UNC researchers to take part in multi-center, $8.9 million study of childhood hearing loss

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 — University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers will play a key role in a five-year, $8.9 million study aimed at understanding the impact hearing loss can have on children’s ability to communicate, succeed in school, and have good social and psychological development.

Results from the study, which also involves the University of Iowa and Boys Town National Research Hospital in Nebraska, will provide information on the affect of early intervention and amplification devices fitted to infants and young children up to 9 years old with mild to severe hearing loss.

The UNC School of Medicine researchers taking part in the study are Melody F. Harrison, Ph.D., a professor of speech and hearing sciences in the department of allied health sciences and Patricia A. Roush, Au.D., an assistant professor and director of pediatric audiology in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery.

The study is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health. It differs from most other research to date on childhood hearing loss, which has focused on severe to profound hearing loss that amounts to deafness.

Children with mild-to-severe hearing loss have hearing thresholds in the 26 decibel to 75 decibel range, compared to the normal threshold of 0 decibels to 20 decibels. Until newborn hearing screening was introduced in North Carolina in 2000, many children with hearing loss in this range were not identified until they reached school age.

Today, many children are identified in the first few weeks of life and receive hearing aids by 2-3 months of age, researchers say, and earlier hearing aid fitting and appropriate services are allowing many children to develop excellent speech, language and academic skills.

School of Medicine contacts: Stephanie Crayton, (919) 966-2860, scrayton@unch.unc.edu or Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu
News Services contact: Patric Lane, (919) 962-8596, patric_lane@unc.edu