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Read the latest news, research updates and trends in audiology and hearing care. Post comments and share with your colleagues!

Friday, May 17, 2019

The National Institutes of Health's (NIH) spending on hearing loss research was low relative to disease burden compared with other common diseases and conditions like stroke and diabetes, according to a new study (JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 May 16. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2019.0649). While the NIH's mission is to make disease burden a crucial consideration when prioritizing funding, Jan Blustein, MD, PhD, the author of the study and a professor of health policy and medicine at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, found that hearing loss research appears to be underfunded by the NIH relative to disease burden. Dr. Blustein analyzed the 2017 data on disease burden and NIH funding from the NIH RePORTER database, and compared the hearing loss research data against those of 29 other common conditions. She found that the NIH spent only $202 million on hearing loss research in 2017, which ranked 20th in NIH funding, even though hearing loss ranked 10th in disability-adjusted life years and fifth in years lived with disability. In contrast, dental or oral disorders ranked 16th in disability-adjusted life years and seventh in years lived with disability, but funding for research on these conditions totaled $541 million and ranked sixth in NIH spending.

Dr. Blustein said the NIH should report on research funding spent on a condition as pervasive, disabling and potentially preventable as hearing loss every year. "Providing the public with reports on hearing loss spending through the RCDC [Research, Condition and Disease Categorization] system would allow us to readily track whether hearing loss is getting the research funding it deserves," she said. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Oticon, Inc. is looking for outstanding people with hearing loss for its 2019 Focus on People Awards. The national awards program honors students, adults and advocacy volunteers with any degree of hearing loss whose accomplishments show that hearing loss does not limit a person's ability to make a positive difference in their communities or the world.  By drawing national attention to people doing amazing things, who also happened to have hearing loss, Oticon aims to change negative perceptions that discourage people from seeking hearing healthcare for their hearing loss.

"There is no typical Oticon Focus on People Award winner," says Nancy Palmere, Director of Consumer Marketing and Public Relations for Oticon, Inc., who heads the national program. "Award winners have included people from all walks of life from ballerinas to fire fighters, librarians to decorated military veterans. In 21 years, we have honored more than 280 remarkable people who share one common characteristic. They have taken their unique circumstances and found a way to make the world a better place -- for others with hearing loss and for all of us."

Anyone may nominate.  People with all degrees of hearing loss – from mild to more severe - are eligible. There is also a special category for hearing care practitioners with or without hearing loss. Categories include: Student, for full-time students with hearing loss, ages 6 – 25; Adult, for people with hearing loss, ages 21 and above; and Advocacy, for volunteers with hearing loss, who are actively involved in support efforts for the hard-of-hearing and deaf community. A special Practitioner category recognizes hearing care professionals who go "above and beyond" through humanitarian and public education efforts. Nominees in the Practitioner category are not required to have a hearing loss to qualify.

First place winners receive a $1,000 cash prize and a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice.  First place winners in the Student, Adult and Advocacy categories also receive Oticon BrainHearing™ hearing devices.  Second place winners receive a $500 cash prize and third place winners, a $250 cash prize.

Deadline for nominations is June 20, 2019. Following the close of nominations, the general public will be invited to vote online to determine first, second and third place winners in each category. Visit to learn more.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Hearing Loss Association of America will kick off a series of Walk4Hearing events around the country starting May 11. Participants will enjoy entertainment, children's activities, food trucks, a dunk tank, and receive resources for hearing loss, including free hearing screening. Funds raised from Walk4Hearing will be used for programs and services, both locally and nationally, for those affected by hearing loss, including raising public awareness and providing resources to HLAA chapters. Since 2006, Walk4Hearing has welcomed almost 100,000 walkers. The organization said the walks are for anyone who has hearing loss, know someone who does, or just need some help hearing in a noisy world. The first Walk4Hearing will take place in Milwaukee, followed by Westchester, Michigan, and more. To register or find out more information, visit

