Nottingham hearing loss expert joins new global Commission | Latest news

Nottingham hearing loss expert joins new global Commission

Nottingham’s Professor Gerard O'Donoghue, one of the country’s leading researchers and clinicians in cochlear implantation, is to join a new global commission set up by the Lancet journal.

Professor O'Donoghue is one of a team of clinicians at the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) that is leading research into hearing loss in the UK. The Lancet Commission will explore means of addressing the growing global burden of hearing loss as part of a collaboration with the World Health Organisation.

Professor O'Donoghue is one of the first Commissioners who have been invited to take part. The Commission will include international experts from a wide range of disciplines including otology, public health, neuroscience, audiology, engineering and health economics. 

The Nottingham BRC, which is hosted by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) in partnership with the University of Nottingham, is at the forefront of translational research into hearing sciences in the UK. Clinicians in Nottingham have pioneered the development of cochlear implantation in both adults and children since the early 1970s and Professor O’Donoghue who is Honorary Professor of Otology and Neurotology at the University of Nottingham and Consultant Neuro-Otologist at NUH, was instrumental in establishing the hearing research programme which now forms one the six research themes being undertaken at the Nottingham BRC.

Professor O’Donoghue, said: “While deafness has long been understood as a condition defined by the inability to hear, there is growing awareness of its pernicious effects on health and wellbeing. In early childhood, hearing deprivation profoundly affects brain development, most notably in the learning spoken language and sensory processing more generally; this greatly impacts on educational attainment, literacy, employment opportunity and psycho-social adjustment in adulthood.”

Almost half a billion people world-wide experience hearing loss and this figure is set to rise to around 900 million by 2050. In the UK, around 11 million people live with hearing loss and around 6 million people have tinnitus (ringing or other noises in the ears). Hearing-related conditions can affect every aspect of someone’s personal, social and working lives. For example, untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of developing other health conditions, including dementia. Deafness in older people can be socially isolating and is associated with the risk of developing other significant health conditions. Researchers believe that correction of hearing loss in mid-life could reduce the risk of dementia by as much as 9%.

Dr Padraig Kitterick, Hearing Theme Lead for the Nottingham BRC, added: “We are delighted to contribute to the work of the new Commission.  The NIHR Nottingham BRC is answering some of the fundamental questions about the mechanisms of hearing conditions, developing and identifying the most effective treatments.”

The work of the Commission, which will be led by the Duke Global Health Institute in the USA will present its recommendations in 2020.

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