Skip to main content

University Hospital for Hearing, Speech & Voice Disorders

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Simone Graf
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Simone Graf, (formerly interim. Director Dr. Rungger)
University Hospital for Hearing, Speech & Voice Disorders

Anichstrasse 35
A-6020 Innsbruck

Phone: +43 512 504 23218
Fax: +43 512 504 23216

Research Branch (ÖSTAT Classification)

103002, 301401, 302023,302027, 302029


Audiometry, dysphagia, hearing disorders, hearing implants, hearing rehabilitation, speech & language disorders, swallowing disorders, tinnitus, and voice disorders

Research Focus

Hearing disorders, hearing rehabilitation, sound source localisation, speech & language acquisition

General Facts

The Department for Hearing Speech & Voice (HSV) Disorders is Austria’s largest institution in the fields of Clinical Audiology, Paediatric Audiology and Phoniatrics. It offers a full range of clinical services for the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of hearing, speech, language, swallowing and of childhood learning problems. The Department’s audiological subunit provides a compact infrastructure for the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of hearing disorders. – Research facilities of the Department include the Psycho-acoustic Lab and the Lab for Cognitive Neuroscience. The Psycho-acoustic Lab is equipped with an anechoic chamber for high-precision acoustic measurements, where human hearing functions can be assessed under very specific conditions. In the Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience, neural processes underlying language acquisition in adults and children are investigated by specific methods, incl. electroencephalography (EEG), functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). On a national scale, the HSV Department is the driving force behind the Austrian Universal New-born Hearing Screening program. Apart from clinical services and scientific research, also education of medical and logopaedics students is a major task of the Department.


Hearing rehabilitation and personality

Viktor Weichbold, Franz Muigg

The main goal of this project was to analyse whether personality features are affecting the outcome of hearing rehabilitation in cochlear implant patients. While such effects could not be confirmed by the study, it was incidentally found that cochlear implant patients exhibit a lower level of openness-to-experience than do normal-hearing peers. We hypothesised that the lowered openness-to-experience would be due to limited access to sounds and hence would normalise after cochlear implantation. However, assessment of openness-to experience both at two years and at five years after cochlear implantation did not show any increase.

Long-term outcome of hearing rehabilitation

Viktor Weichbold, Franz Muigg

Long-term outcome of hearing rehabilitation through a cochlear implant (CI), indicated by health-related quality of life (HRQoL), was assessed in this study. In essence, it was found that the gains in HRQoL made within the first twelve months after implant activation, were fully maintained for up to five years. However, decreases were observed in some subdomains of HRQoL, , which are supposed to reflect old-age related health declines in the patients.

Is it too loud? Ask your brain!

Philipp Zelger, Sonja Rossi, Josef Seebacher

The perception of loudness is a highly subjective sensation. What is too loud for one person may be acceptable for the other. However, subjective loudness perception is an important criterion for the fitting of hearing aids and hearing implants. The aim of this study is to investigate whether objective parameters collected by brain measurements such as EEG and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) are suitable to determine subjective loudness perception.

Hearing with Arthritis Urica

Philipp Zelger, Markus Rungger

There is evidence that patients with Arthritis Urica do not only show rheumatologic and nephrologic symptoms, but also exhibit disease-related hearing problems. The aim of this study is to establish whether the hearing of patients changes during the acute phase of a gout attack and whether this change is reversible. For this purpose, patients with Arthritis Urica are audiologically examined. Their hearing thresholds (pure tone audiogram) as well as other symptoms of cochlear damage, such as tinnitus or hyperacusis, are considered. To investigate the progression of any emerging hearing disorders, the patient’s hearing is re-examined after the gout attack has subsided.

The effect of desynchronized electrical stimulation on speech understanding in noise and directional hearing in patients with bilateral cochlear implants

Philipp Zelger, Josef Seebacher

The latest generation of Cochlear Implant (CI) audio processors offers the possibility to delay the sequence of the electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve to some extent. This allows the researcher to experimentally desynchronise the electrical stimulation in bilateral CI users. This study investigates the effect of desynchronization of signals on speech understanding in noise and on spatial hearing in bilateral CI users.

Frequency compression study in SAMBA 2 users

Philipp Zelger, Viktor Koci, Josef Seebacher

Frequency compression is a proven feature in hearing aids. With the SAMBA 2 audio processor of the VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE, frequency compression is now also implemented in middle ear implants. When conventional amplification of high frequency sounds (such as consonants) is no longer sufficient to make them audible to the hearing aid user, it can be helpful to compress this frequency into a lower range that is better audible for the patient. The aim of this study is to evaluate the audiological and subjective results of frequency compression in middle ear implant users.

