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Story of the Month

The Road to Research…

Posted: 1st November 2015

David Loughrey is a Dublin native. He has a profound hearing loss and uses hearing aids and lipreading to communicate. He is currently doing a PhD in Trinity College Dublin and is employed in DeafHear as a researcher. In this month’s Story of the Month David tells us about his journey to becoming a researcher and gives us some details about his present research, which is focussed on investigating the link between acquired hearing loss and cognition in adults. Line Break Image


Going to College

I went to mainstream school which was challenging but I found the teachers were really helpful. I couldn’t really follow what the teachers were saying in class so I relied on the textbooks and on extra tuition from the teachers. I did well in my Leaving Certificate in 2006, and I was accepted into Trinity College Dublin to study Psychology. I was excited and a bit nervous to go to college as it was going to be a different experience to secondary school.

Deaf Summer
School in UCC.

It was the first time I met other
people who were
deaf or hard of hearing.
It was a great opportunity as
some of them were already in
college and gave me some insight
into what life was like
at Third Level.

Just before college started, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Cork (UCC) hosted a Deaf Summer School in UCC. It was the first time I met other people who were deaf or hard of hearing. It was a great opportunity as some of them were already in college and gave me some insight into what life was like at Third Level.

The Summer School also gave classes and seminars to give us a taste of undergrad education. They showed examples of what supports we could get and how to apply for them. It was very helpful and I would recommend this to any student with hearing loss who is planning to go to college.

I started my undergraduate course in September 2006 and I quickly found some of it quite challenging. The main thing was the lectures. They usually took place in large lecture halls with 300 people. I would normally sit in the front in my secondary school, but in such a large hall it was very difficult to sit close enough to the lecturer to lipread them as the front row was still quite far back from the lecturer’s podium.

Also some seminars involved group discussion in small rooms. Group conversations are normally quite challenging anyway, but the noise of several different groups chatting about some complicated theory or methodology made it much more difficult to follow what was going on.

I found that laboratory work was the easiest as they gave a course book detailing each lesson so I could follow them as they went through each part. Disability Office Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin


Getting Support

I registered with the Disability Office and met with them to discuss the challenges I faced. They gave me great support and offered me a range of options to help me adapt to different aspects of my course. The main supports I went with were note-takers and exam accommodations. The note-takers were great as I got a detailed description of what the lecturers were saying. I generally didn’t go to my lectures, but would get a copy of the slides instead and go through them and compare them to the notes. The exam accommodation meant that I took my exams in a separate area to my classmates with other students who were using the same accommodation and I got extra exam time. It was a much smaller room which made it easier to understand any instructions and ask questions.

My course was four years and I graduated with a BA (Hons) in 2010.

What next?

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduating. There were so many different career paths in psychology and it was hard to choose the one I thought I would be most interested in. Each path required several more years of commitment so I didn’t want to decide too quickly. I worked in the Disability Office in TCD and organised the Deaf Summer School in 2011.

This was a great experience for me and very rewarding. I had never managed a project like this before so it gave me some useful life experience. I organised a two day summer school with different teaching formats from different courses similar to what I had experienced and social events for the future undergrads to enjoy.

Neuro–Enhancement for Independent Lives (NEIL)

for Independent Lives


After I had finished working on this project I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in terms of a career. I first considered clinical psychology or medicine. I volunteered for a while in St. Michael’s House to gain some clinical experience and I applied for medicine and took the HPAT (Health Professions Admission Test).

Afterwards I applied for a research internship in Trinity College Dublin with a research organisation called NEIL (Neuro-Enhancement for Independent Lives). NEIL researches how cognitive functions like attention and memory change with age and what lifestyle factors may influence this change. It has a team of researchers at all levels from interns to PhD candidates to post-doctoral researchers and medical professionals. They work on multiple projects from examining how factors such as social isolation, exercise and nutrition can affect cognitive aging, to how interventions such as cognitive and social stimulation can improve functioning.

As part of my internship I assisted NEIL on several projects and I much enjoyed my experience. I found research work suited me and offered the opportunity to work across multiple disciplines related to healthcare. I was asked by supervisors if I would be interested in doing a PhD with them. I was delighted with this opportunity and decided to go for it. I wanted to research the link between hearing loss and cognitive aging so I drew up a research proposal and I applied to the School of Medicine in TCD for postgraduate admission. I was accepted with Prof. Brian Lawlor and Prof. Sabina Brennan as my supervisors.

As part of my PhD work I was going to need funding to support me in my studies. Brendan Lennon from DeafHear heard about my research and contacted me. He asked to see my research proposal so we met to discuss it and he was very interested in supporting us. We applied to the Irish Research Council for an employment based scholarship. I was awarded the scholarship and was employed by DeafHear as a PhD researcher under the supervision of Brendan. This gave me a unique opportunity as a researcher in Ireland to examine hearing loss and cognitive ageing. Story of the Month November 2015 The Road to Research
David and his NEIL colleagues


I started my PhD in March 2014 and am now in my second year. I am researching how as people get older and lose their hearing this can affect their cognitive function. Research has shown that hearing loss is associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. As these are common afflictions affecting millions of older adults it is a key healthcare concern.

One thing I find very interesting is that as older adults lose their hearing they have very similar experiences to people born with hearing loss, but seem to have difficulty adapting. In particular, many older adults wait too long to have their hearing assessed and to get hearing aids. It is challenging work and involves a great deal of studying, writing and organisation, but I find it really rewarding. My previous experiences in my undergraduate course and organising the summer school come in handy. Also working with DeafHear has helped me learn how academic medical research can be applied to develop better services and supports for people with hearing loss. Disability Office Trinity College Dublin

David Loughrey


Hearing Loss and
Cognitive Function

My PhD is focused on researching the link between hearing loss and cognitive function. The first part of the research involves an extensive review of the literature. The second part involves testing participants to examine neuropsychological performance in people with and without hearing loss.

I will be starting testing soon and am currently working with Brendan Lennon to set up the testing procedures. We will begin recruiting two groups of volunteers in November. We need volunteers who are aged over 50, and have either a moderate hearing loss or have normal hearing. All volunteers will complete a series of tests that assess things like attention and memory. I hope my research sheds further light on the link between hearing loss and cognition, and provides evidence to inform future healthcare initiatives people with acquired hearing loss.

So, my life is busy and exciting at the moment!

My research has already attracted some attention, and I have presented posters at the Cognitive Hearing Science for Communication conference, Linköping University, Sweden in June 2015 and at the Aging and Speech Communication conference in Indiana University, Bloomington, USA. I hope to have two papers based on my review work published soon.


If you would like to volunteer to participate in my research, please click here for more information. Line Break Image


Check out our previous Story of the Month!

Communication is Key!

Deirdre Cunningham, Speech and Language Therapist, tells us about her work with Deaf children. Read On…

More Stories of the Month can be viewed here... Deirdre Cunningham, Speech and Language Therapist, tells us about her work with Deaf children.





more...Hearing loss costs an estimated €2.2bn every year in Ireland.


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