NIH

Our Impact Invigorated: HHF Visits the NIDCD

By Timothy Higdon

In my role as CEO of Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), most of my time is spent liaising with the individuals who make our groundbreaking work possible—scientists, volunteers, Board members, and donors—from our New York City office. I was fortunate to recently step away from my typical routine to witness the excitement of hearing and balance science at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Wednesday, August 21. 

This educational visit was organized by the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Congressional (FCHHC), the coalition co-founded by HHF that supports the policy interests of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus (CHHC), a bipartisan group to committed to increasing hearing health care.

We learned about the latest federally-funded advancements in hearing and balance disorders in a tour of the labs at NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Intramural Research Program at the Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD. The nation’s largest hospital devoted to clinical research, the center is one location where the NIDCD supports and conducts research on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language with an annual budget of $474 million. 

Members of the FCHHC in the Clinical Center. Photo by Nichole Westin, American Cochlear Implant Alliance.

Members of the FCHHC in the Clinical Center. Photo by Nichole Westin, American Cochlear Implant Alliance.

NIDCD Scientific Director Andrew J. Griffith, M.D., Ph.D., and clinician-scientists Carmen Brewer, Ph.D., and Clint Allen, M.D., hosted a presentation and tour. Griffith noted the importance of animal models in his overview of the hearing and balance functions, a nod to our Hearing Restoration Project’s work with birds, fish, and mice to identify biological cures for hearing loss in humans.

I was very impressed by the state-of-the-art facilities, especially the vestibular testing booth that is used to evaluate hearing and balance patients. Eye movement is observed while the chair or walls of the booth spin rapidly, helping doctors to understand how conditions like vertigo or Ménière's disease are affecting the patient.

The support that is given to patients in clinical trials also inspired me immensely. Clinical trials recruitment can be challenging, but the NIH has a national reach with a database registry for interested patients. The NIH helps with relocation expenses for the patient to minimize disruption while necessary care is provided.

I am tremendously excited by the strong relationship HHF maintains with the NIDCD. The NIDCD’s newly appointed Director, Debara Tucci, M.D., is an alumnus of our Emerging Research Grants (ERG) program and Council of Scientific Trustees. Many of our ERG recipients subsequently qualify for funding from the NIDCD and other constituent institutes of the NIH at the rate of $91 for every $1 invested by HHF. My visit to the NIH was a meaningful reminder of the impact our scientists make at the federal level, while demonstrating that much more work must be done to better the millions who live with hearing and balance conditions. 

How wonderful it was to spend the day with so many individuals committed to hearing health. I look forward to continuing our relationships with the NIDCD and the FCHHC to advance our vision of a world in which people can live without hearing loss.

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A Home for Hearing Research

NIDCD 30 years.jpg

By Neyeah Watson

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) commemorated 30 years as an institute of the National Institutes of Health in October 2018. Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is proud to both honor and share in this milestone for the NIDCD, which focuses on biomedical advancements in hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language.

The need for the NIDCD was first championed by Geraldine Dietz Fox, a Philadelphia preschool teacher who, at 27, had developed a sensorineural hearing loss in her left ear from the mumps virus. In her search for resources and treatments, she discovered HHF, at the time known as Deafness Research Foundation, and joined its Board of Directors.

An advocate for hearing loss research, Fox was an influential member of HHF’s board but recognized the need to look beyond its nonprofit resources and toward government funding. Already politically connected by way of her father and husband, who worked on the campaigns of Florida Representative Claude Pepper and U.S. President Ronald Reagan, respectively, Fox headed to Washington, D.C., on behalf of HHF.

She befriended Robert Ruben, M.D., a chairperson for the National Committee for Research in Neurological and Communicative Disorders, a coalition of health agencies and scientists that worked to increase funding for the National Institute for Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, as it was then known. A four-time Emerging Research Grants (ERG) recipient and otolaryngologist, Ruben had been urging Congress for support of more communication sciences research.

Fox’s new friendship with Ruben and other scientists, combined with her impressive zeal and demeanor as a private citizen with hearing loss, helped her gain an appointment to the advisory committee of the National Institute for Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke in 1986. But Fox was disappointed in the amount of hearing research supported by the institute, and she collaborated with Ruben and Peter Reinecke, a congressional staffer, to move toward crafting a bill for the creation of the NIDCD.