The influence of a notch filter in sound pre-processing on audiological performance of active middle ear implant users

Philipp Zelger, Viktor Koci, Josef Seebacher, Viktor Weichbold

A certain part of the acoustic information can be attenuated through a notch filter. Evidence suggests that this may be beneficial for tinnitus patients when the notch filter reduces the acoustic stimulation at the specific frequency of the tinnitus. With the acoustic stimulation reduced, however, speech understanding may also be impaired. This study investigated the effect of a notch filter on speech understanding. For this purpose, notch filters with centre frequencies at 4 and 6 kHz were chosen. No adverse effects were observed when the speech stimuli were presented in silence.

Fig. 1: Experimental setup for sound localization measurement (upper panel) and sample plot of angular error results (lower panel); Copyright: Dptm. HSV
Fig. 1: Experimental setup for sound localization measurement (upper panel) and sample plot of angular error results (lower panel); Copyright: Dptm. HSV

Brain Activations during Language Acquisition through Body Movement in Adult Language Learners

Sonja Rossi, Sandra Parhammer, Barbara Hinger

Acquiring a foreign language (L2) is often difficult and effortful. One reason for this difficulty is that the native language (L1) is usually acquired implicitly, whereas L2s are mainly learned through explicit instruction. This study investigated the effects of implicit as compared to explicit language acquisition on the neural processing of semantic and morphosyntactic features in novice adult learners of Spanish in a longitudinal manner in a naturalistic classroom setting. Two neuroscientific methods were applied simultaneously to assess temporal and spatial aspects of brain activation: electroencephalography (EEG) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). – Two experimental groups of adults (German native speakers) learning Spanish will participate: an explicit group (i.e., regular classroom instruction) and an implicit group taught trough Total Physical Response (TPR) (i.e., based on body movements). Both Spanish courses took approximately 8 weeks. Prior to the start of the course, after 4-6 weeks, at the end of the course and 6-8 weeks after the course, the subjects participated in a neuroscientific experiment. They listened to Spanish correct, semantically or morpho-syntactically incorrect sentences while the brain activity was assessed.

Neurophysiological signatures of language acquisition during infancy

Sonja Rossi

How do infants process language rules of their native language compared to those of an unknown language? This question is addressed in the present study. Infants of different age groups ranging from 3 to 24 months listen to pseudo-words corresponding to linguistic rules of German, the native language of the subjects, and of a foreign language. While listening to these pseudo-words, neural mechanisms are measured simultaneously by means of the electroencephalography (EEG) and the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).The EEG is capable of assessing fast dynamic electrophysiological activity while fNIRS can localise the brain regions from which activity comes. Goal of the study is a better understanding of healthy neural mechanisms underlying language acquisition. This may allow a comparison to pathological mechanisms, e.g., in children suffering from language impairments in future studies.

Neural Correlates of Emotional Prosody Processing in Trans* Women

Sonja Rossi, Claudia Hofmann, Katharina Feil

The project aims at investigating neural processes of verbally transmitted emotions in trans*women, i.e. people with female gender identity whose body corresponds to that of a man. Previous studies showed an elevated number of trans*people with reduced empathy capacity. With the transitioning process of the body, voice etc. towards the gender identity, these symptoms may be reversible. In one experiment of this study, auditory presented sentences without any meaning, but spoken in a neutral, happy or angry emotional prosody are presented to trans*women who started the transitioning process at least 2 years ago compared to cis-men and cis-women. To assess neural mechanisms, the electroencephalography (EEG) and the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) will be simultaneously applied. The EEG can assess fast processes in the range of milliseconds while fNIRS can identify underlying brain regions. – Another experiment investigates emotional prosody in trans*women at different time points during the transitioning process: at the beginning (i.e. prior to the start of the hormone therapy and the voice therapy), after the termination of the voice therapy (usually after 6-8 months from the beginning of the transitioning) and after another 6 months without the voice therapy. With this design, short-term and long-term changes in the neural mechanisms underlying emotional prosody can be monitored.


Selected Publications

Research unit: Hearing Rehabilitation

Weichbold V, Zelger P, Galvan O, Muigg F (2023) Five-Year Observation Period of Quality of Life After Cochlear Implantation. Otol Neurotol; 44(3):e155-e159.

Muigg F, Weichbold V, Kuehn H, Seebacher J, Galvan O. (2021) Does Cochlear Implantation Affect Openness-to-Experience in Profound Postlingual Hearing Loss? J Deaf Stud Deaf Educ. 26(1):142-146.

