$6.3 Million Awarded for Age-Related Hearing Research




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The International Center for Hearing and Speech Research (ICHSR), housed at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), has been awarded a five-year, $6.3 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to study presbycusis (age-related hearing loss).

The ICHSR was established in 1989 as a joint program of NTID, a college of Rochester Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Division of Otolaryngology.

“Presbycusis is currently the number one communicative disorder in our aging population,” said Dr. D. Robert Frisina, director of ICHSR. “It’s characterized by loss of hearing for many everyday sounds and difficulty understanding speech, especially when background noise is present.”

Since an estimated 28 million people nationwide suffer from presbycusis, the problems of hearing loss and aging pose significant difficulties for many families.

Dr. Frisina acts as principal investigator of the new project, working with a multidisciplinary team from the University of Rochester including Drs. William O’Neill, James Ison, Joseph Walton, and Robert D. Frisina.

“Key distinctions have been uncovered regarding the specialized roles of the ear and the brain and how they interact as one ages,” said Frisina. “We believe that age-related hearing loss can occur from a combination of genetics, overexposure to noise, and use of various prescription medications.”

While the researchers at ICHSR feel that in the past few years of research they have made noteworthy advances in defining and understanding the neurological relationship between hearing loss and aging, they realize that much work lies ahead.

“Theoretically, treatments may lie on the horizon, but we need to investigate several additional aspects of age-related hearing loss before such undertakings will be successful,” added Frisina. “The long-term goal of this project is to develop biomedical interventions that prevent or cure sensorimotor disorders in our aging population.”

An international author and lecturer, Frisina has been a pioneer in the field of deafness and hearing loss for more than 30 years. He first joined RIT in 1967 as vice president and organizing director of NTID. A graduate of Westminster College, he earned a master’s degree from Gallaudet University and a doctorate in audiology and psychology from Northwestern University. Prior to his present role at ICHSR, Frisina served as a clinical and research professor at Northwestern University, organizing director of the hearing and speech center and founding dean of the graduate school at Gallaudet University, founding director of NTID, and senior vice president and secretary of RIT.

NTID is the first and largest technological college in the world for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. NTID, one of eight colleges of RIT, offers educational programs and access and support services to its 1,100 students from around the world who study, live and socialize with 14,000 hearing students on RIT’s Rochester, N.Y., campus.

Web address: www.rit.edu/NTID