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NIDCD Highlights

Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus Visits the NIDCD

On August 21, the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus (FCHHC) and the NIDCD co-sponsored a congressional staff visit to the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md. Seven congressional staffers and 13 FCHHC* representatives learned about the NIDCD’s intramural clinical research program, toured the NIDCD’s audiology and otolaryngology clinics, and heard from volunteers currently enrolled in clinical research studies at the NIDCD.

Photo of Hill staffers, lobbyists, and NIDCD policy staff
Hill staffers, lobbyists, and NIDCD policy staff visit the NIH
Clinical Center and tour NIDCD clinics.

NIDCD Director James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. welcomed the attendees and provided an overview of the Institute’s 25 years of funding wide-ranging research initiatives. As a result, human communication research now has more possibilities for productive exploration than at any other time in history. Next, NIDCD Clinical Director Carter VanWaes M.D., Ph.D., spoke about clinical research at NIH and noted that NIDCD clinicians conduct more than 3,000 evaluations and tests annually. The NIH Clinical Center is the world's largest hospital devoted exclusively to clinical investigation. NIH-wide, about 10,000 new patients are enrolled in clinical research studies each year.

During the tour of the NIDCD’s audiology and otolaryngology clinics, NIDCD’s audiologists Carmen Brewer, Ph.D.; Kelly King, Au.D., Ph.D.; and Christopher Zalewski, M.A., demonstrated how specialized equipment is routinely used to diagnose and treat individuals with hearing and balance disorders such as Neurofibromatosis-2 (NF2). Dr. Brewer stated that NIDCD audiologists also frequently collaborate with other NIH institutes to monitor patients being treated with life-saving therapies in clinical trials at NIH—since many of these therapies have the unfortunate side effect of causing hearing loss. Examples of these drugs include aminoglycoside antibiotics and cisplatinum, which is used in cancer treatment.

Allen Braun, Ph.D., chief of the NIDCD’s language section, described the NIDCD’s aphasia research. Aphasia, an acquired communication disorder affecting patients’ ability to process language, is more common than Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy. The most common cause of aphasia is stroke. Dr. Braun’s laboratory is working with patients who have recovered from aphasia according to standard assessment tests, but who still have language problems. Dr. Braun’s research will serve to develop better assessment tools and may lead to the development of behavioral or drug interventions.

Patients with NF2 and stroke-related language aphasia enrolled in Dr. Braun’s clinical research trial shared how NIH clinical research has impacted their lives.

At the conclusion of the visit, the attendees discussed how much they learned about the NIDCD and the importance of the NIDCD’s research in leading to treatments for individuals with communication disorders. 

*The FCHHC is composed of A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Academy of Doctors of Audiology, American Academy of Audiology, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Cochlear Implant Alliance, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Tinnitus Association, Gallaudet University, Hearing Health Foundation, Hearing Industries Association, Hearing Loss Association of America, Hearing Network Alliance, International Hearing Society, National Association of the Deaf, National Court Reporters Association, and Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

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