News

HHF Welcomes Margo Amgott as Interim CEO

By Lauren McGrath

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is pleased to begin the New Year with the guidance of Margo Amgott as Interim Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Nadine Dehgan’s dedicated service to the foundation. Margo will lead HHF overseeing operations and working with the Board on a search for a permanent replacement.

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“I am excited to work with HHF’s committed Board of Directors and talented staff to foster support for groundbreaking hearing and balance research,” said Margo, who will champion the start of HHF’s seventh decade of advancing scientific knowledge of hearing loss. HHF has funded research leading to the development of cochlear implant technology and biological hearing restoration in mammals. She added that she is “thrilled to be a part of this vibrant organization supporting life-changing discoveries.”

Board Chair Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., remarks, “HHF is delighted to partner with Margo as we continue to nurture cutting-edge research. The Board and I are confident she will be an asset during this time of transition overseeing our operations and helping us to identify the next leader for our dynamic organization.”

With 30 years of nonprofit leadership experience, Ms. Amgott’s professional history includes service to academic medical centers, higher education institutions, government agencies, and healthcare and community nonprofits. Earlier in her career, she directed New York City’s Early Intervention Program and also served as Executive Director of the NYU Child Study Center. She holds a masters degree in health policy and management from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Administration and a BA in anthropology from Barnard College.

Margo also shares a deeply personal connection with HHF. In 2014, she was diagnosed with a mild unexplained hearing loss and tinnitus in her left ear.

“I welcome the opportunity to work with HHF because of its mission to improve the quality of life for nearly 50 million Americans,” Ms. Amgott says. “I am learning professionally―and personally―from the work HHF does every day. The partnership between our remarkable scientists and our generous supporters has made demonstrable progress towards prevention and cure, and like so many others, I look forward to these vital discoveries.”

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HHF Maintains 4-Star Charity Navigator Rating and Consumer Reports “Best Charities” Distinction

By Gina Russo

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) concludes our 60th anniversary year of groundbreaking hearing and balance research with a third consecutive four-star rating from Charity Navigator and a third consecutive designation as a “Best Charity for Your Donation” by Consumer Reports.

HHF’s mission is to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure hearing loss through innovative research. The organization also promotes hearing health through education and awareness programs. HHF funded the discoveries that certain animals are capable of restoring their hearing once deafened, and now works toward replicating this phenomenon in people, while also investigating new treatments and cures for other hearing and balance conditions like tinnitus, Ménière's disease, and auditory processing disorder (APD).

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Consistent accolades from Charity Navigator and Consumer Reports affirm HHF’s life-changing work is carried out with financial efficiency, accountability, and transparency. HHF’s Board of Directors and the organization’s endowment cover all administrative expenses, so donations from generous supporters fully fund hearing loss research and awareness.

Charity Navigator’s 4-star rating, its highest possible, signifies that HHF executes our mission in the most responsible way. The score considers program, administrative, and fundraising expenses, fundraising efficiency, Board policies, and the disclosure of financial records. Fewer than 25% of the 9,000+ nonprofits evaluated by Charity Navigator have received three or more consecutive 4-star ratings.

Consumer Reports’ annual list of the “Best Charities for Your Donation” aggregates data from Charity Navigator along with CharityWatch and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance to identify organizations most worthy of donors’ support. This year, HHF is the only hearing loss focused charity to earn a placement on the Consumer Reports roster.

As HHF enters our seventh decade of funding critical hearing and balance research, we express our gratitude to those who have given their time and financial resources in pursuit of new treatments and cures. We’re thankful to have your support in our efforts to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans with hearing loss.

If you haven’t yet, and are able to give, please consider an end-of-year donation with confidence HHF will work diligently to ensure your contribution matters.

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Visit Our New Website Focused on Ménière's Disease

By Lauren McGrath

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) unveiled today a new microsite dedicated to Ménière's disease, a chronic vestibular (inner ear) condition with no known cure. The content is accessible at www.menieresdisease.org as an extension of the foundation’s primary website, www.hhf.org.

HHF’s www.menieresdisease.org seeks to build awareness of and bring clarity to the “mysterious” condition with simple, informative pages. The goals are to inspire hope among people who live with Ménière's disease and their loved ones, share updates about Ménière's disease from scientists funded by the foundation, and provide a channel through which individuals can donate to life-changing Ménière's disease research. HHF is fortunate to have all administrative expenses covered by its board of trustees and endowment, so 100% of gifts will directly support life-changing research programming.

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Ménière's disease affects approximately 600,000 people in the U.S. The most prominent symptoms include a sensation of ear fullness, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, fluctuating hearing loss, and tinnitus. Some patients benefit from treatments, but far too many remain completely debilitated, bedridden, and unable to work. Episodes of vertigo can strike at anytime without warning and this uncertainty offer triggers anxiety and depression.

