PhD scholarship in Healthcare Design on Listening Effort and Cognitive Functioning: Towards Hearing-Integrated Care for Cognitive Health

DTU Management Engineering
Monday 19 Nov 18

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DTU, The Technical University of Denmark, Department of Management Engineering invites applicants for a 3-year PhD position on healthcare design focusing on “Listening effort and cognitive functioning: towards hearing-integrated care for cognitive health”, starting ideally on January 15th, 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. This PhD project will be based in the Engineering Systems Division and supervised by Head of Division Professor Anja Maier and will have strong ties with several clinical and research institutions in Denmark and abroad, including the Cognitive Hearing Science group at the Eriksholm Research Center (with Professor Thomas Lunner).

The Engineering Systems Division is growing fast and is characterised by a vibrant and supportive research environment with engaged staff and strong research collaborations with leading universities and industry worldwide. Our research focuses on understanding and improving the ways in which complex socio-technical engineering systems, including healthcare systems, are designed, managed, and operated throughout their life cycles.

The PhD candidate will be working at the intersection of cognitive hearing science, design, technology-integration and healthcare research.

The objectives of this PhD research project are twofold: 1 – Investigate the associations between listening effort and cognitive function in middle-aged individuals showing or not signs of Cognitive Impairment. 2 – Investigate the feasibility of using listening effort testing at the point of care in memory clinics as part of the implementation of a hearing-integrative approach to managing cognitive decline.

A seminal Lancet report on risk factors for dementia entitled “dementia, intervention, and care” exposed evidence suggesting the predominant association of hearing impairment with later onset of dementia . Hearing impairment appears to account for 9% of the predictive power of all risk factors known to be associated with the development of dementia; that is more than education (8%) and more than bearing the ApoE ε4 gene variant (7%) strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Recent work at the Eriksholm Research Center (part of Oticon A/S) suggests the potential existence of pathways linking hearing and cognitive decline with listening effort, working memory and cognitive load as principal mediators. This PhD project aims at taking first steps towards bridging the evidence gap between the listed Lancet report and recent findings in cognitive hearing science. The project also aims at investigating how a listening effort screening test, i.e. rooted in audiology, could be integrated in current clinical management practices for people with subjective and objective cognitive complaints within the Municipality of Copenhagen.

The project is made possible by the collaboration between DTU, the Eriksholm Research Center at Oticon A/S, The Danish Dementia Research Centre-Nationalt Videnscenter for Demens, the Ear Science Institute Australia (ESIA), the Municipality of Copenhagen, and the Copenhagen Center for Health Technology (Cachet).

Keywords include Cognitive Hearing Science, Listening Effort, Cognitive Impairment, Point-of-Care Testing, Pupillometry, Technology Integration, and Healthcare System Design.

Responsibilities and tasks 
The candidate’s responsibilities will include, but will not be limited to: 
  • Reviewing current screening, diagnostic and clinical management practices for cognitive impairment advocated by clinical societies and their practical implementation at the Memory Clinic in Copenhagen.
  • Becoming proficient with the listening effort paradigm (mostly using pupillometry) and with its tenets in cognitive sciences.
  • Help design and support a study of listening effort and cognitive function in a cohort of middle-aged citizens.
  • Following the previous investigation, help design and support a study involving the fitting of a hearing-aid and the cognitive re-testing of individuals showing above-normal levels listening effort.
  • Investigating system design frameworks/ strategies for integrating novel technology-based interventions into routine clinical practices: How to integrate new technology/practices into routine clinical management of cognitive decline at minimum disruption, maximum efficacy, minimum cost/time?
  • Design, plan, implement and evaluate the most appropriate of these strategies at a memory clinic. This will involve evaluating the feasibility of using field-based audiological/listening tests (using a Virtual Reality headset and headphones) as part of the cognitive assessment test battery in selected case-studies (~3 to 5 subjects)
  • Lead these activities in a co-creation setting, i.e. by involving neuropsychologists and nurses at the memory clinic and possibly dementia coordinators at the Municipality of Copenhagen.
  • Research dissemination, including in peer-reviewed international conference proceedings, - journals.
The candidate will therefore need to have or be open to acquiring cross-disciplinary knowledge at the intersection of hearing science, cognition/cognitive decline and system co-design. The student will be able to access experts in these fields among the various partners on this project. As and when appropriate, she/he will be offered a secondment at the Ear Science Institute Australia (ESIA) under the supervision of Dr Dona Jayakody.

Candidates should have a master's degree in engineering or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to the master's degree in engineering.

The interdisciplinary nature of the project means that applicants from a broad range of backgrounds within the technical and social sciences will be considered. Preferably, candidates should hold a master’s degree in audiology, cognitive hearing science, health sciences, behavioural psychology, or design. Preference will be given to those candidates with a high level of English who can demonstrate an aptitude for empirical clinical research, conceptual work, and have the confidence to network within academic, clinical and public organisations.

Further qualifications include: 
  • Interest in engineering- and service design.
  • Empathic interactions with various stakeholders in healthcare, including care-seeking individuals.
  • Excellent collaboration skills. 
  • Excellent communication skills, fluent written and oral English; Danish language capability is a plus. 
  • Ability to work under deadlines with a result-driven attitude. 
Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to financial and academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide.   

The assessment of applicants will be made by an assessment committee led by Professor Anja Maier.

We offer 
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

The position will be based in the Engineering Systems Division, Department of Management Engineering at DTU in Lyngby, just outside Copenhagen, Denmark.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.   

Further information   
Further information may be obtained from Post Doctoral Research Associate Francois Patou, or Professor Anja Maier,  

You can read more about the Engineering Systems Division at  

Please submit your online application no later than Monday, 14 January 2019 (local time). Applications must containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English. The file must include: 
  • A letter motivating the application, including your research activities and ideas for the research project (cover letter, max 3-pages)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and copies of your original BSc/MSc diploma, certificates, and lists of subjects with your results as well as their official translation into English Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here)
  • Two reference contacts who may be contacted by the assessment committee
Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their master's degree but cannot begin before having received it.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU Management Engineering contributes actively to the development of management tools and optimisation of processes by using and re-thinking theoretical engineering perspectives, models and methods. Through our research and teaching, we ensure an innovative, competitive and sustainable organisation and use of technologies within areas such as energy and climate, transportation, production and health, both domestic and abroad. DTU Management Engineering has ca 340 employees; including academic staff of 190 and more than 70 PhD students. More than 20 % of our employees are from abroad and in all, more than 35 different nationalities are represented at the Department.

DTU is a technical university providing internationally leading research, education, innovation and scientific advice. Our staff of 6,000 advance science and technology to create innovative solutions that meet the demands of society, and our 11,200 students are being educated to address the technological challenges of the future. DTU is an independent academic university collaborating globally with business, industry, government and public agencies.