Reinecke worked closely with Pepper, who had a hearing loss of his own, and who teamed up with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, whose brother had hearing loss. The legislation received bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Reagan in 1988, forming the NIDCD.

HHF’s lasting relationship with the NIDCD has been vital to new discoveries in hearing science. For example, HHF’s ERG program provides seed funding to talented researchers, most of whom go on to expand their research after successfully competing for larger NIDCD research grants. “HHF plays a seminal role in launching the independent research careers of many  scientists in hearing research,” said former NIDCD director James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.

With gratitude to Fox, Ruben, and Reinecke for giving a home to hearing research, HHF is proud to have been associated with the NIDCD’s creation and celebrates the shared commitment to find better cures and treatments for hearing loss and related conditions.

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NIH Researchers Show Protein in Inner Ear Is Key to How Cells That Help With Hearing and Balance Are Positioned

By the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

Line of polarity reversal (LPR) and location of Emx2 within two inner ear structures. Arrows indicate hair bundle orientation. Source: eLife

Line of polarity reversal (LPR) and location of Emx2 within two inner ear structures. Arrows indicate hair bundle orientation. Source: eLife

Using animal models, scientists have demonstrated that a protein called Emx2 is critical to how specialized cells that are important for maintaining hearing and balance are positioned in the inner ear. Emx2 is a transcription factor, a type of protein that plays a role in how genes are regulated. Conducted by scientists at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the research offers new insight into how specialized sensory hair cells develop and function, providing opportunities for scientists to explore novel ways to treat hearing loss, balance disorders, and deafness. The results are published March 7, 2017, in eLife.

Our ability to hear and maintain balance relies on thousands of sensory hair cells in various parts of the inner ear. On top of these hair cells are clusters of tiny hair-like extensions called hair bundles. When triggered by sound, head movements, or other input, the hair bundles bend, opening channels that turn on the hair cells and create electrical signals to send information to the brain. These signals carry, for example, sound vibrations so the brain can tell us what we’ve heard or information about how our head is positioned or how it is moving, which the brain uses to help us maintain balance.

NIDCD researchers Doris Wu, Ph.D., chief of the Section on Sensory Cell Regeneration and Development and member of HHF’s Scientific Advisory Board, which provides oversight and guidance to our Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) consortium; Katie Kindt, Ph.D., acting chief of the Section on Sensory Cell Development and Function; and Tao Jiang, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland College Park, sought to describe how the hair cells and hair bundles in the inner ear are formed by exploring the role of Emx2, a protein known to be essential for the development of inner ear structures. They turned first to mice, which have been critical to helping scientists understand how intricate parts of the inner ear function in people.

Each hair bundle in the inner ear bends in only one direction to turn on the hair cell; when the bundle bends in the opposite direction, it is deactivated, or turned off, and the channels that sense vibrations close. Hair bundles in various sensory organs of the inner ear are oriented in a precise pattern. Scientists are just beginning to understand how the hair cells determine in which direction to point their hair bundles so that they perform their jobs.

In the parts of the inner ear where hair cells and their hair bundles convert sound vibrations into signals to the brain, the hair bundles are oriented in the same direction. The same is true for hair bundles involved in some aspects of balance, known as angular acceleration. But for hair cells involved in linear acceleration—or how the head senses the direction of forward and backward movement—the hair bundles divide into two regions that are oriented in opposite directions, which scientists call reversed polarity. The hair bundles face either toward or away from each other, depending on whether they are in the utricle or the saccule, two of the inner ear structures involved in balance. In mammals, the dividing line at which the hair bundles are oriented in opposite directions is called the line of polarity reversal (LPR).

Using gene expression analysis and loss- and gain-of-function analyses in mice that either lacked Emx2 or possessed extra amounts of the protein, the scientists found that Emx2 is expressed on only one side of the LPR. In addition, they discovered that Emx2 reversed hair bundle polarity by 180 degrees, thereby orienting hair bundles in the Emx2 region in opposite directions from hair bundles on the other side of the LPR. When the Emx2 was missing, the hair bundles in the same location were positioned to face the same direction.

Looking to other animals to see if Emx2 played the same role, they found that Emx2 reversed hair bundle orientation in the zebrafish neuromast, the organ where hair cells with reversed polarity that are sensitive to water movement reside.

