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The Importance of Early Intervention

By Frankie Huang

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May is Better Hearing and Speech month and Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) would like to take this opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of early intervention for hearing loss in children, and the significant impact it can have on language development.

Hearing Health Foundation was instrumental in advocating for the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening legislation, as today 97% of babies are screened before they leave the hospital. In 1993, that number was 5%. Approximately 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard of hearing. More than 90 percent are born to parents with typical hearing. Fortunately, early identification allows children with hearing loss to receive help they need during the first two years of life, a critical period for the development of speech and language skills. The earlier a child’s hearing loss is detected, the sooner the family can gather as much information as possible to make the best decision for their child’s language and communication approach.

With early intervention, children with hearing loss are able to develop language skills to help them communicate freely and actively learn. There are many services available to support children. For example, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures all children with disabilities have access to services they need for a good education. In addition, Head Start and Early Head Start are federally funded programs to help young children of low-income families become better equipped to succeed in school.

However, if the child’s hearing loss is left undetected or untreated, hearing loss can negatively impact a child’s language development. Delayed intervention can also adversely impact a child’s language development. One study had found that children who received earlier amplification or cochlear implantation had better language outcomes. Maternal education and communication modes used during early intervention can also improve language skills over time. A longitudinal study concluded that children with permanent hearing loss enrolled in an early intervention program before the 6 months of age developed on par with age-appropriate language skills than those who were enrolled after 6 months of age.

Similarly, another study had suggested that early enrollment in intervention programs were linked to higher language scores. It concluded that children enrolled before 11 months of age showed better vocabulary and verbal reasoning scores at 5 years of age compared with those enrolled later. Children that were enrolled later may experience delays that can interfere with academic development and comprehension in the classroom.

In the same study, the results suggest that family involvement was a contributing factor for the best outcomes of early intervention. Positive language outcomes were correlated with families that were highly motivated and active with their child’s intervention, while limited family support was associated with poor language outcomes. Also, families who were actively involved with early intervention were more likely to communicate better with their children, which contributes toward their overall growth. However, it is also important to consider the contrary; a lack of family involvement poses the largest challenge to early intervention. Specifically, a systematic review on the follow-up rate in newborn hearing screenings found that, on average, 20% of babies who failed the initial screening did not return for follow-up testing. The high loss to follow-up is believed to be attributed to a lack of adequate knowledge of the risks of hearing loss. This is the largest threat to the success of the newborn hearing screening program, as it becomes the family’s responsibility to follow-up on care beyond the initial hearing screening prior to discharge.

It is important to remember that hearing loss can occur at any time of life. Some forms of hearing loss do not appear until a child is a toddler or enters school, or even later. In addition, illness, ear infections, head injury, certain medications, and exposure to loud noise are all potential causes of hearing loss. In particular, recurring ear infections may negatively affect language development because of the resultant fluctuating hearing loss’ lack of steady auditory input necessary for speech and language development.

Even if your child or a child of a loved one does not have hearing loss today, Hearing Health Foundation strongly encourages regular checkups and annual hearing tests performed by audiologists, ENTs, pediatricians, or other health providers to monitor potential changes in hearing. These professionals are also excellent resources for intervention services to help overcome barriers to communication.

Receive updates on life-changing hearing research and resources by subscribing to HHF's free quarterly magazine and e-newsletter.

 
 
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Hearing Health Foundation and Hearing Charities of America Join Forces

By Laura Friedman

Hearing Health Foundation and Hearing Charities of America Join Forces

Hearing Charities of America (HCOA) and Hearing Health Foundation are excited to announce a newly formed partnership in an effort to collect hearing aids that will be given to low-income individuals through the HCOA’s national assistance program, The Hearing Aid Project.

One quarter of Americans ages 20 to 65 suffer from hearing loss, which makes it one of the country’s most widespread public health concerns. The Hearing Aid Project was created to provide access to affordable hearing health services, while creating collaborative relationships to support this mission.

