Anna Karczewska-Nabelek, PhD—a distinguished audiological researcher who helped develop the acceptable noise level (ANL) test and was a world authority on hearing in noise—died at age 81 on May 2.
Born in 1934 in Warsaw, Poland, Nabelek earned a PhD in acoustics from the Technical University in Warsaw in 1959, then worked at the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1967, she and her husband, Igor, were invited to be visiting scholars at the Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) in St Louis. To escape communism in Central Europe, her entire family decided to remain in the United States. Anna obtained a fellowship at Gallaudet College for the Deaf in Washington, DC, followed by a year working at the Veterans Administration Hospital. In 1973, she and Igor moved to Knoxville, Tenn, where they lived the rest of their lives, and Anna worked as a research professor at the University of Tennessee until her retirement.
Dr Nabelek was known worldwide for her research on speech in noise. In particular, her research in the early 2000s involved peoples’ acceptance of background noise while listening to speech and its relationship to hearing aid use, leading to the development of the ANL. The ANL is now widely used to advise dispensers on the likelihood of whether a patient is a good candidate for a hearing aid. Those patients who do not do well on the ANL are likely to need special assistance, including a hearing aid with good noise reduction and directionality.
Although Nebelek suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis for several decades, she became recognized worldwide for her contributions to research and mentoring students. She was honored with the AAA Career Research Award by the American Academy of Audiology in 2001, and given awards by the University of Tennessee and the American Association of Retired People. She was also an honorary fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association.