These results suggest that Emx2 plays a key role in establishing the structural basis of hair bundle polarity and establishing the LPR. If Emx2 is found to function similarly in humans, as expected, the findings could help advance therapies for hearing loss and balance disorders. They could also advance research into understanding the mechanisms underlying sensory hair cell development within organs other than the inner ear.

This work was supported within the intramural laboratories of the NIDCD (ZIA DC000021 and ZIA DC000085).

Doris Wu Ph.D. is member of HHF’s Scientific Advisory Board, which provides oversight and guidance to our Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) consortium This article was repurpsed with permission from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. 

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Urgent Call to Action: Proposed Cuts to Hearing Research

By Nadine Dehgan, Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., and Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D.

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is deeply concerned to learn the Trump administration has proposed an 18% cut to the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Such a cut would be devastating for all medical research - including hearing research. As an advocate for the millions of Americans who have hearing loss we are especially troubled.

A drastic decrease to the funding of hearing research would disrupt the efforts of the many hearing researchers who dedicate their lives to finding cures and treatments for hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders.

HHF and the NIH are partners in funding research. HHF’s two research programs—the Emerging Research Grants and the Hearing Restoration Project—both rely on NIH support. HHF's funding alone cannot support these labs.

Private funding of hearing research is dwarfed by NIH support, and these proposed cuts could harm the research program of each and every hearing research lab, including those supported by the HHF.

As people with hearing loss, parents of those with hearing loss, children of those with hearing loss and as the leadership of the Hearing Health Foundation we ask your support. Financial support is always needed and welcome - but in this case we are specifically asking for you to contact your representatives to let them know that you oppose cuts to the NIH (and in fact support increases to the NIH’s budget).

If you are passionate about funding the research that will lead to cures for hearing loss and balance disorders, now is the time to act.

Please join us in contacting your Senators and House Representative's offices today.

With our sincere thanks,
Nadine Dehgan | CEO of HHF
Elizabeth Keithley | Chair of the Board
Peter Barr-Gillespie | HRP Scientific Director

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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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New Mexico State University (NMSU) professor receives prestigious grant for research on children's hearing

By New Mexico State University NewsCenter

Srikanta Mishra, an assistant professor in the New Mexico State University College of Education’s Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, and 2014 Emerging Research Grantee, recently received a prestigious research grant to study hearing mechanisms in children.

The R03 grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health is the college’s first NIH grant, which is known to be highly competitive and supports outstanding research. It provides a total amount of $438,000 for three years.

Mishra said the grant signifies the research capacity of the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, and showcases the cutting-edge hearing health research conducted at NMSU.

The project will investigate auditory mechanisms in children, particularly how the descending hearing pathway works in children.

“The descending efferent neural pathway runs from the brain to the inner ear. The results of this project will help us understand the role of the efferent system in auditory perception during childhood development,” Mishra said. “The knowledge gained from this project can be applied to develop tools to identify children at risk for auditory deficits and guide intervention efforts for children with listening problems.”

Mishra called the grant “one of the major the pinnacles of my academic career thus far. This will also expose NMSU students from minority and underprivileged backgrounds to high-quality health research.”

Robert Wood, interim academic head of the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, called Mishra’s research “critical” to both NMSU and audiology in general.

“First, and most importantly, his work has the potential to advance the field of audiology, which is why the National Institutes for Health is funding the work,” Wood said. “In addition to that, this funded project is really the first of its kind here at NMSU, and this will put the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders as well as the College of Education on the map with federal funding agencies and in the field of audiology. This is a very big deal for us and for NMSU.”

Mishra earned his doctorate in audiology from the University of Southampton, England. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. Mishra holds a clinical competence certificate in audiology from the American Speech Language & Hearing Association and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. He also maintains a license as an audiologist in New Mexico.

In the past, Mishra has also received funding from the Hearing Health Foundation to support his research in otoacoustic emissions and pediatric audiology. Mishra serves on review panel for several scientific journals in audiology and hearing sciences and also serves on a NIH study section. For his editorial contributions, he received the 2013 Journal of the American Academy of Audiology Editor’s Award.

Information from NMSU.

We need your help supporting innovative hearing and balance science through our Emerging Research Grants program. Please make a contribution today.

 
 
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How Society Treats Hearing Loss

By ConsumerAffairs

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 3 of every 1,000 children are born with a detectable level of hearing loss, and around 30 million Americans over age 12 have disabling hearing loss. However, only about 20% of the people who could benefit from hearing aids use one.

