December 14, 2007

CHICAGO — As winter cold plagued the Midwest in the first week in December (December 6-8), the “Fourth International Phonak Pediatric Conference: A Sound Foundation Through Early Amplification” brought audiologists from all over the world to learn about the latest developments in pediatric amplification. Presenters offered a perspective on the services provided to infants based upon the influx of newborn hearing screenings, and how the effects of these services may need adjustments as more is learned about this young population that will, in a short number of years, become adolescents.

With a warm welcome, Richard Seewald, PhD, of the University of Western Ontario and John Bamford, PhD, of the University of Manchester (UK), co-chairs of the Conference Steering Committee, established an enthusiastic energy for over 540 attendees and 24 presenters. Mary Pat Moeller of the Boys Town National Research Hospital presented the keynote address. She addressed one of the goals of early intervention, to achieve communication, and discussed how children with hearing loss need to receive specific intervention strategies and that more work needs to be done on the consistency of intervention for these children.  

The latest research into pediatric hearing loss was the highlight of this conference that included Anu Sharma of the University of Colorado, who spoke about the use of evoked potentials to measure auditory processing in the brain and the possible predicted sensitive periods for cochlear implantation. Other research included Karen Gordon of the University of Toronto and her discussion about the development of the nervous system and how sensitive periods for auditory processing may fall at different times throughout the brainstem and cortex.

Attendees had an opportunity to ask questions of researchers from all over the world during the research poster presentation. Fifty studies were represented, with topics ranging from sign language to masking to genetics. Several longitudinal studies, including those of Teresa Ching  of the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) in Sydney, Australia, and Adrian Davis of the University of Manchester and NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Program, brought to light two sides of an issue that plagues many researchers. Data suggests the need for longitudinal studies but also the immediate need for the results of these studies.

Other less controversial topics included “Assessment and Management of Auditory Processing Disorders” presented by Prudence Allen of the University of Western Ontario and Sharon Cameron of the NAL. “Current Issues and Developments in Amplification” were covered by Catherine Palmer, PhD,  of the University of Pittsburgh and the Eye and Ear Institute, Kevin Munro, PhD, of the University of Manchester (UK), Stefan Launer, PhD, of Phonak AG (Switzerland), Susan Scollie, PhD, of the University of Western Ontario, Todd Ricketts, PhD, of Vanderbilt University, and Patricia Stelmachowicz, PhD, of Boys Town National Research Hospital.

This thought provoking and educational conference ended with a look toward the future as Anne Marie Tharpe, PhD, of Vanderbilt University, Dawna Lewis, PhD, of Boys Town National Research Hospital, and Carolyne Edwards, MCISc, MBA, of Gestalt Institute of Toronto discussed the transitions into adolescence. Judith Gravel, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine brought the conference full circle as she further discussed the need for future visions and goals for research into pediatric hearing loss.

At the end of these fast paced three days, Richard Seewald and John Bamford closed the conference with thoughts and ideas that will follow all attendees as they travel home with the new knowledge that they obtained and a strong anticipation for the next pediatric conference.

—Submitted by HR Contributing Writer Beth Ann Jacques, AuD student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.