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data in a systematic and comprehensive manner.
The NIDCD is establishing an
Epidemiology Branch in FY 1991 to coordinate these efforts.
The NIDCD is continuing research and development of devices to improve the quality of life for hearing-impaired persons. The Institute has made a major
A new investment in improving technology of auditory prostheses for the deaf. interleaved-pulse speech processor, developed and tested by NIDCD supported
investigators, is capable of sampling the speech signal at high rates for use by
patients fitted with multichannel cochlear implants. The processor provides
impressive gains in understanding speech so important to these individuals. cochlear implant program has developed limited clinical trials of auditory
prosthetic devices which have promise for major progress for individuals with
congenital and acquired hearing impairment. Furthermore, the application of
patterned electrical stimulation appears to help maintain the integrity of the
central auditory pathways when the inner ear has been damaged. Another device, the
digital hearing aid, is being studied with great intensity.
NIDCD will continue its initiatives in support of minority-related research and minority scientists. In several NIDCD-supported clinical trials on otitis media, specific attention has been devoted to minority populations. For reasons
not yet clear, there is a higher incidence of otitis media anong minority
Although all clinical trials supported by NIDCD include both males and females, recent findings in diseases that affect women differentially include
Meniere's disease, otosclerosis, and voice tremor.
Currently, NIDCD is supporting balance-related research on the micromechanical
properties of inner ear sensory cells that may explain how these cells detect
forces acting upon them during movement of the head and transform this information
into neural signals.
Basic scientists studying the sense of smell have found an indication that
some forms of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease may be caused by environmental agents that enter the brain through the olfactory nerve.
Recent research results indicate that normal language learning occurs only
when exposure to the language begins early in life for both signed and spoken
In language research on adult aphasia, recent findings suggest that the
immediate administration of Type I gangliosides in troke patients may prevent
NIDCD investigators continue to study the onset and development of stuttering in early childhood. Preliminary results show that girls have a significantly
earlier onset, were more likely to have sudden onset, and show a stronger tendency
for amelioration than boys.
NIDCD intramural scientists have demonstrated that botulinum toxin injections are effective in reversing the effects of muscle reinnervation and restoring the
voice in the treatment of spasmodic dysphonia.
The first three National Multipurpose Research and Training Centers have been
The Centers will stimulate important areas of basic and clinical
research while providing needed research training opportunities. They will increase the numbers and broaden the capabilities of investigators in the
communication sciences. Continuing education programs will disseminate research results to physicians, other health professionals and the public.
As we approach the new century, the age of communication is coming into
maturity. Every aspect of human life is dependent upon skilled communication.
Communication processes and technologies have become increasingly critical to
success in the workplace.
Persons with disabilities have been guaranteed the
rights they have always deserved.
However, when a child is born with a
communication disorder or acquires one later in life, that child faces undeniable
challenges throughout his or her lifetime. Often the challenges are economic. The
earliest possible diagnosis and intervention are critical to improving the quality
of life for individuals with communication disorders.
Research in molecular biology and, specifically, molecular genetics holds great promise for the use of gene therapy in hereditary deafness and other
disorders of human communication that are clearly hereditary.
NIDCD has an ongoing commitment to research that develops strategies and
devices to ensure the best possible outcomes for individuals with communication
To the degree that these individuals are able to improve their
productivity and independence, research will have contributed to major savings and,
more importantly, to the quality of their lives.
It is of the greatest importance
that the age of communication is truly accessible to all Americans.
Mr. Chairman, the FY 1992 budget request is $146,321,000.
I will be pleased
to try to answer any questions you have.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF DR. JAMES B. SNOW, JR.
Borg: March 12, 1932, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Education: B.S., University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, 1946-49;
M.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, 1952-56
Professional History: Intern in Surgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore,
Society Affiliations: Alpha Omega Alpha; American Academy of Facial, Plastic
Senator HARKIN. Thank you very much, Dr. Snow. Millions of Americans have different-there's different kinds of hearing loss, and some are affected with a hearing loss that if you are tested in the booth, the sound chamber—I don't know what you call that, but the testing room.
Dr. Snow. Yes.
Senator HARKIN. Your hearing comes out OK But if you are in a crowded room or something like that and you are talking to someone, you cannot understand them because of the background noise. I have become aware of this, in fact, having a little bit of a problem with it myself.
But I am just wondering what kind of research is being done in this area. What kind of new hearing aids are being developed? I have heard about some, but I don't really have much knowledge about what is being done in that area.
Dr. SNOW. Yes, sir; we all have trouble hearing in background noise but, of course, this becomes very severe, particularly in those who develop the loss of hearing due to aging, the condition known as presbycusis. And then when one tries to solve the problem of loss of hearing with a hearing aid, just the thing that you point
out, the variation among individuals becomes a very major problem.
One of the hopes is that digital hearing aids will help solve this problem, and we are sponsoring research in which hearing aids are being tested both in quiet and in noise, in which there are men's voices in noise, women's voices in noise and each of those in quiet. Our research in hearing aids really is addressing three major approaches: The amplitude compression, the reduction of noise, and the use of binaural hearing aids, each one fitted differently to each ear.
DIGITAL HEARING AIDS
Part of the problem with the development of digital hearing aids has been that one can work out strategies for different listening circumstances for a given individual, but there is not a great deal of application to other individuals. And that has hampered the production of these for widespread use. What has been worked out in the laboratory for a few subjects is applicable to less than 50 percent of the population that needs a hearing aid, and this makes it a very difficult and complex matter. We are emphasizing the study of the amplified speech signal in a hearing aid and the characteristics of the hearing impairment, trying to match those better than has been done in the past.
Senator HARKIN. One last question. I have a number that I will submit to you in writing.
I am informed that the Defense Department has been doing a lot of classified funding of research and development in certain kinds of equipment, such as eavesdropping equipment, that if available to those working on improving the quality of hearing aids, could lead to some dramatic breakthroughs in quality and sophistication of hearing aids. In other words, the Federal Government has already done some research in another branch on this.
Have you had any discussions with the Department of Defense on this? Are you aware of this?
Dr. SNOW. No; we have not. We are developing the interagency coordinating committee that was authorized by the legislation so that we can be aware as much as possible of what other Government agencies are doing in deafness and other communication disorders. I do not know anything about the classified work.
Senator HARKIN. I also serve on the Armed Services Appropriations Subcommittee, Defense Appropriations. And I am going to get my staff to look into that and try to coordinate with our staff here and with you, and let's see if we can't get you the appropriate classification, whatever you need to look at this. OK?
Dr. SNOW. Yes, sir.
Senator HARKIN. I am not certain that I am totally aware of it. I have been told about it. I don't have a firsthand knowledge of it myself, but I would like to have you take a look at it and see if there is anything there.
Dr. SNOW. I would be very pleased to do so.
QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY THE SUBCOMMITTEE Senator HARKIN. Thank you very much. There will be some additional questions which will be submitted for your response in the record.
[The following questions were not asked at the hearing, but were submitted to the Institute for response subsequent to the hearing:)