By themselves, those statistics are unsettling. However, compared to the fact that 75% of U.S. adults use some sort of vision correction, they highlight the stark differences in how society treats hearing loss versus a similar disability like vision loss.

Price

According to the Better Hearing Institute, 68% of people with hearing loss cite finances as the main reason for not using hearing aids.

Availability

While glasses have been adopted as must-have fashion accessories for NBA players and presidential hopefuls alike, hearing aids are still lacking in aesthetic options.

Accommodations

Don't count on your favorite hotel or restaurant offering a pair of complimentary hearing aids if you leave yours at home.

At work and school

Untreated hearing loss is proven to affect children's attention and comprehension in classroom lectures, and adults with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in salary and wages annually.

In social settings

Kids with hearing loss struggle in social situations, and their difficulty interacting or following along in conversation is often mistaken for aloofness.

In relationships

The say communication is the key to any good relationship, but communication can be challenging for hearing impared individuals, especially in a relationship with a person with normal hearing.

According to the World Health Organization, 360 million people worldwide are hearing disabled. Hearing loss is a major public health issue, the third most common after arthritis and heart disease. Yet because we can’t see hearing loss, only its effects, many mistake it as aloofness, confusion, or personality changes. To learn more about how hearing aids can help with hearing loss, and to find the one that’s right for you, check out ConsumerAffairs' Hearing Aids guide.

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

 
 
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HHF Board of Directors Elects Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D. as its new Board Chair

By Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., Chairman, HHF Board of Directors                                            Professor Emeritus, Department of Surgery and Otolaryngology

University of California at San Diego

I have been a scientist who does research on mechanisms of inflammation and aging on the inner ear for more than 30 years. Growing up with a mother who had a hearing loss, I understood of the impact that hearing loss can have on a person’s life. It was quite natural that while in college I became interested in neuroscience and specifically the study of sensory perception. A professor asked me to work in his lab on hearing mechanisms and I have been studying them ever since.

In the 1990s I was asked to review the Emerging Research Grant (ERG) applications and that began my association with Hearing Health Foundation (HHF, and formerly known as Deafness Research Foundation). Soon afterward I was asked to join the Board of Directors. I have remained on the Board since that time.

The ERG program is a very valuable asset for the research community by enabling early-stage researchers to get their careers started. This program allows them to write a proposal describing a series of experiments to test a hypothesis that will increase our understanding of auditory or vestibular (hearing or balance) mechanisms. With data generated during the ERG funding period, the researcher can write an expanded, plausible proposal to address a larger issue. This becomes a proposal for funding from the National Institutes of Health.

In some ways the ERG program is a “dress rehearsal” for a career as an academic scientist. When these scientists receive funding from HHF, they have the opportunity to develop their own ideas. They begin to have some independence from a more senior investigator. The best path to achieving a world where everyone can hear is to continue bringing new people with their innovative ideas into the field of hearing and balance research. A review of the names of HHF-funded researchers over the past half century reveals the American leaders in the fields of hearing and balance research from the mid-1980s on.

As of October 1, 2015, I am the Chair of the HHF Board. I am very pleased to be involved with this important organization. HHF was created almost 60 years ago by a woman who was steadfast in her support of funding for new technologies and treatments for hearing loss. I will do whatever I can to ensure we are able to continue to make a meaningful impact through hearing research. 

It is a goal to see HHF raise enough money to fund the Hearing Restoration Project. The consortium model is a wonderful way to focus the attention of scientists to work together collaboratively and get meaningful results. If we can get to the level of funding $5 million to $6 million for research annually, it will give the scientists the resources to further accelerate the pace of the research and produce advances to prevent, treat, and cure hearing loss. Another goal that is equally as important to me is to be able to return our funding levels for the ERG program to $1 million a year. This was the level of funding when I started 20 years ago and I don’t think it is unreasonable to recommit to that amount in the future.

Hearing and balance research and advancements in hearing devices and technology have come a long way over the past 50 years. Significant outcomes have been achieved, but we still have a lot of work to do. The number of people with hearing loss and other hearing-related conditions is increasing and we need to continue to fund the most cutting-edge research until there is a day when every person can enjoy life without a hearing loss or tinnitus.  

I am interested in getting to know the members of our Hearing Health community.  If you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email.  

