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$3.7M grant advances hearing loss research

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicable Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, recently awarded the Health System's Kresge Hearing Research Institute (KHRI) with a five-year, $3.7 million research grant.

The grant will help expand and promote new research related to hearing loss, bringing research findings to patients experiencing genetic or noise-induced hearing impairment sooner.

By establishing a core research center within Kresgewhich is in the Department of Otolaryngologythe grant will give all U-M researchers investigating hearing loss the opportunity to utilize state-of-the-art technology and methodology that will help further advance their research.

The new research center will allow scientists to test new protective treatments and continue to investigate the causes of certain forms of genetic and noise-induced hearing loss on a more sophisticated level, says Jochen Schacht, director of KHRI.

"Our researchers will be able to work more efficiently and at a more refined level because of this grant," says Schacht, who is the principal investigator for the NIDCD grant. "It provides us with the ways and means to really advance the hearing research field at large, in addition to translating our research to humans sooner."

Researchers studying genetic hearing loss in mice, for example, will be able to use these advanced methods to assess the hearing capabilities and the anatomy of the inner ear in an animal. Once established, the capabilities of the new research center will bring those findings up to a molecular level by revealing the presence or absence of genes and certain proteins in the ear that may contribute to hearing loss.

In addition, the grant will allow researchers to develop and maintain computer and electrical support that is essential to carrying out their work.

In the United States, as many as 30 percent of adults, 65 and older, and about 50 percent of Americans older than 75 have some degree of hearing impairment.

According to Schacht, noise-induced hearing loss is the No. 1 cause of hearing impairment in the country, which is why researchers at Kresge are working to develop new protective treatments.

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