Countless hearing aids sit unused in drawers or are discarded once new hearing aids are purchased. Hearing Health Foundation is now a collection center for The Hearing Aid Project to ensure that quality, donated hearing aids can be refurbished and given to those in need.

“Hearing Health Foundation is thrilled to join forces with Hearing Charities of America and do our part in collecting hearing aids to be refurbished and distributed to those who need them,” said Nadine Dehgan, HHF’s CEO. “Minimal health insurance and Medicare coverage, as well as out-of-pocket costs, have been a major hurdle for many who could benefit from using hearing aids. Until quality hearing healthcare is available to all of the 48 million Americans living with hearing loss, HHF is glad to be doing its part to provide hearing aid assistance to those in need,” Dehgan said.

Hearing Charities of America and Hearing Health Foundation believe that healthy hearing should be enjoyed by all. To donate your hearings aids to be refurbished, please contact Hearing Health Foundation at info@hhf.org or 212-257-6140.

THE HEARING HEALTH CHALLENGE

In celebration of Better Hearing and Speech Month in May, Hearing Health Foundation is launching the Hearing Health Challenge. Although hearing loss is commonly associated with one’s normal aging process, more than half of those with hearing loss are younger than 65. The top two war wounds for active military personnel and veterans are hearing loss and tinnitus, accounting for 60 percent of this population.

Unfortunately, only 13 to 33 percent of those who need hearing aids use them; financial constraints, the lack of a perceived need, and stigma are leading reasons why hearing loss goes untreated for an average of 7 to 10 years after diagnosis. Hearing Health Foundation is committed to reducing the stigma, educating the public on the dangers of noise, advocating for greater access to hearing health care, and funding the best science to find better treatments and cures for hearing loss and its associated disorders.

CHALLENGE

  • For every hearing aid received within the month of May, a $200 cash donation will be made to HHF by an anonymous donor to support hearing research. 
     

  • For every dollar donated within the month of May, that dollar will be matched up to $33,500 by an anonymous donor to support hearing research.  

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What's That Noise?

By Laura Friedman

In honor of World Tinnitus Day April 18, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) wants to draw attention to the effects and challenges associated with tinnitus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates some 15% of Americans—about 50 million people—have experienced tinnitus. Roughly 20 million people struggle with chronic tinnitus, while 2 million have extreme and debilitating cases. It is also a top war wound among active U.S. military personnel and veterans.

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Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound when there is no external, acoustic source. Individuals with tinnitus may describe the noise as buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking. Roughly 90 percent of tinnitus cases occur with an underlying hearing loss.

Tinnitus can be either intermittent or chronic. People who experience intermittent tinnitus occasionally hear sounds in their ears that can last from minutes to hours after being exposed to excessively loud noises. An example would be someone sitting near the fence of a NASCAR race without wearing hearing protection. People with chronic tinnitus, on the other hand, often experience noise more frequently, which can last for more than three months.

The impact of tinnitus on everyday life differs from person to person. Researchers found that most people with chronic tinnitus are not too bothered by it. Many of these people prefer to only see a doctor for assurance that their tinnitus is not an indication of a serious disease or impending deafness. People who were bothered by their tinnitus reported that it was annoying, invasive, upsetting, and distracting in daily life. In a small tinnitus self-help group, some members frequently describe having problems sleeping, understanding speech, poor concentration, inability to relax, and depression.

People with age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, may also experience a ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears. Presbycusis progresses over time and is generally more severe in men than in women and the risk increases with age, as shown in epidemiological surveys.

Although there is no cure for tinnitus, there are available treatments that can minimize tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus Activities Treatment (TAT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) are sound therapies that can lessen the effects of tinnitus, often times very helpful in combination with counseling. Furthermore, by using hearing protection and noise reduction technologies, and by avoiding excessive noise, many people can prevent significant hearing problems.