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Congratulations to Our Former Emerging Researchers

By Tara Guastella

The primary goal of our Emerging Research Grant (ERG) program is to prepare scientists new to hearing and balance research to earn funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is with that in mind that we are thrilled to congratulate the latest crop of ERG alumni who have received NIH support.

For the past 55 years, we have proudly provided thousands of hearing researchers with the seed funding to make it possible to compete successfully for NIH awards and further their research careers. With the tightening funding climate in Washington, it is truly a remarkable achievement to obtain these awards.

It is with great pleasure that we share:

2012 Emerging Researcher, Wei Min Chen, Ph.D., University of Virginia, received two awards from National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) for work in complex genetics research identifying genetic predictors of certain diseases.

2012 Emerging Researcher, Sung Ho Huh, Ph.D., Washington University, received a National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD) award studying cellular and molecular functions of cochlear development.

2012 & 2013 Emerging Researcher, Israt Jahan, M.B.B.S, Ph.D., University of Iowa, received a NIDCD award for her work in hair cell regeneration.

2011 & 2013 Emerging Researcher, Carolyn Ojano-Dirain, Ph.D., University of Florida, received a NIDCD award for her work in aminoglycoside-induced ototoxicity.

2012 & 2013 Emerging Researcher, Lina Reiss, Ph.D., Orgeon Health & Science University, received a NIDCD award for her work in binaural hearing loss and hearing devices.

Isabelle Roux, Ph.D.

Isabelle Roux, Ph.D.

2012 Emerging Researcher, Isabelle Roux, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, received a NIDCD award for her research in hair cells and their interaction with nerve fibers that provide feedback from the brain to the ear.

2012 Emerging Researcher, Rebecca Seal, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, received two National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) awards for work studying the central nervous system.

2009 Emerging Researcher, Ruili Xie, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, received an award from the NIDCD for research on age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss.

We congratulate these researchers for their extraordinary research efforts and look forward to learning of their progress into the future.

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Announcing the 2013 Emerging Research Grantees

By Tara Guastella

ERG Award Recipient  Alan Kan, Ph.D. of University of Wisconsin, Madison

ERG Award Recipient

Alan Kan, Ph.D. of University of Wisconsin, Madison

We are excited to announce that 24 scientists from around the country have been awarded an Emerging Research Grant (ERG) for the 2013 funding cycle. Our grants are designed for researchers new to the field of hearing and balance science continuing a tradition which began over half a century ago.

The goal of the Emerging Research Grants program is to provide junior investigators seed funding so they can gather enough data and then move on to compete for funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH funding allows these researchers to further their careers, and the hearing research field, with longer, more sustained levels of funding.

We track the impact of our Emerging Researchers as they continue their work. Research that we have funded has led to dramatic innovations that increase options for those living with hearing loss as well as protecting those at risk. Many of our grants have led to today’s standard treatments such as cochlear implants, treatments for otitis media (ear infections), and surgical therapy for otosclerosis.

This year’s group of grantees are researching topics such as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), hair cell regeneration, Ménière’s disease, ototoxicity (or hearing loss that occurs from certain medications), tinnitus, and Usher syndrome. 

This year’s funding cycle marked one of the largest increases in qualified applications we received for this program. While interest in hearing and balance research continues to grow, this also made the grant review process and funding decisions even more challenging. “This year’s pool of applicants was the most competitive in our organization’s 55-year history,” says Peter S. Steyger, Ph.D., HHF’s scientific director. “I have never seen so many qualified applicants with truly exceptional research endeavors in my time at the HHF. Funding decisions were extremely difficult.”

One Emerging Researcher, Alan Kan, Ph.D. (pictured above), aims to close the gap in speech understanding performance between cochlear implant users and normal hearing listeners. The primary outcome of his study will help determine whether the “better ear” strategy, attending to a target talker in the “better ear” withprocessing that separates the target talker’s speech from a noisy background, will provide a significant benefit for cochlear implant users. This work also has implications for those with CAPD and the ability to process sounds between ears. Dr. Kan is being funded by the Royal Arch Masons who support researchers studying CAPD. We thank them for their generous support.

Learn about the rest of the 2013 Emerging Research Grantees

Your donations help fund our Emerging Research Grants program, kickstarting the careers of the next generation of hearing research scientists. Thank you for helping us to prevent and cure hearing loss and tinnitus. Please make a donation today.

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