Hearing

Working to help the UK’s 11 million people with permanent hearing loss

There is no current ‘cure’ for hearing loss, which can affect every aspect of people’s personal, social and working lives. Untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of developing other health conditions, including depression and dementia.
Hearing aids are the most common management for hearing loss, but uptake is poor. It is clear that hearing aids alone are not an optimal solution and other self-management options are necessary.

Our research will answer some of the fundamental questions about the mechanisms of hearing conditions, the most effective interventions to improve quality of life and provide the evidence for translating new technologies and techniques into clinical practice.

Our core research is in six areas:

  • Mild-to-moderate hearing loss
  • Severe-to-profound hearing loss (including cochlear implantation)
  • Tinnitus and hyperacusis
  • Clinical Hearing Sciences
  • Objective measures (how hearing loss changes the brain)
  • Outcome measures for clinical trials

Mild-to-moderate hearing loss

In the UK, mild-to-moderate hearing loss affects the vast majority (92%) of those with hearing loss. This can have significant impact on individuals’ everyday life. We evaluate novel technological and patient-centred interventions, which are developed to benefit and support adults who live with hearing loss. Our main research themes are eHealth and self-management, listening and cognition, and listening devices. We work closely with patients and healthcare professionals to ensure that our research is relevant and accessible to those people whose daily activities are affected by hearing difficulties.

Severe-to-profound hearing loss

Cochlear implants are one of the major success stories in hearing and have transformed the lives of over 200,000 deaf individuals worldwide. In profoundly deaf individuals, cochlear implants can restore the ability to understand speech in a quiet listening environment. In children who are born profoundly deaf, cochlear implants have the capacity to facilitate the acquisition of spoken language. However, cochlear implants do not restore ‘normal’ hearing: users of cochlear implants often experience difficulty with understanding speech in noisy environments, particularly if the background noise includes irrelevant speech.

Tinnitus and hyperacusis

The mechanisms of tinnitus and hyperacusis are poorly understood. There are many different management options including education, cognitive behaviour therapy, sound therapies, management of hearing loss, and self-management options. Not all approaches have been investigated thoroughly.
Our research into these conditions will create reliable knowledge that can support evidence-based clinical practice, working closely with patients and clinicians to answer questions that are most important to them. We will develop and improve audiological, psychological, and self-management interventions particularly those that the clinical professionals consider likely to be of benefit to patients.

Clinical Hearing Sciences

Our research will better understand tinnitus and hearing loss associated with platinum-based chemotherapy. This will help to support early identification of people living with and beyond cancer who are likely to develop ongoing functional limitation, disability, and reduced health-related quality of life as a result of auditory symptoms.
The research work is being developed in conjunction with oncologists, specialist nurses and pharmacists, and the early review stage of what is presently known has been supported by a grant from the British Tinnitus Association.

Objective Measures

Our multidisciplinary team led by Prof. Hartley, an ENT surgeon, includes engineers, psychologists, neuroscientists and audiologists. We are addressing important clinical questions about brain reorganisation after hearing loss and cochlear implantation using neuroimaging techniques, including functional near-infrared spectroscopy and functional MRI.
We are applying these techniques to address patient-centered questions about hearing impairment and treatment in collaboration with the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre.

Outcome measures for clinical trials

There is a recognised need to develop more effective treatments to improve hearing and to provide relief from tinnitus. So far, there is no guidance about which complaints are important to measure when deciding if a treatment has worked or is safe. This means there is no common practice across experts. We can solve this challenge by agreeing on a core set of outcome measures that are always reported in every clinical trial.

This is a fundamentally important research area that is delivering evidence-based recommendations. By putting members of the public and patients at the heart of key decision making to make sure that future research will be more relevant, we will focus on the three most common hearing-related conditions:

  • tinnitus
  • mild-to-moderate hearing loss
  • otitis media with effusion (glue ear) in children.

Contact us

For more information or to talk to us about our research please get in touch:
Telephone: +44 (0) 115 823 2600
Fax: +44 (0) 115 823 2618
Email us: hearingnihr@nottingham.ac.uk
Text phone: +44 (0) 115 823 2615
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