Taking care of your hearing should always be part of keeping healthy overall. If you suspect a hearing loss or tinnitus, HHF recommends getting your hearing checked. If you do have a hearing loss or tinnitus, talk with your hearing healthcare professional about available treatments. For more information, visit hhf.org/tinnitus or email us at info@hhf.org.

Laura Friedman is the Communications and Programs Manager of Hearing Health Foundation.

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Our 2016 Annual Report Is Now Available!

By Frankie Huang

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is happy to announce that its 2016 annual report is now available. The report is an in-depth review of our activities, events, and achievements for fiscal year 2016. We are very proud of top marks from top charity-rating agencies and even more proud our audited financial statements.

We are fortunate to have such generous supporters who raised funds to further HHF’s mission of prevention, education, and research. Check out our supporters' creative and unique fundraisers; if you feel inspired and would like to organize an event of your own, please contact us at development@hhf.org.

In 2016, the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) has made significant strides, bringing us closer to finding a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus. Here are just two of the HRP’s discoveries:

  • Successfully disrupted gene expression in the adult mouse cochlea, including capturing high-quality images—necessary for testing genes in regeneration.
     

  • Confirmed that the “DTR mouse” is an excellent platform for studying ways to stimulate hair cell regeneration in the mammalian inner ear.

HHF awarded nine Emerging Research Grants (ERGs) to early-career scientists who are pursuing projects in the areas of Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), Hyperacusis, Ménière's disease, Stria, and Tinnitus. Through ERG, we hope to uncover better treatment options and deeper understanding of these disorders.

Last but certainly not least, we want to express our gratitude and appreciation for our many donors; because of their support, we were able to continue with our important work. To see your name on our next donors’ list, we gladly welcome and appreciate your gift in any amount made by Sept. 30, 2017.

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Make a Sound Investment

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By Frankie Huang


In honor of World Hearing Day, which takes place on March 3 every year, Hearing Health Foundation is joining forces with the World Health Organization (WHO) to draw attention to the economic impact of hearing loss and the importance of treating hearing loss.

Did you know the economic cost for unaddressed hearing loss is estimated to be $750 billion globally? In the U.S. individuals with untreated severe to profound hearing loss are expected to cost society $270,000 each over the course of their lifetimes. Most of these costs are due to reduced productivity in the workplace, although the use of special education resources among children and other social services are also factors.

Lifetime earnings for those with untreated hearing loss average 50 to 70% less than their typical-hearing peers in the U.S., and has been shown to negatively impact household income up to $12,000 per year, on average, depending on the degree of hearing loss, according to the Better Hearing Institute. This is largely due to having fewer opportunities for promotions, reduced job performance, and decreased earning power.

Beyond economic losses, untreated hearing loss can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Researchers have found that individuals with untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy. They may also avoid or withdraw from social situations. Left undetected in children, hearing loss can negatively impact speech and language acquisition, academic achievement, and social and emotional development.

Prevention, screening for early identification, early intervention, and rehabilitation through hearing devices are among the strategies that mitigate hearing loss and its consequences. Those who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids and/or cochlear implants show improvement in social, emotional, and psychological well-being. Interventions can significantly decrease isolation, increase self-esteem, and lead to better employment opportunities and earnings—all of which will benefit society as a whole.

For World Hearing Day 2017, the WHO has joined forces with Mimi Hearing Technologies. To raise awareness of hearing loss, Mimi hopes to have 1 million people test their hearing. To do this, they are offering the Hearing Test app on iOS free for everyone. If you suspect you or a loved one may have hearing loss, this is a great opportunity to test your hearing with Mimi’s Hearing Test, which is an initial online assessment. The results may require a follow-up appointment with a hearing health professional. However, by detecting signs of hearing loss early on the benefits of treating hearing loss far outweigh the consequences if left untreated.

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HHF Welcomes Two New Board Members

By Nadine Dehgan

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is thrilled to welcome two new board members, Jason Frank and Sophia Boccard. Their unwavering dedication to furthering research and awareness of hearing loss and its associated disorders make Jason and Sophia the perfect addition to our leadership team.

