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University of Iowa News Release

 

Sept. 9, 2008

Major NIH grant supports childhood hearing loss research

To date, most research on childhood hearing loss has focused on severe to profound hearing loss that constitutes deafness. But a five-year, $8.9 million grant to the University of Iowa from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health, will help further research on milder hearing loss in preschool children.

Children with milder hearing loss have hearing thresholds in the 26 to 75 decibel range, compared to the normal threshold of 0 to 20 decibels. Often they are fitted with hearing aids, and with speech and educational intervention can develop spoken language, explained the grant's principal investigator J. Bruce Tomblin, Ph.D., professor of communication sciences and disorders in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"It's obviously been very important to study the communication challenges faced by children who are deaf and determine how to help them gain communication skills. However, much less is known about the impact of milder forms of hearing loss on children's ability to communicate, succeed in school, and have good social and psychological development," said Tomblin, who also holds the D.C. Spriesterbach Distinguished Professorship of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The grant will help UI researchers, along with colleagues at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Nebraska and the University of North Carolina, explore whether educational and audiological services and aids can improve outcomes for young children with mild and moderate hearing disorders.

"We hope to better understand the factors that affect the development of children with early-identified hearing loss, so that treatment might be refined," Tomblin said. "The results may affect early intervention and fitting of amplification devices in infants and young children."

In Iowa, newborns are routinely tested for hearing loss. In 2006, 96 percent of babies born in the United States received a newborn hearing screening. The testing is mandatory in 40 states, and several other states have successful voluntary programs, said Marlea O'Brien, UI program coordinator in communication sciences and disorders.

Mary Pat Moeller, Ph.D., director of childhood deafness at Boys Town National Research Hospital, is serving as the study's co-principal investigator.

In addition to Tomblin, UI researchers involved in the study are Lenore Holte, Ph.D., clinical professor with the Center for Disabilities and Development; John Knutson, Ph.D., professor of psychology; Ruth Bentler, Ph.D., professor, and Sandie Bass-Ringdahl, Ph.D., assistant professor, both in communication sciences and disorders; and Jake Oleson, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Jane Pendergast, Ph.D., professor, both in biostatistics.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 5224-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660 becky-soglin@uiowa.edu