Highlights from Phonak’s Fourth European Conference on Pediatric Amplification

Over 350 hearing care professionals and ENT specialists from more than 40 countries attended Phonak’s Fourth European Conference on Pediatric Amplification. Highlights from the Istanbul conference included presentations on the benefits of early implantation of pediatric cochlear implants and new hearing aid fitting methods for infants and children.

Andrea Bohnert

Andrea Bohnert

The conference started with a presentation from neuroscientist Anu Sharma, PhD, from the University of Colorado, who showed that only an implantation of a cochlear implant in the first 3.5 years of life can avoid a reorganization of the central auditory pathways.

A lack of auditory stimulation during this sensitive period may result in a disconnection between areas of the brain that connect sound with meaning. Furthermore, without auditory stimulation, the region of the brain used for hearing may be reallocated to other senses, such as sight, which results in the children having more difficulty learning oral language.

Sharma also presented the results of a study focused on children with auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder, which affects 10% to 15% of children with sensorineural hearing loss. She emphasized that early intervention with this population is crucial in facilitating optimal speech and language outcomes.

Another speaker at the conference was Harvey Dillon, PhD, from the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) in Sydney, Australia, who spoke about the challenges of fitting infants and young children. Unlike adults, children are too young to articulate feedback to help fine-tune the hearing instrument. Dillon showed how cortical response measurements to speech sounds are already routinely used in Australia to verify audibility of aided speech or to support a decision for cochlear implantation, especially for children with multiple disabilities.

Andrea Bohnert, MTA, (pictured) of the University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany, also spoke about infants and children who have a high frequency hearing loss and experience great difficulty in identifying speech cues, such as /s/, /sh/, and /f/. This affects speech and language development and communication in their daily environment. Bohnert demonstrated how non-linear frequency compression (NLFC) can significantly improve speech intelligibility in children and reiterated that the output bandwidth of conventional hearing instruments is often not broad enough to make these sounds audible. The case studies presented showed that children were more satisfied with NLFC compared to conventional amplification. Bohnert also highlighted a pediatric fitting protocol for NLFC.

The 2-day event concluded with an encouraging look back at pediatric audiology by Anne Marie Tharpe, PhD, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Videos of children treated at the center in 1987 and today were played to demonstrate how far pediatric audiology has come in allowing hearing-impaired children to develop hearing and speaking abilities similar to their normal-hearing peers.

The papers for these and other presentations are available for download on Phonak’s Web site. Phonak’s next conference on new developments in adult hearing care and FM systems will take place on December 2-5 in Las Vegas.

Boycott Internet Hearing Aid Sales Web Site Changes Name

Although its mission remains the same, the Web site boycottinternethearingaidsales.com has changed its name to baninternethearingaidsales.com. According to Edward Keller, one of the founders of the Web site, the name change better reflects its objectives and those who support the endeavor. “We want to eliminate the sale of hearing aids over the Internet,” says a press statement issued by the group. “We need to build on the great grass-roots work that has already occurred. Our industry’s fight against online hearing healthcare has convinced Best Buy to take hearing aids off their website!”

Baninternethearingaidsales.com now features information on how to voice concerns regarding Internet hearing loss diagnosis and hearing aid sales to state Attorneys General and the Department of Health, as well as members of Congress. “It is through a united industry-led effort that we will halt this affront to the long-standing quality hearing healthcare delivery system that millions of people have come to rely on,” says the statement. Sample letters for sending to a specific state’s Department of Health and Congressional representatives can be obtained at www.baninternethearingaidsales.com/Act-Now.

The Web site was started in November 2010 by Keller, who is also founder and president of EarQ Group, and “hearing healthcare professionals who believe that the growing trend of Internet sales is an industry-wide crisis.” The Web site currently has more than 2,500 members.

BHI and Dr Richard Tyler Publish eGuide for Tinnitus Patients

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) has published Your Guide to Tinnitus, by Richard Tyler, PhD, of the University of Iowa. The free downloadable eGuide is BHI’s seventh consumer-oriented hearing care guide.

According to BHI’s latest MarkeTrak publication, featured in the November 2011 Hearing Review, there are 30 million people with persistent tinnitus in the United States. The report also reveals that at least 13 million of those with persistent tinnitus are not even aware that they have hearing loss.

The 14-page eGuide is written for people suffering from tinnitus and seeking professional help. The subjects covered include: definition of tinnitus; classification of tinnitus; impact of tinnitus; treatment efficacy (including recent findings on the mitigating impact of hearing aids on tinnitus as detailed in the November HR); and helpful hints for managing tinnitus.

Dr Tyler is the editor of three books on tinnitus, including The Consumer Handbook on Tinnitus from Auricle Ink Publishers (www.hearingproblems.com). A December 2008 podcast featuring Dr Tyler and the BHI’s Sergei Kochkin, PhD, on the subject of tinnitus and hearing aids is offered at HR Online at www.hearingreview.com/podcast/files/ST20081218.asp.