Kristal Riska Mills
Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences
Sherri L. Smith
Principal Investigator
Associate Professor of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences
Associate Professor in Population Health Sciences


Scientific Focus

Our research focuses to advance our understanding of hearing and balance disorders through development of innovative assessment and treatment techniques, and service delivery approaches. Furthermore, it is our goal to carry out multi-disciplinary research to better understand how hearing loss and balance disorders impact the health and well-being of the whole person, in addition to their significant others and the public at large.

Key Projects Underway

  • Dr. Riska is leading efforts on an NIH-funded project that aims to examine the effects of hearing aid and cochlear implant use on falls risk in adults with hearing loss. Dr. Smith along with colleagues from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill are collaborating on this project.  
  • Dr. Riska is the site PI of a multi-site clinical trial that seeks to understand if gamified remote vestibular rehabilitation (balance therapy) provides similar effects as standard in-person rehabilitation in patients with post-concussive dizziness.  This work is funded by the Department of Defense Congressionally Mandated Research Program.
  • Dr. Smith is leading a clinical trial examining the outcomes of one or two hearing aids in the treatment of age-related hearing loss. This work is funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).  

Selected Achievements

  • Dr. Smith was among the first to systematically introduce and apply the self-efficacy framework to audiologic rehabilitation. Self-efficacy is the domain-specific confidence an individual has for learning new skills to achieve a given behavior, including health behaviors. Hearing loss and tinnitus are conditions that require the patient to manage their daily listening and communication interactions, and they often need to learn new skills to do so successfully. Through this work, Dr. Smith has developed patient reported outcome measures to assess self-efficacy in the audiology clinic or in research including: Measure of Audiologic Rehabilitation for Self-Efficacy for Hearing Aids (MARS-HA), the Listening Self-Efficacy Questionnaire (LSEQ), and the Self-Efficacy for Tinnitus Management Questionnaire (SETMQ).
  • Dr. Smith’s research examines the interplay of age, hearing loss, speech perception and/or aspects of cognition and auditory working memory. A result of this work was the development of the Word Auditory Recognition and Recall Measure (WARRM), which is an auditory working memory measure that is a complement to the reading span measure. Abbreviated versions of this test were also developed for potential clinical use.
  • Amanda Del Risco, a Duke University medical student in our lab, is completing an NIDCD R25-funded gap year to conduct research related to hearing and balance. 


1. Measure of Audiologic Rehabilitation Self-Efficacy for Hearing Aids (MARS-HA)

2. Listening Self-Efficacy Questionnaire (LSEQ)

3. Self-Efficacy for Tinnitus Management Questionnaire (SETMQ)

4. Style Preference Survey (SPS)

Advanced Training

Duke University students and residents interested in a research project related to hearing or vestibular/balance should contact the lab PIs to learn about opportunities. Drs. Smith and Riska are approved third-year Duke University medical student research mentors. External students and learners are also encouraged to contact lab PIs to learn more about opportunities.

Contact Us

Sherri L. Smith, AuD, PhD
(919) 613-1110

Kristal M. Riska, AuD, PhD
(919) 681-9458


Sherri L. Smith, AuD, PhD

Kristal M. Riska, AuD, PhD


Sherri L. Smith, AuD, PhD

Kristal M. Riska, AuD, PhD