Friday, May 3, 2019

Severe hearing loss sets pediatric brain cancer survivors up for reading difficulties, according to a new study. (J Clin Oncol. 2019. doi: 10.1200/JCO.18.01358.) Researchers from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital assessed the performance of 260 brain tumor survivors aged 3 to 21 years, 64 of whom had severe hearing loss, on eight neurocognitive variables targeting reading outcomes such as fluency and comprehension and contributory cognitive processes like working memory and processing speed at baseline and up to five years after diagnosis. Those with severe hearing loss performed significantly worse on all variables compared with children with normal hearing or mild to moderate hearing loss except for tasks assessing awareness of sounds and working memory. Their performance on phonemic skills, phonetic decoding, reading comprehension, and speed of information processing was significantly lower.  

Traci Olivier, PsyD, the first author of the study, said the findings suggest that interventions should focus on improving neurocognitive and language-based skills like processing speed and phonemics before tackling more complex tasks like reading comprehension. "Younger children, those less than 7 years old, were particularly vulnerable to declines in skills that are fundamental for reading mastery. These children may benefit most from interventions," she said. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Responding to published concerns by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that captioned telephone services (CTS) are being utilized by people who are not appropriate candidates—leading to potential funding deficits of this critical service—the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) have jointly developed proposed best practices for determining eligibility for the program.

CTS are designed to help people with hearing loss place and receive telephone calls by allowing them to speak directly to the called party and then listen and concurrently read captions of what the other party is saying.

These vital services are paid for by the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund and administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), these services are offered free of charge to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, FCC regulations prohibit the use of CTS by people who do not have a hearing loss, including those with no hearing loss who reside in the same household as the person with hearing loss, as well as people with hearing loss whose hearing loss is adequately addressed by other amplification or services. The use of CTS by individuals who have the capability of using conventional phone systems unnecessarily increases the cost of providing the TRS programs.

"The challenges associated with using the phone can contribute to isolating people with hearing loss, as well as negatively impacting educational opportunities, employment, and safety," said ASHA 2019 President Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP. "This underscores the critical need to protect Captioned Telephone Services for those who truly need it. As such, ASHA is very pleased to collaborate with the American Academy of Audiology on these best practices, which will provide guidance to the members of our respective organizations as they care for their clients and patients."

"Audiologists play a vital role in evaluating and treating hearing loss to ensure that our patients can continue to work, go to school, or interact with family and friends at home," said AAA President Lisa Christensen, AuD. "As the expert on hearing loss and inner ear disorders, the audiologist is most qualified to evaluate whether a patient would be an ideal candidate for a captioned telephone. These best practices should serve as guidance to audiologists when determining the effectiveness of a captioned telephone for a certain patient. We thank ASHA for collaborating so effectively in developing these suggested best practices and look forward to continuing this work as the FCC continues to evaluate the CTS program."

Nine suggested best practices are presented by the groups in this document. Among them are the following: 

  • Individuals seeking CTS should have communication impairment that significantly affects speech understanding, even when using amplification devices and a conventional phone.
  • Individuals being considered for CTS should undergo an appropriate, comprehensive assessment to determine the need for assistive communication technologies, including CTS.
  • The patient history should include questions designed to determine the disability associated with telephone use and the availability of existing telephone technologies (e.g., smartphone, visual communication options such as FaceTime, availability of amplified systems, etc.), and desired patient outcomes.

The suggested best practices are intended to cover both analog and Internet-provided phone captioning. Analog CTS is landline based, available over conventional phone lines. The Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) is an Internet-based system that uses an existing voice telephone and a computer—or other Internet-connected device—rather than the conventional phone network to provide the link and captions between the individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and another party. It can also be used as an app with a smartphone. In 2007, the IP CTS was approved by the FCC as a form of relay service that may be compensated from the Interstate TRS Fund.

AAA and ASHA note that the organizations "support the availability of the CTS, including the IP CTS, to allow individuals who have the degree, type, or configuration that prevents traditional telephone use, to still be able to access telephone services. These same organizations also understand the necessity to restrict this service only to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and support efforts to reduce the use of the service by those who do not have hearing loss in order to preserve the service."

Check out the suggested best practices here