CONTACT: JENNIFER BROWN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax(319) 384-4638
Release: July 17, 2001
UI Cochlear Implant Clinical Research Center receives $9.8 million grant
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications
Disorders (NICDC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the
University of Iowa a $9.8 million, five-year competitive grant renewal for
the UI Cochlear Implant Clinical Research Center.
The center, which was established at the UI more than 20 years ago, has developed
into the nation's, and arguably the world's, premier center for cochlear implant
Damage to inner ear structures cause profound hearing loss. Cochlear implants
are devices that take the place of these damaged structures. The implant consists
of a microphone that picks up sound, a speech processor that translates sound
waves into electrical signals, a transmitter and an implanted electrode. The
electrode component decodes and distributes the electrical signal along the
cochlear nerve, which transmits the information to the brain where it is perceived
Bruce J. Gantz, M.D., the Brian F. McCabe Distinguished Chair and UI professor
and head of otolaryngology head and neck surgery, has been director
of the UI Cochlear Implant Clinical Research Center since its inception. Richard
S. Tyler, Ph.D., UI professor of otolaryngology and speech pathology and audiology,
and Jay T. Rubenstein, M.D., Ph.D., UI associate professor of otolaryngology
and physiology and biophysics, are co-directors of the center.
"The multi-dimensional nature of the research we do here makes this
center unique," Gantz said. "Researchers from disciplines as diverse
as otolaryngology, speech pathology and audiology, physiology and biophysics,
and music collaborate on many projects aimed at advancing cochlear implant
The projects that will be funded with this grant highlight the multidisciplinary
nature of the research conducted at the center.
One major research focus will be to refine the criteria used to identify
patients who would benefit from a cochlear implant. These devices have proved
to be extremely successful for profoundly deaf individuals. However, advances
in technology have improved speech perception with the implants to the point
where researchers believe that individuals with some residual hearing would
also benefit from this device.
"We would like to explore providing this technology to people who would
not previously have been considered for a cochlear implant," Gantz said.
Another project will investigate strategies to accurately measure the residual
hearing level of congenitally deaf infants. Studies have shown that good hearing
in very young infants is critical to normal language development. Therefore,
early identification and subsequent correction of hearing problems either
with a cochlear implant or a hearing aid is very important.
The grant will also fund further studies of a new type of cochlear implant
developed at the UI, which recently received approval for a feasibility study
from the Food and Drug Administration. The new implant preserves residual
inner ear function of the patient. It combines the electrical speech processing
ability of cochlear implants with normal hearing.
Several studies will investigate ways to improve the signal processing abilities
of cochlear implants for both speech and music. In one of these studies, researchers
from the UI departments of music, otolaryngology and physiology and biophysics
will collaborate to develop signal processing, which will allow cochlear implant
recipients to hear music.
"Music and speech contain very different spectrums of sound information,"
Gantz explained. "Current cochlear implants do not do a good job of allowing
people with implants to hear music, which is an important component of many
Some 16 years after receiving their first grant from the NIDCD, this award
is the fourth installment of federal funding for the UI Cochlear Implant Clinical
Research Center. The grant
will see the center though its 21st year of funding. Including this grant,
the center has garnered nearly $28 million in funding from the NIDCD.
In addition to Gantz, Rubenstein and Tyler, the other principal investigators
on this grant include Paul J. Abbas, Ph.D., UI professor of speech pathology
and audiology; Carolyn J. Brown, Ph.D., UI associate professor of speech pathology
and audiology; Kay E. Gfeller, Ph.D., UI professor of music; Bruce J. Tomblin,
Ph.D., UI professor of speech pathology and audiology; and Christopher W.
Turner, Ph.D., UI professor of speech pathology and audiology.
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