Audiology in Brief Aculight Corporation, which applies laser technologies to national defense, aerospace, and medical applications, has been awarded a new contract under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. As part of the program, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) $750,000 Phase II award will fund a joint effort with Northwestern ... News in Brief
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News in Brief  |   December 01, 2007
Audiology in Brief
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Hearing Disorders / Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / News in Brief
News in Brief   |   December 01, 2007
Audiology in Brief
The ASHA Leader, December 2007, Vol. 12, 5. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB.12172007.5
The ASHA Leader, December 2007, Vol. 12, 5. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB.12172007.5
Aculight to Develop Optical Cochlear Implant
Aculight Corporation, which applies laser technologies to national defense, aerospace, and medical applications, has been awarded a new contract under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. As part of the program, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) $750,000 Phase II award will fund a joint effort with Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, to develop an optical cochlear implant (OCI) that can be used in research studies at Northwestern prior to developing a model for clinical applications.
In current cochlear implants, the electrical signals spread because of the body’s wet, salty composition, making stimulation of discrete nerve populations in the cochlea challenging. In the future, OCIs could stimulate auditory nerve fibers with greater precision because optical pulses in different places on the nerve wouldn’t interfere with one another. As a result, users could experience a level of hearing unachievable with current technologyСallowing users more detailed pitch perception needed to listen to subtle tones and nuances in music or distinguish a single voice in a noisy room. In addition, OCIs can complement residual hearing, so implants wouldn’t need to be restricted to individuals with severe or profound hearing loss, as they are today.
SBIR is a set-aside program in which federal agencies are required to set aside part of their extramural budgets to award funds on a competitive basis to small businesses to engage in research and development that has the potential for commercialization. NIH is one of 11 participating federal agencies in the SBIR program, which has awarded more than $12 billion to date. For more information about OCIs, visit Aculight’s Web site.
Hearing Loss and von Hippel-Lindau Disease
Patients with von Hippel-Lindau disease, a genetic disorder, may experience sudden hearing loss because of a tumor-associated hemorrhage in the inner ear, according to a study in the July 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 298, No. 1, pp. 41–48).
Endolymphatic sac tumors (ELSTs) of the inner ear occur sporadically but may be associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease, which is characterized by the development of blood vessel tumors in the retina of the eye and in the brain as well as lesions and cysts in other parts of the body.
To better understand the mechanisms underlying hearing loss in patients with ELSTs, John A. Butman and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health examined clinical findings, audiologic data, magnetic resonance imaging, and computed tomography imaging studies to identify 35 patients with von Hippel-Lindau disease with ESLTs in 38 ears.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurred in 31 of these patients (89%) or 34 of the affected ears and was frequently moderate or profound. Other less-frequent findings included aural fullness, aural pain, facial nerve weakness, and a combination of aural pain and facial nerve weakness. Intralabyrinthine hemorrhage was found in 11 of 14 ears with sudden SNHL but occurred in none of the 17 ears with gradual SNHL or normal hearing.
The study suggests that three distinct mechanisms (either alone or in combination) may account for the audiovestibular difficulty associated with ELSTs: direct invasion of the otic capsule by tumor, intralabyrinthine hemorrhage, and endolymphatic hydrops. Since significant audiovestibular dysfunction unrelated to tumor size, including deafness, can occur suddenly, early surgical intervention may be warranted. For an open access abstract, visit the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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December 2007
Volume 12, Issue 17