The quest to better understand otitis media (OM) has made great strides in recent years. Researchers—many supported by the NIDCD—have identified potential vaccine candidates, uncovered the role of bacterial biofilms in treatment resistance, developed OM animal models, and characterized the host immune response to the condition, among many other advances. To accelerate the translation of this strong foundational knowledge to clinical strategies for preventing and treating OM, last autumn the NIDCD convened a group of scientific experts online for the NIDCD Workshop on Otitis Media in Early Childhood. This message will give you a sense of the topics the participants discussed and the knowledge gaps they identified. I’ve also included highlights from the May meeting of the National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NDCD) Advisory Council Meeting.
Messages from the NIDCD Director
The award-winning film “Sound of Metal” portrays a musician in recovery from substance use disorder who is confronted with sudden, complete hearing loss. The experience shatters his life. Lauded by some with hearing loss for its realistic depiction of this experience—the fear, the frustration, the uncertainty—the film’s creative use of sound earned it an Academy Award. Credit: "Academy Award Winner" by Dave B. is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
When it comes to the BRAIN Initiative, there is a lot to be excited about—a new director, an array of transformative advances, and the start of a new phase. In this director’s message, I describe this groundbreaking NIH program, which offers opportunities for support for the NIDCD neuroscience community. I have also provided a brief summary of topics discussed at our most recent National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NDCD) Advisory Council Meeting in January.
On March 1, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, launched a new initiative, UNITE, to identify actions to address structural racism at NIH, the institutions we support, and anywhere NIH research activities take place, with the overall goal of ending racial inequities across the biomedical research enterprise.
The forthcoming trans-NIH Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program will propose an innovative model to address faculty diversity and inclusion in biomedical research.
As I reflect on my one-year anniversary as NIDCD director, I am grateful for the institute’s talented and resilient scientists and staff and for our many outstanding grantees at research institutions across the country. Although the pandemic has upended our personal and professional lives in ways we never could have imagined, the continued commitment to the NIDCD’s mission inspires me. Thank you to all for the efforts to navigate a challenging road during the past months.
Urgent calls to confront systemic racism in our society are demanding our attention. In June, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health, called upon each of us in the NIH community to “reaffirm our common resolve … to ensure we foster a culture of inclusion, equity, and respect for one another . ...” I write now to affirm the NIDCD’s commitment to inclusive excellence, and our resolve to both embrace and enable the contributions of a diverse scientific workforce.
Communication is an important and complex transaction that depends on visual and, often, auditory (hearing) cues. Factors that influence how well our spoken language is received include our eye contact and body language, whether we stand or sit while speaking, the tone of our voices and our facial expressions, and environmental lighting and background noise.
Approximately 15% of U.S. adults report some degree of hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss is a huge issue for human health. It may lead to isolation, and it has been associated with serious conditions such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, dementia, reduced mobility, and falls.
Approximately 466 million children and adults worldwide have disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Unaddressed hearing loss costs an estimated US$750 billion annually worldwide and potentially interferes greatly with an individual’s physical, behavioral, and social functioning.