Dorothea Wendt

Postdoc, Cognitive Hearing Science
When Dorothea Wendt began working at Eriksholm in 2014, she started out with an eye-tracking camera. Since then, she has developed the field of pupillometry and listening effort at Eriksholm, and now she is even running her own little group.

June 2019

What is your title and primary work area at Eriksholm Research Centre?

“I am a senior researcher heading a group called ‘Listening effort and cognition ‘, which is embedded in the Cognitive Hearing Science group. We focus on the development of new outcome measures and listening tests to study the benefit of a hearing device on cognitive aspects of listening such as listening effort.
A big chunk of my job includes supervising master or PhD projects. Supervision is something I think is very important and also a lot of fun.”

What made you interested in the hearing care field in the first place?

“My background is in physics and that is why I didn’t learn much about hearing science until my master studies. The interest really came with my PhD thesis where I examined eye-movements, and how they teach us about difficulties that people with a hearing impairment encounter while processing speech. I developed a technique to measure how fast people process speech by analyzing their eye-movements. During that work, I learned a lot about the consequences of hearing loss and how hearing aids can help to overcome some of these difficulties.”

What brought you to Eriksholm?

“After my PhD in 2013, I moved from Germany to Denmark. Since I did both my master thesis and my PhD in Oldenburg, I felt that it was time to move on and explore something new. I also wanted to try living abroad, and I applied for a postdoc position at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). 
In 2014, I got a position at Eriksholm. In the beginning, the position was split between Eriksholm and DTU. From 2017, I started working full time at Eriksholm but kept my affiliation to DTU. It was important for me to stay connected with academia to better deliver Eriksholm’s role of acting as a bridge between academic research and the development of hearing aids.
When I first started here, pupillometry and listening effort was a rather new topic. Even though I had been working with eye-tracking before, I wouldn’t consider myself as an expert in pupillometry at that time. Eriksholm had an eye-tracker and that was it. At that time, my task was to build up the knowledge and work on pupillometry and listening effort, which was a very exciting project. It turned out that pupillometry could be an interesting tool, and we applied the technique further towards hearing aid assessment. It was great that it made an impact, and I am happy to see that today even more people are working in the field of pupillometry and listening effort.”

What is the most interesting experience you have been part of during your time here?

“I have been involved in many exciting projects. What fascinates me the most is the process of transferring basic research knowledge into applied research – but also the other way around. Only some years ago, pupillometry was mainly used in academic research. But during the last couple of years, I followed how this method was transferred into applied research and the assessment of hearing devices within the company. That is exciting.”

What motivates you in your job?

“Working with my colleagues and with people who have a hearing impairment. I have a grandfather who has hearing difficulties, and I can see how much he relies on and benefits from hearing devices. It helps him to stay connected to society and make him able to communicate with his family. That is also why the development of hearing devices is important. Even though hearing aids nowadays give people a better quality of life, there is so much more that we can do to help them.”

What do you do in your spare time, when you’re not working at Eriksholm?

“Most importantly, I enjoy spending time with my family. I am a social person, and I like to have people around me in my spare time. A lot of my friends and family live in Germany, so I often travel there as well. 
I think it is important to occasionally allocate a little bit of time for yourself, which it what I do when I run or do yoga. When running you can go whenever you want, wherever you want, as long as you want. I just started yoga lessons which I really enjoy because I like the idea that you have to connect your mind to your body, and it helps me to get some quiet time.”

What are the three most important values in your life and why?

Respect: You need to respect yourself, others, and the environment. If you don’t give respect you won’t receive it, and I think that is important for our interaction and communication with other people. 

Joyfulness: Life is short, and that is why I try doing things that I love to do. I also believe the things we enjoy are the things we are good at. I try to avoid things that I don’t like. Of course, this not always possible - everybody must do laundry now end then - but you can focus on the things that you like. 

Curiosity: The core of every researcher mindset. You should always be curious and try to understand things. It’s important in my job, but it is further related to everyday life. Being curious is also what we tell every kid to be: We want them to understand that it is important to learn and that it is fun to understand things.”

What is the most exciting scientific breakthrough or invention in your time?

“Something I recently found very fascinating – maybe because I studied physics - was the photo of the black hole silhouette. Even though there was evidence of the existence of black holes for quite some time, it is fascinating that the researchers captured something that we expected that nothing could escape from, even light. The way they were able to capture this picture was nicely done, and it will help proving existing theories like the theory of general relativity.”

What do you hope will happen in future science?

“Great research within the hearing care field is going on all over the globe currently, and I really hope this work will be implemented in future hearing aids to further improve quality of life for people with hearing impairment. I expect to see even smarter hearing aids that will be able to interact more with the environment and the hearing aid user by knowing the intention of the user. A lot of exciting work will impact the future.”