Seebacher J, Muigg F, Kühn H, Weichbold V, Galvan O, Zorowka P, Schmutzhard J. (2021) Cost-utility Analysis of Cochlear Implantation in Adults With Single-sided Deafness: Austrian and German Perspective. Otol Neurotol. 42(6):799-805

Research unit: Audiology & Cochlear Implantation

Franke-Trieger A, Mattheus W, Seebacher J, Zahnert T, Neudert M. (2021) Stapedius reflex evoked in free sound field in cochlear implant users compared to normal-hearing listeners. Int J Audiol. 10:1-9.

Seebacher J, Franke-Trieger A, Weichbold V, Galvan O, Schmutzhard J, Zorowka P. Stephan K. (2023) Sound localisation of low- and high-frequency sounds in cochlear implant users with single-sided deafness. Int J Audiol. 62(1):71-78.

Seebacher J, Posch M, Zelger P, Pocecco E, Burtscher M, Zorowka P, Ruedl G (2022) Improving Spatial Hearing when Wearing Ski Helmets in Order to Increase Safety on Ski Slopes. Int J Env Res Pub Health. 19(23), 15905; doi: 10.3390/ijerph192315905

Dejaco D, Riedl D, Cassar AE, Gottfried T, Rasse T, Fischer N, Kreuzer-Simonyan A, Seebacher J, Riechelmann H, Keintzel T, Schmutzhard J (2022) Modified Power Piston Versus Simultaneous Stapedotomy With Hearing Aids in Otosclerosis: A Follow-Up Study Exploring Speech Recognition, Quality of Life and Usage of Device. Otol Neurol. 43(4):429-436.

Sprinzl G, Lenarz T, Hagen R, Baumgartner WD, Keintzel T, Keck T, Riechelmann H, Magele A, Salcher R, Maier H, Mlynski R, Radeloff A, Rak K, Riss D, Liepins R, Hamzavi S, Rasse T, Potzinger P, Schmutzhard J, Zorowka P, Mittmann P, Böheim K, Todt I. (2021) Long-Term Multicenter Results With the First Transcutaneous Bone Conduction Implant. Otol Neurotol. 42(6):858-866.

Research unit: ICONE

Steber S, Rossi S. (2021) The challenge of learning a new language in adulthood: Evidence from a multi-methodological neuroscientific approach. PLoS One. 2021 Feb 19;16(2):e0246421. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0246421. eCollection 2021.

König N, Steber S, Borowski A, Bliem HR, Rossi S. (2021) Neural Processing of Cognitive Control in an Emotionally Neutral Context in Anxiety Patients. Brain Sci. 26;11(5):543.

Richter M, Vignotto M, Mock J, Obrig H, Rossi S (2021) Different word-learning contexts alter phonotactic rule learning in 6-month-olds. Language Cognition and Neuroscience 36(2):1-24

Research unit: Dysphagia

Denk-Linnert DM, Farneti D, Nawka T, Am Zehnhoff-Dinnesen A, Moerman M, Zorowka P, Farahat M, Schindler A, Geneid A (2022) Position Statement of the Union of European Phoniatricians (UEP): FEES and Phoniatricians’ Role in Multidisciplinary and Multiprofessional Dysphagia Management Team. Dysphagia.1-8. doi: 10.1007/s00455-022-10502-9

Dejaco D, Riedl D, Gasser S, Schartinger VH, Innerhofer V, Gottfried T, Steinbichler T; Riechelmann F, Moschen R, Galvan O, Stigler R, Gassner R, Rumpold G, Lettenbichler-Haug A, Riechelmann H (2021) A Tool for Rapid Assessment of Functional Outcomes in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer. Cancers 13(21); 5529.

Selection of Funding

Erweiterung des schallarmen Raumes (Camera Silens) der Univ.-Klinik für Hör-, Stimm- und Sprachstörungen mit neurowissenschaftlichen und peripher-physiologischen Messmethoden, Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung (BMBWF)

Neural modulations of speech comprehension in cochlear-implant patients 3 and 6 months after implant activation (MED-EL Elektromedizinische Geräte GmbH)


Institut für Informatik, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Österreich

Klinikum Wels-Grieskirchen, Abteilung für Hals-, Nasen- und Ohrenkrankheiten, Wels, Österreich

Sächsisches Cochlear Implant Centrum, Klinik und Poliklinik für Hals-, Nasen- und Ohrenheilkunde, Universitätsklinikum Carl Gustav Carus an der Technischen Universität Dresden, Deutschland

Klinik für Hals-, Nasen-, Ohren-Heilkunde, Kopf- und Halschirurgie und Cochlear Implant Centrum der Kliniken der Stadt Köln, Universität Witten/ Herdecke

Institut für Hörtechnik und Audiologie, Jade Hochschule, Oldenburg, Deutschland

Institut für Fachdidaktik, Universität Innsbruck, Österreich

Institut für Romanistik, Universität Graz, Österreich