Audiology in Brief University of Washington researchers are working to ensure that cell phone communication through American Sign Language (ASL) becomes a reality in the United States. Today’s cell-phone PDAs have larger screens and photo/video capture, so people who use ASL could use these technologies. The main obstacles, however, are the low ... News in Brief
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News in Brief  |   March 01, 2009
Audiology in Brief
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Hearing Disorders / News in Brief
News in Brief   |   March 01, 2009
Audiology in Brief
The ASHA Leader, March 2009, Vol. 14, 5. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB.14032009.5
The ASHA Leader, March 2009, Vol. 14, 5. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB.14032009.5
Sign Language on Cell Phones
University of Washington researchers are working to ensure that cell phone communication through American Sign Language (ASL) becomes a reality in the United States.
Today’s cell-phone PDAs have larger screens and photo/video capture, so people who use ASL could use these technologies. The main obstacles, however, are the low data-transmission rates on U.S. cellular networks and limited processing power on mobile devices. These obstacles have prevented real-time video transmission with sufficient frames per second to transmit ASL. In other countries, higher bandwidth on cellular networks allows for use of sign language.
Supported mainly by grants from the National Science Foundation, the researchers plan to conduct field studies on a new device, called MobileASL, this year. The device employs video-compression technology that devotes more “bits” to what is important in sign language—the face and hands—while allocating fewer bits to the rest of the image. During eye-tracking studies, researchers found that signers spend most of their time focused on the other person’s face and take in the hands peripherally. For more information about the project, visit the MobileASL Web site.
Gene Linked to Presbycusis
A gene is believed to put people at risk for presbycusis, according to a groundbreaking study by a collaborative group of researchers.
The study was conducted by a research team at the House Ear Institute (HEI) in Los Angeles, the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Santa Clara, Calif., and the University of Antwerp in Belgium. The researchers discovered a common variant in GRM7, the gene that encodes metabotropic glutamate receptor type 7. The team believes this gene may be associated with susceptibility to glutamate excitotoxicity and hearing loss. Overexpression of glutamate can cause damage to the inner and outer hair cells in the inner ear leading to age-related hearing loss.
The study participants were Caucasians ages 53–67 from eight centers in six nations throughout Europe. The team of investigators analyzed participants’ samples and identified genetic risks. In the lab, the research team used AffymetrixGeneChip® Human Mapping 500K to score markers across the entire genome of more than 2,000 samples. To read an abstract of the study, visit the Oxford Journals’ Web site.
Mandatory Newborn Screening in Germany
On Jan. 1, 2009, newborn hearing screening became mandatory in every neonatal ward in Germany, with the cost covered by public health insurance. The protocol uses otoacoustic emissions (OAE) screening, followed by auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing if no emissions are detected. Only one out of 10 children was identified with hearing loss after ABR testing. The Institute of Quality and Economics in Health Care, part of the Health Ministry in Berlin, questions the benefits and reliability of OAE screenings, stating that too often the screenings turn out to be false-positives and do not result in clear indications for further treatment. But the institute noted that OAE screenings lead to early detection of hearing loss—within days after birth—which was not possible in the past. Visit the Audio Infos Web site and search the archives for the announcement.
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March 2009
Volume 14, Issue 3