Ménière's disease has long been an area of interest for the HHF’s long standing research programs. Inspired by supporters with personal interests in Ménière's disease and gravely concerned by the general lack of research on the subject, HHF declared a greater focus on the condition in 2017 through the establishment of the Ménière's Disease Grants (MDG) program. MDG is exclusively focused on the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of Ménière's disease. MDG awards scientists up to $125,000 for a two-year grant period is governed by the Ménière's Disease Advisory Board, comprised of senior researchers and physicians throughout the country who review each application for scientific merit and program relevance.

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The face of the new website is Nicolle Cure, a celebrated visual artist diagnosed this year with Ménière's disease and whose life has been devastated by sudden hearing loss and crippling vertigo. Nicolle describes her reactions to the onset of her symptoms: “These ‘invisible conditions’ affect patients an emotional level. I was completely isolated from the world and was frustrated because I couldn’t do anything or go anywhere.” Nicolle is grateful to have art as a most powerful coping mechanism when she feels well. “I wish to use my art to help people be open about their conditions and find treatments and relief and know that they are not alone in this journey.”

HHF encourages our supporters to visit www.menieresdisease.org to learn more about Ménière's disease and to share with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, or others who may benefit from the reminder that they are not alone and find inspiration in the groundbreaking research that will one day transform lives.




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Why So Many Can’t Afford to Hear Better

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Only about 14 percent of Americans with hearing loss use hearing aids. For many others, this vital, life-changing treatment that facilitates participation in meaningful conversations with friends and family is out of reach financially.

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s 2017 hearing loss survey, created to better understand our constituents’ opinions related to hearing loss, was cited by a WBUR-FM Here & Now radio segment highlighting the barriers to hearing loss treatment that Americans encounter.

The news story opens with commentary from retiree Betty Hauck, 72, who was shocked when her first pair of hearing aids cost her $5,600—with no assistance from Medicare.

“A price tag like that is often a surprise to people buying hearing aids for the first time. Four states—Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island—require health plans to cover hearing aids for children and adults,” explains reporter Peter O’Dowd.

“But those benefits are rare. A 2017 survey by the Hearing Health Foundation, a group that funds research and advocates for treatments and cures for hearing loss, found that 40 percent of the people they asked had no hearing aid coverage through health insurance.”

Kevin Franck, director of audiology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, among other experts, are hopeful that the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 will reduce barriers—cost, stigma, and hassle—encouraging greater adoption.

You can access the full WBUR segment, here.

Note: The audio segment is not captioned but is summarized in print.

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Cochlear to Support Hearing Research By Reaching One Million Ears

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Today marks the start of Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM), a campaign to advance public knowledge of communication disorders. To celebrate, international hearing implant manufacturer Cochlear is launching the #MillionEar Challenge with the goal of informing one million people about the importance of hearing health and research.

Proceeds from the campaign will benefit Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s longstanding Emerging Research Grants (ERG) program. Cochlear has pledged to donate to ERG when the #MillionEar Challenge is met.

“Awareness is at the heart of Hearing Health Foundation's efforts to prevent, treat, and cure hearing loss," said Nadine Dehgan, HHF’s Chief Executive Officer. "I am deeply grateful Cochlear is committed to raising awareness of hearing loss, which will inspire more to pursue hearing tests and life-changing treatments."

HHF staff thanks Cochlear in their own #MillionEar Challenge shirts.

HHF staff thanks Cochlear in their own #MillionEar Challenge shirts.

Cochlear’s generous gift will allow HHF to continue funding up-and-coming scientists who investigate various hearing and balance conditions. Such funding has historically led to the development of many new treatments including cochlear implants which, today, benefit more than 300,000 people worldwide.

You can support the #MillionEar campaign with the purchase of a t-shirt, available in child and adult sizes. Read the full press from Cochlear release here.

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Ménière's Disease Grantee Featured in Reader's Digest

Credit: Agnieszka Marcinska, Shutterstock

Credit: Agnieszka Marcinska, Shutterstock

Ian Swinburne, Ph.D., a 2018 Ménière's Disease Grant (MDG) recipient, shared his expertise regarding vertigo with Reader's Digest in an article called "What Causes Vertigo? 15 Things Neurologists Wish You Knew" published in March 2018. 

"The spinning, dizzying loss of balance which earmarks vertigo can come without warning," the article opens. Various professionals provide information about its duration, how it feels, and different types.

HHF-funded Dr. Swinburne notes specifically that the inner ear and balance disorder Ménière's disease can cause vertigo. He explains that "[b]outs of vertigo likely arise in patients with Ménière's disease, because the inner ear's tissue tears from too much fluid pressure—causing the ear's internal environment to become abnormal.'" He is currently pursuing a research project to understand the inner ear stabilizes fluid composition, which he believes will help to identify ways to restore or elevate this function to mitigate or cure Ménière's disease.

