New grants for research into hearing disorders

Published: Fri Jan 15 2010

Lives of millions of people with hearing difficulties may soon benefit from several new grants for research from leading medical research charity, Deafness Research UK. One of the grants for a pilot study involves finding out if there is a possible relationship between age related hearing loss, genetics and the environment. The study taking place at the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College in London will use older female twins because of their similar genetic background, but different hearing profiles. If the initial tests are successful, they will go on to conduct further research on more than 3,800 twins.

Vivienne Michael, CEO of Deafness Research UK said: "This latest research could reveal more information urgently needed to prevent and eventually cure progressive hearing loss all together. That would of course be a major medical breakthrough and we are cautiously optimistic that this study has a chance of reaching such a positive conclusion in the long-term. It is vital that we continue to receive further funding so that potentially life changing research like this can continue."

Another study taking place thanks to these new grants will be an investigation into a tool for evaluating suspected cases Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) in children. It is not yet known what causes APD, and it can be difficult to diagnose as there is not one single test for APD. Children with the disorder will show normal audiograms (a standard test of hearing) but have difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise and differentiating similar speech sounds. A team at The Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, will use non invasive techniques to compare auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) between people with normal hearing and those with APD. It is hoped that the ABRs will prove a useful and objective tool to aid diagnosis.

An additional study that will also be taking place will be to look at the effect of a common genetic mutation of hearing, which can render its sufferers permanently deaf. Gene, ‘Connexin 26’ is involved in maintaining the balance of fluids in the inner ear, having two copies of the gene leads to the hearing loss, but it is not yet known what affect of having just one is. A team at the University of Bristol intend to compare the genetic data of children up to the age of eleven who carry either one or two mutations of the gene. The team also hope to find out whether there is any advantage in having one copy of the mutation, as this may explain why it is so common.

Notes to editors

About Deafness Research UK
• Deafness Research UK is the country’s only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people.
• The charity supports high quality medical research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all forms of hearing impairment including tinnitus.
• Deafness Research UK is entirely dependent on voluntary donations, gifts and personal legacies. You can donate online at , or call 0207 7833 1733 for further information on how to support the charity.
• The Deafness Research UK Information Service provides free information and advice based on the latest scientific evidence and informed by leading experts. The Information Service can be contacted on Freephone 0808 808 2222.
• For more information on research into deafness, tinnitus and other hearing conditions, log on to the website at where you can access a wide range of information. Alternatively you can e-mail Deafness Research UK at
• One in seven people in the UK – almost nine million people - suffer hearing loss.
• Deafness Research UK was founded in 1985 by Lord (Jack) and Lady Ashley of Stoke.
• In January 2008, Action for Tinnitus Research (ATR) was linked with Deafness Research UK under a uniting direction order under section 96(6) of the Charities Act 1993.

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Ref: DR-UK0173- New grants for research into hearing disorders
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