Hearing Health Foundation, the largest private funder of hearing research, continually funds new and innovative lines of hearing and balance science through our Emerging Research Grants program. Over the years, several areas of science have been under-researched and under-represented through traditional funding mechanisms. To encourage additional research in these areas, we have defined four Under-Researched Areas of Focus in an effort to continually move the field forward.
Hearing Health Foundation will continue to fund projects outside of these Areas of Focus yet
researchers conducting projects in these four areas are strongly
encouraged to apply
for the Emerging Research Grants program.
Areas of Focus
Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)
CAPD is an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that affect the way the brain processes auditory information. Individuals with CAPD usually have normal structure and function of the outer, middle and inner ear (peripheral hearing). However, they cannot process the information they hear in the same way as others do, which leads to difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds, especially the sounds composing speech. It is thought that these difficulties arise from dysfunction in the central nervous system (ie. brain).
Individuals who have CAPD have difficulty concentrating when in an environment which is not perfectly quiet or has some "controlled" noise in the background. Understanding a verbal message will also be a problem when trying to listen to a speaker and someone else is talking or ambient noise is present in the background. These individuals often have to work harder than others just trying to receive auditory information in a meaningful manner. It is a very frustrating situation for individuals when they can hear "perfectly" but cannot process auditory speech information in a meaningful way.
According to Chermak and Musiek (1998), the incidence of CAPD has been estimated to be as high as 3 to 5 percent and is more common than the incidence of hearing loss.
Usher syndrome, a genetic form of hearing loss, is the most common condition that affects both hearing and vision. The major symptoms of Usher syndrome are hearing loss and an eye disorder called retinitis pigmentosa. Many people with Usher syndrome also have severe balance problems.
According to NIDCD, approximately 3 to 6 percent of all children who are deaf and another 3 to 6 percent of children who are hard-of-hearing have Usher syndrome. In developed countries such as the United States, about four babies in every 100,000 births have Usher syndrome.
Usher syndrome is inherited, which means that it is passed from parents to their children through genes. Mutated genes may cause cells to act differently than expected.
Meniere's disease is an inner ear disorder that affects balance and hearing. The inner ear contains fluid-filled tubes called semicircular canals, or labyrinths. These canals, along with a nerve in your skull, help interpret your body's position and maintain your balance. The exact cause of Meniere's disease is unknown. It may occur when the pressure of the fluid in part of the inner ear gets too high.
Meniere's disease can cause severe dizziness, a roaring sound in your ears called tinnitus, hearing loss that comes and goes and the feeling of ear pressure or pain. It usually affects one ear and is a common cause of hearing loss.
Meniere’s disease can develop at any age, but it is more likely to occur in adults between 40 and 60 years of age.
NIDCD estimates that approximately 615,000 individuals in the United States are currently diagnosed with Meniere's disease and that 45,500 cases are newly diagnosed each year.
Hyperacusis is a condition that arises from a problem in the way the brain's central auditory processing center perceives noise. It can often lead to pain and discomfort.
Individuals with hyperacusis have difficulty tolerating sounds which do not seem loud to others, such as the noise from running faucet water, riding in a car, walking on leaves, dishwasher, fan on the refrigerator, shuffling papers. Although all sounds may be perceived as too loud, high frequency sounds may be particularly troublesome.
Many people experience sensitivity to sound, but true hyperacusis affects approximately one in 50,000 individuals (according to estimates by the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery.) The disorder can affect people of all ages in one or both ears. Individuals are usually not born with hyperacusis, but may develop a narrow tolerance to sound.