View the full article from Reader's Digest, here.

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HHF’s Fiscal Practices Endorsed by Consumer Reports for Second Consecutive Year

By Nadine Dehgan

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Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), the largest nonprofit funder of hearing and balance research, is thrilled to be recognized by Consumer Reports as one of the “Best Charities for Your Donations” for the second consecutive year.

Consumer Reports’ prominent charity roster, released annually to facilitate informed giving, includes 11 categories ranging from Animal Welfare to Youth Development. HHF is acknowledged as a top-rated nonprofit in the Blind and Hearing-Impaired category, and the only organization listed whose mission is to better the lives of those with hearing loss.

The “Best Charities for Your Donations” are determined using metrics from three major charity watchdogs: BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch. These watchdogs independently research charities’ financial histories and moral standards to evaluate how donors’ contributions are used. Each of them have previously highlighted HHF for its excellence in fundraising, governance, effectiveness, and financial standards.

HHF’s superior charity ratings and our placement on the Consumer Reports list illustrate how we pursue our mission in a financially responsible way. These accolades differentiate HHF from its peers and assure donors we are worthy of their trust.

HHF exists to better the lives of those with hearing loss by funding life-changing research and through our awareness and education programs. Our endorsements from Consumer Reports and charity watchdogs show our commitment to our mission. We have achieved many scientific milestones in our 60 years, but more work is needed. We are grateful to those who give their time and financial resources in pursuit of better treatments and cures for hearing and balance conditions.

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Studying Difficulties in Sound Localization

HHF partner Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech published briefings on three Emerging Research Grants (ERG) recipients’ projects that investigate Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).

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CAPD causes one to have trouble with sound localization, specifically in their ability to isolate a sound source in social environments. Individuals with CAPD also have difficulty decoding the meaning of language, even though they do not necessarily have a hearing loss. CAPD occurs when the part of the brain that translates what the ear delivers does not function properly.

The individual works of ERG recipients Elizabeth McCullagh, Ph.D., Andrew Dimitrijevic, Ph.D., and Yoojin Chung, Ph.D. are summarized in the Clarke news piece.

Combined, their research efforts and related studies will lead the way to possible CAPD medical intervention, including that for children and cochlear implant recipients.

Read full piece from Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech here.

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Untreated Hearing Loss Puts Overall Health at Risk

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) CEO Nadine Dehgan’s “Treating Hearing Health for Better Overall Health” was published online to My Prime Time News following its original print appearance in The American Legion’s December 2017 issue.

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The article details how the state of the inner ear impacts other critical functions, like the heart and the brain. Cited are the various conditions that can arise as a result of untreated hearing loss, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes,  depression, and falls. When the auditory system is functioning well, however, the risk for these ailments declines.

Additionally, hearing loss is also linked to other medical conditions and drugs. People with anemia are twice as likely to have hearing loss. According to Peter Steyger, Ph.D., a scientific adviser to HHF. Further, certain cancer-fighting chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, may permanently harm hearing.

While the relationship between hearing health and overall health is always significant, the publicity of “Treating Hearing Health for Better Overall Health” is an especially timely and helpful follow-up to ERG recipient Harrison Lin, M.D.’s new findings concerning the gaps between self-reported hearing loss and patients evaluation and treatments for hearing loss, which appeared in this month’s issue of JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery.

Individuals who believe they may have a hearing loss are encouraged to consult an audiologist or ENT, and can learn more about the relationship between hearing health and overall health in the full article on My Prime Time News.

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HHF Launches Faces of Hearing Loss Campaign

Think of someone you know who has hearing loss. Who do you see?

You envision a relative, but you are not thinking of your 4-year-old niece. A neighbor comes to mind, but not the 32-year-old who lives across the street.

This is a trick question. Hearing loss—and related conditions like tinnitus, Ménière's disease, and hyperacusis—can affect anyone, anywhere. Hearing loss is your 4-year-old niece, your 32-year-old neighbor, your colleague in her mid-20s. Hearing loss affects every age, race, ethnicity, and gender.

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No one is immune from developing a hearing and balance disorder—and hearing loss has no single face. To refute common misconceptions that it only affects older adults, HHF has collected images of individuals living with a hearing condition to capture the diversity of its impact across the country. These are HHF’s “Faces of Hearing Loss.”

Participants shared their picture, current age, state of residence, type of hearing condition, and the age at onset or diagnosis. Among the tens of millions of Americans with hearing loss are an 11-year-old boy in Oregon, an 80-year-old woman living in Washington, and a 47-year-old man in North Dakota. These individuals may never meet, but “Faces of Hearing Loss” connects them through their shared experiences.

If you or a loved one has hearing loss, please consider participating in “Faces of Hearing Loss” by completing this brief form, sending in picture, and answering a few basic questions. If you are the parent of a child under 18, you may sign a release form on their behalf.

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