Professor, Department of Audiology, Speech-Language Pathology and Deaf Studies
“Towson University is, number one, a teaching institution, but it also places a high value on research,” says Professor Paul Evitts, and that is what attracted him to the university eight years ago. “Towson allows you to find a balance between the two, to bring students into your research and to remain productive in the research arena.”
And Evitts has done just that. The bulk of his research has focused on laryngectomy rehabilitation, including both patients who undergo the procedure and those who listen to their speech. “Much of the literature looks at the effect on patients, but listeners struggle with acoustic differences or speech that may be difficult to understand as well as the physical differences in these individuals,” explains Evitts. Patients undergoing the surgery have the larynx or a portion of it removed, often leaving them with a hole in their neck, known as a stoma, for breathing.
His work has led to research partnerships with the National Institutes of Health on eye-gaze tracking of individuals listening to alaryngeal speech, and the Department of Otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where his work has expanded to include the impact of phonotraumatic hoarseness on normal listeners.
“Since there is a high prevalence of hoarseness among professional voice users, particularly teachers, it’s important to determine the impact of that disordered voice on the audience. My research suggests that listeners have a harder time understanding those speakers and that listeners’ brains have to work harder to process the signal.”
Evitts believes his job with students goes far beyond the classroom. “Conducting research, attending conferences, joining professional organizations—these are the types of things interviewers want to talk about,” offers Evitts. “Our faculty reach out to practitioners in speech-language pathology and attend conferences to assess what we can do better in the program. I feel a need to prepare students well for the work world and help them find jobs.”