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Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Larry E. Humes

Distinguished Professor, Speech and Hearing Sciences
Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences
University Graduate School
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 1986
B.S., Purdue University, 1975

"There simply is no one in the world who has been able to integrate research in basic science and clinical practice within the field of audiology as well as Larry (and second place isn't even close)." --Mitchell Sommers, Professor of Psychology, Washington University

The remarkable research of Professor Larry E. Humes goes far beyond the confines of his Indiana University laboratory and into the ears of people around the world, literally. His work has facilitated an evolution in how hearing aids are designed, and his voice, highly regarded in the field, is heard internationally among colleagues, former students, and even the military.

Larry E. Humes

Photo by Heather Brogden

Larry E. Humes

Print-Quality Photo

"There simply is no one in the world who has been able to integrate research in basic science and clinical practice within the field of audiology as well as Larry (and second place isn't even close)," writes Washington University Professor of Psychology Mitchell Sommers.

Humes' extensive research on hearing loss and aging has revolutionized how hearing aids are constructed and evaluated. In his early work, he created a mathematical means, known as the modified power-law model, which led to a series of hearing aid algorithms aimed at increasing the volume of soft speech sounds while controlling the amplitude of loud speech sounds. In addition to being used in hearing aid design, this work laid the foundation for today's popular MP3 players.

The goal of Humes' research in this area, which is to outline the factors that contribute to successful hearing aid use in the elderly, led him to create several groundbreaking studies. These experiments revealed that once the hearing loss was resolved with hearing aids, a deficit in cognitive processing was the real obstacle preventing older adults from clearly understanding speech with their new hearing devices. Humes' research concerning auditory processing and aging prompted him to investigate the possibility of a correlation between the decrease in natural hearing ability and a decrease in other modalities, such as vision and touch.

The impact of Humes' research isn't felt solely by the elderly. His work in the field of noise-induced hearing loss provoked major policy changes within the U.S. military. At the request of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, he chaired a committee that assessed the relationship between service in the military and hearing loss and tinnitus. The study, mandated by Congress and sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs, will aid future veterans who suffer from hearing issues after serving their country.

"Some of the changes that have occurred directly as a result of the work of Dr. Humes include increased awareness of hearing loss and tinnitus as a major occupational health issue, revision of post-deployment questionnaires to address noise exposure and tinnitus, changes in military audiology and hearing conversation programs, proposed regulatory changes to identify patterns of hearing loss characteristic of noise exposure, and policy changes on adjudicating compensation claims," writes Dr. Lucille Beck of the Department of Veterans Affairs. "All of Dr. Humes' contributions to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are far-reaching, but his lifelong contributions to audiology and the understanding of hearing loss have profound implications for the care of service members and veterans."

Through Professor Humes' strong commitment to Indiana University and its students, he has helped prepare a cohort of future leaders in the field of audiology. He has guided more than 30 students through their theses or dissertations, and many of them have gone on to claim prominent roles in audiology, including Dr. Laurel Christensen, who currently serves as the vice president of research and development for GN ReSound Group.

"In 1987, I traveled with my parents to the Midwest to visit graduate schools in audiology," recalls Christensen. "I visited four notable schools, all with top audiology programs, and was accepted at all four, but it was only at IU where a faculty member took a genuine interest in my visit and future. Dr. Humes spent several hours giving us a tour of the department and campus, answering questions, and taking us to lunch. I ultimately chose to attend IU largely due to the time and attention we received, as well as the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant in Dr. Humes' laboratory."

Humes has hosted Aging and Speech Communication: An International and Interdisciplinary Research Conference twice since 2005. With this event, Professor Humes places Indiana University in the international spotlight, and his reputation garners the attendance of audiology leaders from around the globe.

Humes' illustrious career has been acknowledged by the receipt of every major award within audiology, including the Jerger Career Award for Research in Audiology, the Alfred E. Kawana Council of Editors Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and "The Honors of the Association" award, among others.

Six of his Indiana University colleagues have jointly praised Humes' accomplishments, writing that the scope of his work "is consistent with the assertion that Professor Humes is recognized as the finest clinical researcher in the field of audiology."