October, 2012 — The American Hearing Research Foundation has selected four highly translational research projects for its 2013 funding cycle. The grants are for $20,000 for one year of research and start in January, 2013.
The 2013 AHRF Research Projects are:
Developing an App for Auditory Training
Noah Ledbetter, PhD, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis
Dr. Ledbetter and his collaborators in the Biomedical Engineering department, Dennis Barbour and Xinyu Song, are developing auditory training software that focuses on improving speech understanding in people with hearing loss. Hearing aids and cochlear implants modify sounds in ways challenging for new users to comprehend initially. Even when auditory training is provided after the fitting of a hearing aid or cochlear implant, it involves long hours at an audiologist’s office completing tedious listening exercises. The proposed software development seeks to put proven training exercises developed by collaborators Nancy Tye-Murray and Mitch Sommers into the hands of users via smartphones and tablets. The result will be improved access to effective therapy that is more enjoyable and less expensive than current alternatives.
Delivering Genetic Hearing Screenings for Newborns
Christina L. Runge, PhD, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology & Communication Sciences and Physiology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Dr. Runge and colleagues will conduct a pilot study to determine the feasibility of a multi-institutional genetic hearing screening program for newborns. The screening will look for the most common genetic markers known to cause hearing loss at birth or predispose children to permanent hearing loss from environmental factors. Current hearing screenings for newborns involve measuring an infant’s responses to sound stimuli but are only able to identify hearing loss that is present at the time of the screening. By developing an effective protocol to genetically test newborns for several genetic mutations known to contribute to hearing loss at birth or later in life, appropriate interventions and therapies can be started earlier in children identified with present hearing loss, and preventative measures with close clinical follow up can be implemented in children at risk for developing hearing loss later in life.
Testing for Hearing Loss in Chemotherapy Patients
Sumit Dhar, PhD, and Jonathan Siegel, PhD, both Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University School of Communication, Evanston, Illinois; David Klodd, PhD, Professor of Audiology, University of Illinois, Chicago
Drs. Dhar, Siegel and Klodd will work together to evaluate a sensitive test of damage to the cochlea. Their test protocol is a variation of the current method of recording otoacoustic emissions or sounds generated in the inner ear. The team will test the efficacy of an extremely sensitive new measurement tool they developed to detect the earliest stages of cochlear damage in patients undergoing cancer treatment using chemotherapy. They hope that their results will confirm the efficacy of their new testing technique, and that it can be used to detect chemotherapy related hearing loss earlier and help direct prevention protocols.
Studying the Formation of Scar Tissue Associated with Cochlear Implantation
Esperanza Bas Infante, Senior Research Associate, University of Miami, Florida
Dr.Bas Infante is investigating how and why scar tissue forms in the cochlea after cochlear implant surgery. Cochlear implants are highly effective in treating hearing loss, but as with any surgical procedure, their placement can induce an inflammatory response leading the formation of scar tissue, which can impact the effectiveness of the implant. Understanding scar tissue formation is important, especially because children implanted at an early age may go through 3 or 4 cochlear implant procedures over the their lifetime since the devices need to be replaced about once every 20 years.