases Test assesses identification of simple sentences in a modified open set under three conditions: visual cues only, auditory cues only, and combined auditory plus visual cues. Test items contain familiar phrases used in everyday situations. Children are provided pretest familiarization of the item topics, and performance is scored in terms of the percentage of phrases correctly understood.
  • Conduct-Hyperactive-Attention Problem-Oppositional Scale (CHAOS)
    The CHAOS is a behavior checklist measure of attention problems, impulsivity, oppositional behavior and rule-breaking in children and adolescents. Before using the scale, permission must be obtained from the scale author, William Kronenberger, PhD. Upon request acceptance, a free password will be provided to access the files.
  • Learning, Executive and Attention Functioning Scale (LEAF)
    The LEAF is a 55-item parent-report or self-report questionnaire that assesses executive functions, related neurocognitive functions, and academic skills in children and adults.
  • Lexical Neighborhood Test
    Lexical Neighborhood Tests (LNT-MLNT) were developed primarily for use with children who use cochlear implants. These open-set word recognition tests have provided important diagnostic information relative to the benefits of sensory aids. Results gained from these tests indicate the extent of neural representation of words in a child’s long-term lexical memory.
  • Meaningful Auditory Integration Scale MAIS
    Using parent/teacher observations of a child’s behavior, the MAIS examines meaningful use of sound in everyday situations. This scale begins with the evaluation of detection and progresses through the increasingly difficult skill levels of discrimination, identification, and comprehension of speech stimuli. Responses to ten questions are assigned scores of 0-4, depending upon the consistency of the behavior. A composite score is obtained.
  • Meaningful Use of Speech Scale MUSS
    The Meaningful Use of Speech Scale is a parent/teacher report scale that assesses a child’s use of speech in everyday situations. Similar to the MAIS scale, the MUSS assigns scores from 0-4 on 10 questions, based upon how often a child displays a particular speech skill. A composite score is obtained.
  • Minimal Pairs Test
    The Minimal Pairs Test consists of pairs of pictured words, with members of a pair differing in terms of a single vowel or consonant. Vowel items are analyzed in terms of the features of vowel height and place; consonant items are analyzed in terms of the features of voicing, manner, and place. Chance performance is 50%.
  • Mr Potato Head Task
    The Mr. Potato Head Task is a modified open-set measure that requires the child to manipulate toys in response to instructions presented in the auditory-only modality (such as “Put a hat on Mr. Potato Head” or “Make Mr. Potato Head go to sleep.”). Ten instructions are presented and scored on the basis of the number of key words correct (out of a possible 20) and sentences correct (out of a possible 10). Sentence chance performance is 0%, and word chance performance is 5%.