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NIDCD Celebrates 25 Years of Research

In October 2013, the NIDCD celebrated 25 years of research. Here are some of the milestones of our first 2 1/2 decades.


October 28, 1988 Public Law 100-553 authorizes the formation of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Jay Moskowitz, Ph.D., is named acting director.

January 1989 A task force of more than 100 scientific experts meets to develop the first NIDCD national strategic research plan.


February 1990 James B. Snow, Jr., M.D., is appointed as the first director of the NIDCD.

December 1990 The NIDCD establishes its Division of Intramural Research.

October 1992The NIDCD and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) establish a formal scientific collaboration to give scientists access to space flight and NASA's unique ground-based research facilities. The NIDCD was one of several NIH Institutes to support the Neurolab mission, a flight devoted to nervous system research, on the space shuttle Columbia. Neurolab was launched in April 1998 and included studies of balance and spatial orientation.

March 1993

At a landmark NIH consensus development conference, experts endorse the screening of all newborns for hearing loss before leaving the hospital. The recommendation is based on research showing the importance of early interventions and cost-effective methods for universal screening, which had been developed by NIDCD-supported researchers. Combined with similar recommendations by the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, and further research and workshops supported by the NIDCD, universal newborn hearing screening is put into action in 1999, when President Clinton signs Public Law 106-113, the Newborn Infant Hearing and Screening and Intervention Act. The law authorizes the NIDCD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Health Resources and Services Administration to support and coordinate statewide newborn and infant hearing screening programs as well as additional research. In December 2010, President Obama signs Public Law 111-337, which expands the funding to include diagnostic services. As of 2010, 96 percent of U.S. newborns are screened for hearing loss shortly after birth, up from as few as one-tenth in 1993, when only infants considered at high risk were screened.

March 1995

NIDCD scientists identify the first gene associated with Type 1 Usher Syndrome, a condition that causes progressive blindness and profound loss of hearing and balance. By 2013, at least 10 additional Usher Syndrome genes had been identified. 

May 1995

The NIDCD convenes the NIH's second Consensus Development Conference on Cochlear Implants in Adults and Children, co-sponsored with three other NIH Institutes and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The expert panel recommends extending the use of the device from adults with profound hearing loss to those with severe hearing loss. Since its establishment, the NIDCD has supported research to develop, test, and improve cochlear implants and other devices, such as hearing aids.

February 1998

James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., is appointed director of the NIDCD.

December 1998

The NIDCD launches WISE EARS!®, a national campaign to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. The campaign is a coordinated effort among the NIDCD, the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and a coalition of other organizations.

February 1999

Scientists from the NIDCD, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), and Howard Hughes Medical Institute collaborate to identify a group of “G-protein receptors” responsible for taste perception. The identification of specific taste receptors has set the stage for mapping how the sense of taste is “wired” from the mouth to the brain, and holds promise for the development of sugar or salt substitutes that may help combat obesity or hypertension, as well as the development of bitter blockers that could make life-saving medicines more acceptable to children.


September 2002

Dr. Battey is appointed chair of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force. In March 2007, he began serving as vice chair.

October 2004

NIDCD-funded scientist Linda Buck, Ph.D., wins the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for clarifying how the olfactory (sense of smell) system works on molecular and cellular levels.

June 2005

The NIDCD, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the NIH Office of Rare Diseases (ORD), and the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA) jointly sponsor the first Research Planning Workshop on Spasmodic Dysphonia to develop a roadmap for studies on this rare brain disorder that affects the muscles in the larynx, or voice box. The workshop leads to an increase in NIH-funded research on this condition.

May 2006

The NIDCD and the NIH Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) jointly sponsor a Workshop on Brain Computer Interfaces for Speech Synthesis to evaluate the potential for brain-computer interfaces (BCI) or other forms of assistive technology that support communication in people who are paralyzed but cognitively intact, such as people who have had brain-stem stroke, or who are in advanced stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease).

October 2006

The NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research launches a collaborative research framework with the participation of the NIDCD and 13 other NIH Institutes and Centers that support research on the nervous system.

October 2008

The NIDCD launches a health education and awareness campaign called It's a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing®. The Noisy Planet campaign is designed to increase awareness among parents of children ages 8 to 12 about the causes and prevention of noise-induced hearing loss.

August 2009

The NIDCD holds a scientific workshop, Brain Stimulation for Treatment of Tinnitus, to identify promising avenues of research using neural prostheses to treat tinnitus. Researchers from the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, discuss potential applications for active and retired military personnel as well as civilians. Subsequent grants explore vagus nerve and deep brain stimulation techniques to change the functional organization of neural circuits that appear to be involved in tinnitus.

