My Hearing, My Future

20 10 2011

A competition, My Hearing, My Future, is now open to young people aged 10-18 years.

Entries are invited in English or British Sign Language. Participants are invited to be creative and come up with a winning idea for using science to help improve life for the deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.

Previous winners have come up with some exciting ideas;

Helen Thomas, from the 12-14 age group, was the winner in 2009. Her entry said:

I would like to think, that in the next 20 years there will be great advances in helping deaf children/adults. As a cochlear implant user I would expect advances in this area to be more exciting, maybe along the lines of putting the implant and processor under the skin and therefore eliminating the need for an external processor, or a implant that tunes in to the conversation you are listening to, and eliminates surrounding sounds (very science fiction!)

Or maybe gene therapy can play a part, with replacing the faulty gene, I along with my family, have had blood taken to see which gene is responsible for my deafness, this is something I would think research would focus on.

Communicating with deaf people, it would be great if, a degree of sign language could be on the school time table, its great to learn sign, you never know when you will need it, its important to make people aware how difficult it is for deaf people, like all sensory impairment, “making people aware” is very important.

I would like to see all classrooms equiped with the necessary sound fields and finally here is one crazy idea, what about glasses/or contact lenses that when worn would show subtitles maybe in a cinema or TV.

So this is my vision for the future, I hope it helps!

Jordan McGrath, from the 15-19 age group, was the 2009 winner. His entry said:

There are 9 million deaf people in the U.K, 34,000 of which are children and young people. It doesn’t matter whether a deaf person has mild deafness, moderate deafness, severe deafness or is profoundly deaf there are always solutions such as technology equipment such as hearing aids or cochlea implants. There are other solutions such as lip reading and sign language. 2 million people in the U.K have hearing aid/s. 4 million people don’t have hearing aid/s, this is a high number and I think that people who want to have a hearing aid/s or cochlea implant should investigate what equipment is useful for them. It would lead to an easier way of life. They would benefit from it hugely. I think that deaf people should be treated equally as hearing people: examples, more subtitled shows at cinemas, interpreters at shows, pantomimes and other public places where a deaf person needs help with communication in some way. I think that these services should be funded by the government. I also think that there should be more deaf awareness taught around the U.K: examples, staff in supermarkets, high street shops, churches, restaurants, cafes and the most important of all are doctors, hospitals, dentist and other medical care centres.  I would benefit hugely if this problem was solved because me myself as a deaf person can struggle at times when I go out to public places such as shops. Another thing is that new buildings that are being built should be built with soundfield or loop systems. More DVD’S should include either a choice of subtitles or a signer. I find that many DVD’S that my family have bought in the past have no subtitles so therefore I can’t watch it.  Also modern mobile phones as seen in shops should contain all the features that a deaf person needs.

I think that a lot of deaf people would benefit from a waterproof hearing-aid/s which has different levels for different kinds of deafness. These waterproof hearing aids could be used in swimming pools in the sea and other wet areas when it’s raining. This way they wouldn’t miss out talking to hearing friends/family or even a deaf person who can’t communicate. They would have to be a small object that fits into the ear so that they don’t fall out and get lost. Normal digital and analogue hearing aids are not allowed to get wet. I also think that a higher powered hearing aid/s should be created for profoundly deaf people. It would be loud enough so that a deaf person can hear all the correct sounds that are being said and this could improve their speech. Also in shops and other public places they may hear what the person is saying more clearly. It could be electric chargeable although this wouldn’t be good for the environment so high powered batteries could be made. Also a person with no hearing or little hearing should be provided with a choice of having a hearing dog for the deaf, this helps deaf people have a more independent life and not rely on others too much. A higher local service should be provided for deaf people if they are in need of something or having difficulties with something. They should be provided with a person who works at that local area and are able to get in touch with them as confidently as possible. They should always have support no matter how old they are.

My Hearing, My Future is a collaboration between Deafness Research UK and Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre. Sponsored by Phonak, Advanced Bionics, BT, and Chilli Technology.

Competition : My Hearing, My Future

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Cochlear implant research

19 04 2010

A research study has been carried out at the University of York, England. The study compared the spatial listening skills and quality of life of children with unilateral or bilateral cochlear implants.

Spatial listening is the ability to attend to one source of sound in a mixture of sources in order to determine where it is located, in which direction it is moving, and what information it is conveying. These abilities are singular achievements of normal hearing. They allow listeners to know where to move to avoid hazards and where to look to see who is talking. They are crucial, therefore, for participation at home, for success at school, and for survival outdoors. Their breakdown is a major cause – possible the major cause – of auditory handicap in young and old age. (Source: University of York)

The following results from the research study were given on 13 April 2010 by Rosemary Lovett and Quentin Summerfield.

Children with unilateral or bilateral cochlear implants: Spatial listening skills and quality of life

There is worldwide interest in whether severely-profoundly deaf children should be provided with bilateral cochlear implants (two implants, one in each ear) rather than a unilateral cochlear implant (one implant in one ear). Potentially, implanting both ears rather than one could improve children’s spatial listening skills, meaning the ability to work out where sounds are coming from (by comparing the intensity and timing of sounds arriving at the two ears) and to understand speech in noise (by listening to the ear that gives the clearer speech sounds).

We assessed the spatial listening skills of 35 children with bilateral cochlear implants and 20 children with a unilateral cochlear implant. On average, children with bilateral implants performed better than children with a unilateral implant on tests of sound-source localisation and speech perception in noise. This study demonstrates, more rigorously than previous studies, that bilateral implantation for children is associated with improved spatial listening skills.

The group of children with bilateral implants included children who received both implants in a single surgery and children who received two implants in sequential surgeries. These two groups of bilaterally-implanted children showed similar listening skills, on average. However, the groups differed in age, so further work is needed to compare outcomes for simultaneous and sequential bilaterally-implanted children.

The study also obtained estimates of the quality of life of children with unilateral or bilateral implants. Measurements of quality of life contribute to the cost-effectiveness calculations that are used by policy-makers to decide which healthcare interventions to fund. Thus, the question of whether bilateral implantation improves quality of life has implications for healthcare policy. Judgements by children’s parents revealed no difference in quality of life between children with unilateral or bilateral implants. A follow-up study presented a group of adults (who were not the parents of deaf children) with written descriptions of a hypothetical deaf child with either unilateral or bilateral implants. The adults judged that the child with bilateral implants had higher quality of life than the child with a unilateral implant. The difference in quality of life between the two descriptions was large enough to mean that bilateral implantation would be considered a cost-effective use of resources within the NHS.

Evidence from these studies was taken into account by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in forming their guidance, which recommends that deaf children should have the option of receiving bilateral implants through the NHS. This work was reported in the Archives of Disease in Childhood and Ear and Hearing. These studies were supported by Deafness Research UK and Advanced Bionics.