Jason Frank is a Vice President/Assistant General Counsel of JPMorgan & Co. in New York City. Jason and his wife Jenny delved into the world of hearing loss after their son was diagnosed with bilateral, mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. When looking for resources, Jason says, “We found HHF and the Hearing Restoration Project and knew we wanted to to get involved…. It has been over five years and, while our son is doing wonderfully thanks to early intervention and access to hearing aids since he was 8 weeks old, we remain committed to spreading awareness for hearing loss and finding a cure. I am extremely excited about joining the National Board and becoming more intimately involved with HHF and its cause.”

Sophia Boccard is a digital marketing strategist in the hospitality industry with over a decade of marketing experience in the entertainment industry. “As someone who was born with moderate to severe hearing loss, I've always accepted the loss of hearing as a part of who I am. After being diagnosed with Usher syndrome type 2a in 2012, I realized that a cure for both hearing and vision was something I needed to fight for,” Sophia says. HHF looks forward to working with Sophia to share her experience living with Usher syndrome to raise awareness and find better therapies and cures.

HHF is excited to have Jason and Sophia as new board members and we look forward to their contributions to HHF’s mission. Please join us in giving them both a warm welcome!

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The HRP Shifts Gears for Greater Impact

By Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D.

It’s remarkable to me that the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) is five years old! While the past five years revealed that regeneration of sensory hair cells is more complex than anticipated, our scientists have nonetheless made significant progress. Several notable HRP research projects supported by Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) were published in 2016, and more are on the way.

Financial investment in the HRP is crucial for our success. Through the HRP, HHF supports promising innovative research areas that due to the lack of available funds are not adequately financed by other agencies. We continue to acquire large-scale genomics datasets, and the more we generate the more valuable they all are—comparing the results from different types of experiments is a key approach of the HRP.

In 2017 we will see a change in the way the HRP conducts its research. At our HRP meeting this past November, the consortium updated its research methods for the upcoming year, choosing to focus and devote more resources on two promising, major experimental strategies. This is a shift from the approach over the past five years, when the HRP followed various independent paths to understanding hair cell regeneration.

The first project will use “single-cell sequencing” experiments, which will reveal the molecular processes of hair cell regeneration in chicks and fish with unprecedented resolution. Single-cell methods allow us to examine thousands of genes in hundreds of individually isolated supporting cells, some of which are responding to hair cell damage.

With these voluminous datasets, we will then describe the succession of molecular changes needed to regenerate hair cells. Results from these experiments will be compared with similar experiments examining hair cell damage in mice, which like all mammals, including humans, do not regenerate hair cells.

The second project will examine whether epigenetic DNA modification (the inactivation of genes by chemical changes to the DNA) is why mice supporting cells are unable to transform into hair cells after damage to the ear. Our existing data suggests this is the case, and so a strategy for hearing restoration may involve the reversal of these epigenetic modifications.

The first project will allow us to identify the genes involved, and the second project will help us understand how to effectively manipulate those genes despite their DNA modifications—and to biologically restore hearing.

The consortium approach funded by HHF provides a unique opportunity; the collaboration of 15 outstanding hearing investigators will lead to results far more quickly than traditional projects that rely on a single investigator. All HRP investigators plan projects and interpret data arising from them, allowing us to collectively utilize our 200-plus years of experience we have studying the ear.

HHF has been able to increase HRP funding for 2017 compared with 2016—for this I am grateful. However, there are several research needs unmet. Increased funding levels would speed our deeper understanding of hair cell regeneration, which will ultimately lead us to find therapies to treat human hearing loss and tinnitus.

Most of all, we are looking to add additional scientists to HRP labs to increase productivity and significantly accelerate research progress. There is also an urgent need for more “bioinformatics” scientists to thoroughly examine our data and identify common threads buried deep within our results. In addition, the HRP has research projects that have been placed on hold until funding is found for them.