August 2009

The NIDCD sponsors a working group on Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care for Adults with Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss. Based on the working group's recommendations, the NIDCD develops research initiatives and funding opportunities in three areas: new approaches that could lead to improved access, assessment, and intervention in hearing health care; methods to measure the success of new or improved approaches in hearing health care; and small business technologies to improve access to hearing health care for underserved patients.

September 2009

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the NIDCD provides additional funding to accelerate the development of a brain-computer interface that allows people with tetraplegia (loss of motor control but not cognitive function) to communicate by turning thoughts into computer cursor action. Combined with continued support from other agencies such as the Veterans Administration, the multidisciplinary research team launches a pilot clinical trial, which has already shown great promise. Other ARRA funds support more than 100 summer research projects or jobs, more than 300 funding supplements, and more than 50 new or expanded research projects in areas such as advanced cochlear implant technologies, hair cell regeneration, autism, and the neural basis of tinnitus perception.   

December 2009

Researchers discover gene KIAA0319, associated with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), a language disorder that affects seven percent of 5- to 6-year-old children. The NIDCD has a long history of research funding related to SLI, including a large epidemiologic study to establish the incidence of the disorder, the development of assessment tools to identify SLI in children who are bilingual, studies to show the possible neural bases of the disorder, and the development of treatment/learning strategies to address language deficits.


February 2010

Researchers discover the first genes associated with stuttering, opening doors for medical treatment. The NIDCD had also increased funding for stuttering research following its 2005 State of the Science Conference on Developmental Stuttering to encourage cross-disciplinary discussions about, and identify opportunities for, research in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition, which affects more than 3 million Americans.

May 2010

Researchers develop a system for making functional sensory hair cells from stem cells in the laboratory. Continued investment in regenerative sensory hair cell research later results in a study in which scientists are able to restore hearing in a mouse by using a drug to grow new hair cells in the inner ear. These efforts provide potential pathways for hair cell renewal and improved ability to hear in people with hearing loss.

October 2010

Researchers implant the first vestibular device to stop the severe vertigo associated with Ménière's disease, which affects 600,000 people a year in the U.S. Using the technology found in a cochlear implant, the device attempts to stop a Ménière's attack by restoring a stable pattern of electrical activity in the vestibular nerve of the damaged ear. Earlier funding, beginning in 2006, supported preclinical animal studies and development of the neural prosthesis used in this clinical study.

June 2011

Scientists establish that an easy saliva test reliably identifies cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection in infants, providing a faster and cheaper option over the standard method being used. CMV is the most common infection passed from mother to baby, and is a leading cause of hearing loss in children.

December 2011

Researchers find that as early as six months into life, babies who eat salty foods are more likely to develop a preference for salty taste that lasts into the preschool years, and possibly beyond. Scientists are continuing studies to determine if early salt experience can predict future sodium intake, high blood pressure, or other health-related outcomes.

July 2012

It's a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing® appears as a category on TV's popular Jeopardy! game show, reaching millions of viewers and social media users with healthy hearing messages.

November 2012

The NIDCD supports the first Autism Center of Excellence (ACE) to focus on minimally verbal children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The NIDCD has long been engaged in supporting research in this aspect of ASD, and was one of five Institutes to support six STAART (Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment) Centers in 1993. NIDCD is a member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), which was established in accordance with the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-416) (PDF). The IACC includes representatives from seven HHS agencies, the Department of Defense and the Department of Education. The IACC was reauthorized in 2011 (Public Law 112-32) (PDF).

January 2013

Based on NIDCD science and implementation support, tests for taste and smell function in adults are added to the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES is the only nationally representative health survey in the U.S. that combines in-person interviews with physical examinations. The results will provide important data on the incidence and prevalence of taste and smell disorders.

August 2013

The NIDCD funds the first U.S. clinical study of the auditory brainstem implant (ABI) in children. ABI technology is for people who are deaf but who can't be helped by cochlear implants because their auditory nerve is damaged or missing. The ABI bypasses the auditory nerve and directly stimulates the cochlear nucleus in the brainstem. This five-year clinical trial is one of many human studies that the NIDCD supports as it expands its clinical research program to encourage the transition from basic science discoveries to patient-oriented research and interventions to treat or prevent communication disorders and other conditions.

September 2013

The Lasker Foundation honors NIDCD-funded scientists Graeme M. Clark and Blake S. Wilson with the 2013 Lasker~DeBakey Award in Clinical Medical Research for their work on the development of the modern cochlear implant. Ingeborg Hochmair, MED-EL, was also included in the joint award. The scientists were lauded for creating “an apparatus that has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Their work has, for the first time, substantially restored a human sense with a medical intervention.”

October 2013

The NIDCD celebrates 25 years of research to improve the lives of people with communication disorders.




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Last Updated Date: 
February 15, 2017