Dr. Susan Jerger
Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Ashbel Smith Professor
Jerger directs the UT Dallas Children's Speech Processing Lab, a research site that studies developing children's knowledge of the meanings and sound patterns of words, and how this development is affected by childhood hearing loss. All of the words people know are stored in a mental dictionary or "lexicon," and an important question Jerger studies is how this lexical information is organized and retrieved for communication.
The clinical track of her research focuses on children with mild to severe hearing losses who use hearing aids and spoken language as their mode of communication. The degree of success in understanding speech varies widely in these children, even in those with the same degree and configuration of hearing loss. To attempt to understand these real-life differences in spoken word recognition, her clinical research addresses how limited auditory perceptual abilities affect lexical development.
Her current research applies a newly developed multimodal picture-word task to study whether visual speech can restore missing auditory speech sounds, which she is terming the "visual speech restoration effect." Such results may provide important new information about the role that visual speech plays in speech communication.
Jerger's professional honors include being selected as the Carhart Lecturer, American Auditory Society; Sursa Lecturer, Indiana University School of Medicine; James A. Moore Lecturer, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University; Norma Slepecky Lecturer, Syracuse University; and as a member of the College of CRS Reviewers, National Institutes of Health.
Because she enjoys working closely with students, she directs the Undergraduate Honors Program, including the Dean's Scholars Program in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. This effort provides enriching educational experiences in a mentoring environment for academically gifted and highly motivated students.
Jerger earned a bachelor's in speech and hearing sciences from the University of Houston. She received a master's in speech and hearing sciences from Purdue University and a PhD in audiology and bioacoustics from Baylor College of Medicine.
The University of Texas System supports the professorship.
A $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2009 marked the 25th consecutive year that Jerger's research into children's speech processing received funding.
"My life has been filled with extraordinarily talented colleagues. I step into a revolving door with them and step out onto a different street."