We are excited about the coming year’s planned research, and eagerly await the results. On behalf of myself and the other scientists who make up the HRP, I thank you for your investment and interest in our work. I look forward to giving you further updates.

HRP scientific director Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D., is the associate vice president for Basic Research and a professor of otolaryngology at the Oregon Hearing Research Center, and a senior scientist at the Vollum Institute, all at Oregon Health & Science University. 

We need your help in funding the exciting work of hearing and balance scientists.

To donate today to support HHF's groundbreaking research,

please visit hhf.org/donate.

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HHF Named Twice in Consumer Reports

Hearing Health Foundation is absolutely thrilled to be named—twice—in Consumer Reports’ “Best Charities for Your Donation,” published Dec. 14, 2016.

The article offers tips for finding a charity that, in its words, “really puts your money to work.” It reviewed the detailed process by which charity rating organizations Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance assess charities.

“Collectively, these groups evaluate thousands of nonprofit organizations based on how they collect and spend their money, how transparent they are to the public, and how well they’re governed,” the story says.

Using the watchdog reports, Consumer Reports listed up to five of the highest- and lowest-rated charities in 11 categories.

Hearing Health Foundation was cited as one of the nation’s five best charities—and the only one cited twice, in the categories “Blind and Impaired Hearing” and “Health.”

I like to say Hearing Health Foundation is “small yet mighty”—so it is very gratifying to get confirmation of our fiscal health from a respected publication like Consumer Reports.

During this season of giving, we are grateful for your gifts that enable us to further our mission of hearing protection, education, and research.

If you haven’t yet, and are able to give, please consider an end-of-year donation knowing that all of us at Hearing Health Foundation—staff, scientists, board members, and other advisers—are working tirelessly to make your dollars count.

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Give to HHF this #GivingTuesday

By Laura Friedman

#GivingTuesday is an international day of giving that kicks off the holiday giving season, is November 29th!

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) wants to thank you for your support of our research programs, such as the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) and Emerging Research Grants (ERG). Your support enhances the lives of millions of Americans. Thank you!

 

 

Here are some of our successes, dating back to our founding in 1958:

  • HHF is the largest non-profit funder of hearing research in the U.S.

  • HHF-funded research has led to the development of cochlear implants and treatments for otosclerosis (abnormal bone growth in the ear) and ear infections.

  • n 1987, HHF-funded researchers discovered that chickens regenerate their inner ear hair cells after damage and mammals do not. This led to the development of the HRP in 2011.

  • In the 1990s HHF advocated for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening legislation, to detect hearing loss at birth. Today, 97% of newborns are tested, up from 4% in 1994!  

The question of finding a cure for hearing loss is not if, but when. 

You can change the course of hearing and balance science and
helps us find better therapies and cures by giving today.

Here are some ways you can #HearTheHope this holiday season:

Post that you gave to HHF on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, and encourage your friends to give as well.

  • Post that you gave to HHF on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, and encourage your friends to give as well.

    • The average person has 300 friends on Facebook which means that if each of your friends donates just $1 on Giving Tuesday, you can raise $300 in one day—it’s that easy!

  • Let your talents and interests lead you to your own fundraiser for HHF through our website! No event is too large or small. Here are some ideas for inspiration:

    • Host a potluck and ask your guest bring a dish and make a charitable contribution to HHF.

    • Organize a bake sale or golf outing with the proceeds will be donated to HHF.

    • Burn excess Thanksgiving calories and go for a run, swim (indoors of course!), or bike ride, fundraising for every mile accomplished.

Have other ideas or questions for us? E-mail us at Development@hhf.org.

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HHF's Field Trip to NIDCD's New Research Center

By Nadine Dehgan

Nadine Dehgan, HHF's CEO

Nadine Dehgan, HHF's CEO

This August, I had the pleasure of visiting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and attended a laboratory tour hosted by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), which is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers that makes up the NIH. Organized by the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus (FCHHC) and in the company of a select group of individuals including Congressional staff members, other hearing organizations, and NIH staff, we first met in the Porter Neuroscience Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The research center’s name honors former U.S. House of Representative member John Edward Porter, a huge supporter of biomedical research. He was largely responsible for leading the charge to double the NIH budget from 2003-2011. Rep. Porter was also the vice chairman of the Foundation for the NIH, and still holds many other public service roles.

James Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., the NIDCD Director, reviewed NIDCD operations and showed how the research funding supports seven mission areas in hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language.  He also mentioned the recently released National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Hearing Health Care Consensus Report (whose recommendations HHF supports). Dr. Battey was warm and approachable and accompanied the visitors throughout the tour answering questions.

Andrew Griffith, M.D., Ph.D., the NIDCD Scientific Director and Chief of the Molecular Biology and Genetics Section, provided us with a detailed explanation of the NIDCD’s intramural research program.  “Intramural” refers to the internal research conducted on the NIH campus and usually is only 10% of an Institute’s entire budget.  Dr. Griffith underscored the benefits of this unique funding environment that allows the investigators to conduct both long-term and high-risk, high-reward science that would otherwise be difficult to undertake in academia and private industry.

The NIDCD is one of ten neuroscience Institutes with labs housed in the newly constructed Porter Neuroscience Building.  Prior to the building’s construction, these labs were spread across eight separate locations. Now, the labs are organized by scientific research topic to allow researchers to share resources and allow for easy collaboration.  Research includes basic and clinical neuroscience research, including investigating Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. (See the detailed listof topic areas that comprise more than 800 scientists in 85 labs.)

The facilities are bright, state-of-the-art, and energy efficient. It is the most energy-efficient science lab in the entire world! It uses solar panels, geothermal wells, and has a special chilled beam air-conditioning system that requires a fraction of energy regular systems use.  At 50,000 sq. ft, it is also one of the largest research buildings in the world dedicated to studying the brain.

Doris Wu, Ph.D.(Slide images from Bissonnette & Fekete, 1996; Morsli et al, 1998)

Doris Wu, Ph.D.(Slide images from Bissonnette & Fekete, 1996; Morsli et al, 1998)

The tour took us to the labs of Doris Wu, Ph.D., Chief of the Sensory Cell Regeneration and Development Section, who discussed her studies of the development of the inner ear in mice and chickens, in particular her work to identify the molecular processes involved. Dr. Wu is also a member of HHF’s Scientific Advisory Board, which provides oversight and guidance to our Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) consortium of researchers.

She paint-filled an embryonic mouse inner ear and let us view it. I put on a pair of gloves and saw how tiny it was in the petri dish (less than 2mm in length) and then what it looked like magnified. As the day went on, I grew more and more impressed with the technical aspects of scientific hearing research.


In Dr. Griffith's lab, he discussed how his team helps those with genetic hearing loss. By identifying specific genes that are mutated in families, in certain cases, he can develop personalized therapies to address the cause of the hearing loss and prevent it.  Dr. Griffith also discussed exciting research from another NIDCD lab that is using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology to create and test therapies. This amazing editing tool has been touted as being faster, cheaper, and more accurate than previous gene editing technologies; HRP researcher John Brigande, Ph.D., is also using it in his current HRP project. 

It was a super impressive tour—the scientists and administration are all friendly, smart, and most importantly dedicated to advancing hearing science. It’s so refreshing to meet so many people who are committed to the advancement of humankind and to uncovering discoveries that will lead to improvements in the quality of life and health of so many.
 
HHF is very happy to partner with the NIDCD and its research goals, which Dr. Battey wrote about in the Summer 2016 issue of Hearing Health magazine. We are also very proud the majority of early-career scientists we support through our Emerging Research Grants program go on to earn additional funding from the NIH, underscoring the importance of the innovative research both our institutions believe is worthy.

Congressional staff and hearing advocates at FCHHC’s 2016 NIDCD tour

Congressional staff and hearing advocates at FCHHC’s 2016 NIDCD tour

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