Research and Innovation>Population Risk and Healthcare>Speech, Hearing and Communication
Communication Research Group

Speech, Hearing and Communication


The Speech, Hearing and Communication research group, led by Dr Robert Mayr, has two major strands: Bilingual Speech Development, led by Dr Robert Mayr; and Healthy and Impaired Hearing, led by Dr Fei Zhao. Much of our work involves national and international collaborations, notably with universities in Europe, the USA, China and Japan. These have led to high-quality outputs in international journals, and presentations at national and international conferences. We have held grants from a number of funding bodies, including the EPSRC, the ESRC, the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust and HEFCW, and have several doctoral researchers.

Research / Innovation Areas

Bilingual Speech Development

Our research aims to gain a better understanding of speech development in bilinguals and multi-linguals across the lifespan, with a focus on the phonetic and phonological aspects of first and second language acquisition, first language attrition and atypical development. We are interested in speech perception as well as production, and use a number of behavioural measures, including acoustic analysis and psycholinguistic experimentation. Current projects include work on L1 attrition of speech in English speakers living in Austria and the phonetic characteristics of new speaker varieties (BA/Leverhulme grant funded).

Recent publications:

Montanari, S., Mayr, R. & Subrahmanyam, K. (2020). Speech and Language Outcomes in low SES Spanish-English Bilingual Preschoolers: Effects of Maternal Education. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, first published 17 June 2020, DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2020.1781780.

Mennen, I., Kelly, N., Mayr, R. & Morris, J. (2020). The effects of home language and bilingualism on the realisation of lexical stress in Welsh and Welsh English. Frontiers in Psychology: Language Sciences, first published 22 January 2020, DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03038.

Mayr, R., Morris, J. & Roberts, L. (2019). Can you tell by their English if they can speak Welsh? Accent perception in a language contact situation. International Journal of Bilingualism, first published on 29 October 2019, DOI: 10.1177/1367006919883035.

Mayr, R., López-Bueno, L., Vázquez Fernández, M. & Tomé Lourido, G. (2019). The role of early experience and continued language use in bilingual speech production: A study of Galician and Spanish mid vowels by Galician-Spanish bilinguals, Journal of Phonetics, 72, 1-16.

Montanari, S., Mayr, R. & Subrahmanyam, K. (2018). Bilingual speech sound development during the preschool years: The role of language proficiency and cross-linguistic relatedness. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 61, 2467–2486.

Healthy and Impaired Hearing

 Our research into healthy and impaired hearing investigates the following areas of audiology:

  • middle-ear mechanisms in pathological conditions using varied and innovative approaches (e.g. clinical measurements vs. theoretical analysis)
  • applications of deep learning in sound classification and speech enhancement
  • music perception and hearing aids
  • tinnitus intervention and cognitive function
  • music over-exposure and hearing health education

Using cutting-edge technology and sophisticated behavioural measures, our research aims to gain a better understanding of the nature of hearing impairment and to find solutions in terms of clinical application and social impact.

Key publications:

Cao ZW, Zhao F, Mulugeta H, (2019) Noise Exposure as a Risk Factor for Acoustic Neuroma: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Int J Audiol. Sep;58(9):525-532.

Cai YX, Chen GS, Chen YH, Li JH, Wang CD, Zhao F, Dang CP, Zhong XL, Liang JH, He NN, Liang MJ, Zheng YQ, Altered Resting-State EEG Microstate in Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Patients with Tinnitus. Frontiers in Neuroscience (Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience), 07 May 2019.

Long-term Effectiveness of Tinnitus Multivariate Integrated Sound Therapy (T-MIST) in Tinnitus Patients with Normal Hearing Thresholds: A Preliminary Study. Clinical Otolaryngology (in press).

Inner Ear Pressure Evaluation using Wideband Tympanometry on Children with Large Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome (LVAS)” International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology (in press).

Group Members

Dr Robert MayrRhonwen Lewis
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics
(Group Lead)
Ms Rhonwen Lewis
Lecturer and part-time
Academic Associate (PhD)
Dr Fei Zhao,
Reader in Hearing Sciences
Lecturer in Psychology


Tianxiang Lan
Academic Associate (PhD)
Professional Doctorate
​Ms Jiaying Li 
Academic Associate (PhD)
​Nadeem Mahafza 
Academic Associate (PhD)

Dr Emad Girgis,
Research Associate


Professor Ineke Mennen, Universität Graz, Austria

Dr Simona Montanari, California State University, Los Angeles, USA

Dr Jonathan Morris, Cardiff University, UK

Dr Yiqing Zheng, Sun Yat-sen University, China

Dr Vinaya Manchaiah, Lamar University, USA

Professor John Culling, Cardiff University, UK

Dr Joseph Kei, University of Queensland, Australia


Examples of Funding

Ser Cymru III Enhancing Competitiveness Infrastructure Award (£9697.2) Enhancing Infrastructure for Fostering a Culture of Digital Healthcare and Adopting Artificial Intelligence Technology in Healthcare Provision (PI: Fei Zhao, Co-investigator: Dr Emad Grais).

FWF [Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, Austria] Stand-alone Project Grant (€398.436,53): When your native language sounds foreign: Characterising foreign accent in first language attrition, (PI: Ineke Mennen, Co-applicant: Robert Mayr), January 2020 - December 2022.

R + I Pilot Fund, Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University (HRRI47; £4,545): How does stroke affect functional language use and identity in bilinguals? An exploratory study of Welsh-English bilinguals with aphasia, (PI: Robert Mayr, Co-applicants: Delyth James, Abdul Seckam, Katie Earing, Harry Bowles), February-July 2019.

Anbahnungsfinanzierung/ pump priming grant, Karl-Franzens Universität Graz, Austria, (€ 12,000): When your native language sounds foreign: Characterising foreign accent in L1 attrition, (PI: Ineke Mennen; Co-applicant: Robert Mayr), January-December 2017.

British Academy Small Research Grant (SG111947; £7,533.80): Socio-phonetic variation in a language contact situation: The case of Welsh and Welsh English, (PI: Robert Mayr; co-applicant: Ineke Mennen, Bangor University), September 2012 - March 2014.

Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethod, Welsh Medium Doctoral Studentship (September 2010-2014). "Early phonological development in Welsh-English bilingual children: typical and atypical patterns" (PI: Robert Mayr; Student: Rhonwen Lewis)

Cardiff Metropolitan University Research and Innovation Fund. "Innovative Development of a Music Enhancing Tuning Aid (MET-Aid) for People with Hearing Impairment" (PI: Fei Zhao, 2019-2021)

Chinese Association of Audiology and Beijing Bio-Engineering Research Centre. "Innovative Approaches for Investigating Hearing Sensitivity in Childhood Ottitis Media with Effusion: Clinical Investigation vs. Theoretic Analysis" (PI: Fei Zhao, 2017-2020)

Cardiff Metropolitan University Accelerator Fund. "Effects of Advance Hearing Aid Features on Music Perception" (PI: Fei Zhao, 2016)

ESRC Festival of Social Science fund. "Hands on Experience of Music Exposure and Hearing Protection" (PI: Fei Zhao, 2014)

Oticon Foundation. "Attitude towards the uptake of hearing aids during the audiological rehabilitation process: A cross cultural comparison between India, China, Sweden and the UK" (PI: Fei Zhao, 2012)

British Council PMI2 UK-China China-UK Collaborative Partnerships. "Fast track hearing aids audiologist training project" (PI: Fei Zhao, 2009-2011)