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Recent Research and News

NIDCD-Supported Scientists Present Findings at ARO

Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO)

New findings in auditory neuropathy, hyperacusis, and autoimmune-related hearing loss were presented at the Midwinter Meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) held in Baltimore in February.

Charles Liberman, Ph.D., presented findings from a collaborative study between his team at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and scientists in Brazil suggesting why some preterm infants develop hearing loss. Their study showed that the sensory cells that help amplify sound vibrations, called outer hair cells, are healthy, but the sensory cells that convert those vibrations to electrical signals that travel to the brain, the inner hair cells, have been destroyed. This causes a condition known as auditory neuropathy and explains why other researchers have observed a higher incidence of auditory neuropathy in preterm babies.

Craig Formby, Ph.D., at the University of Alabama, along with scientists from the University of Maryland and elsewhere, showed how a therapy for tinnitus (ringing in the ears) can help people with a sensitivity to sound, called hyperacusis, tolerate louder sounds. Participants in the study with hyperacusis who wore a noise-generating device in each ear that played a soft whooshing noise, and who also received counseling, were able to tolerate louder sound levels. Their next step is to evaluate a noise-generating device in combination with a hearing aid to see if they can enhance performance for hearing aid wearers by improving their tolerance to amplified sound.

Dennis Trune, Ph.D., and his team at Oregon Health & Science University presented findings that explained how glucocorticoids—a commonly prescribed family of drugs to treat hearing loss related to autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis—don't work on inflammation as previously thought, but appear to correct an imbalance in ions in the fluid of the inner ear. Dr. Trune and his team propose that developing a treatment based on regulating ion concentration, instead of controlling inflammation, may be more effective and offer fewer side effects than steroids for people with autoimmune-related hearing loss.