The Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) has selected Professor H. Steven Colburn(BME) as the 2014 recipient of its Award of Merit, a lifetime achievement award recognizing outstanding contributions to the study of the ear, nose and throat. Colburn is founder and director of the Boston University Hearing Research Centerand a leading expert on how the brain’s auditory system processes sound.
“I have been consistently impressed, throughout my career, by the previous winners of this award, and I am deeply honored to be included with them,” said Colburn. “I am particularly pleased that my work is regarded positively enough to be recognized by the ARO, an organization that includes the full breadth of hearing research, from psychophysics to neurophysiology to clinically-oriented research.”
At a hearing research conference that Professor H. Steven Colburn (BME) attended in Germany several years ago, a 15-year-old girl recalled how a pair of cochlear implants changed her life. She observed that the first implant enabled her to converse with individuals in isolation, but not in groups; as conversations jumped from person to person, she couldn’t figure out which individual was talking. While the second implant didn’t completely resolve the problem, it at least made it possible for her to participate in social gatherings.
For Colburn, founder and director of the Boston University Hearing Research Center, and a leading expert on how the auditory system processes sound, this kind of testimony served as a major turning point. “My interest in this field evolved from being primarily driven by “let’s do a neat optimal signal detection problem” to “let’s do something useful in the field of hearing.”
On March 22, Colburn described this and other experiences that shaped his career as a hearing researcher and educator in the 2012 College of Engineering Distinguished Scholar Lecture, “Information Processing in the Binaural Auditory System.” Speaking at a packed hall at the School of Management, he addressed students, faculty and researchers from throughout the Boston University academic community and beyond.