photoMarion Downs congratulates Harry Levitt on his AAS Lifetime Achievement Award. Also receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award this year was Daniel Ling.

If you’re looking for a conference that stands clear of the often-bitter conflicts between the hearing health care disciplines, offers a wide array of hearing-related topics ranging from audiological and pharmacologic issues to electroacoustics, and conducts business in an atmosphere of mutual respect and learning, perhaps the American Auditory Society’s (AAS) Annual Scientific Meeting is one event to place on your calendar. In March, over 200 attendees—including hearing care professionals, researchers, scientists and engineers from a dozen countries—converged on Scottsdale, Arizona, for three days of seminars, presentations and special events.

“This was our best meeting yet,” says Wayne Staab, AAS secretary and one of the principle organizers of the conference. “I think one of the nice things about the AAS Scientific Meeting is that there is something for everyone. There is a very broad range of topics from some of the leading researchers in hearing science. Also, for the first time, we saw a number of graduate students make their way to the conference, which was refreshing to see, and I think they particularly enjoyed the technical updates.”

This year’s conference included four special sessions, 16 manufacturer technology presentations and series of special 20-minute platform presentations in modules that included auditory processing in children, diagnostic audiology, speech perception, hearing aid technology, cochlear implants, evaluation and outcomes, hearing science and vestibular disorders. In total over 70 presentations were offered.

Special Sessions
Audiological Manifestations of Neurological Disorders:
Frank Musiek of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center addressed prevalent theories about damage to the central auditory nervous system (CANS) and its effect on hearing. Musiek showed how severe damage to the CANS can influence the results of pure-tone threshold testing, speech recognition and auditory discrimination even when there is normal peripheral hearing. He presented research findings and a number of case studies that show how patients can recover, in varying degrees, some of their hearing through audiological treatment. Additionally, he presented a case study in which one patient recovered from complete central deafness.

Tales from the Crypt: Control of Mucosal Proliferation and Recovery in Otitis Media: Allen Ryan and colleagues at the Univ. of California at San Diego have been researching the mechanics of otitis media (OM), particularly relative to the hyperplasia (profusion of cells and cell death) that occurs. The cells of the middle ear mucosal epithelium, subepithelial stroma and vasculature appear to grow in reaction to a number of environmental factors. Ryan’s team has identified a number of these growth factors, identified several of the cells’ signal pathways and identified signaling pathways leading to the occurrence of apoptosis during mucosal recovery from OM. These findings may be utilized in future drug treatments for the treatment of OM.

Cost Utility: A New Way of Measuring Audiology Outcomes: Harvey Abrams and Theresa Hnath-Chisolm of the VA Medical Center in Tampa, FL, presented information on cost-utility measures and why these measures are important to health care policy makers, as well as to the future of hearing health care. While most hearing care professionals are familiar with many forms of outcome measurements, Abrams and Hnath-Chisholm contend that health-related quality of life assessments and cost-utility measurements, which are rarely used in hearing health care, could loom large for the future acceptance of hearing services for third-party reimbursement. They discussed techniques such as visual analog scales, time trade-off and standard gamble, which can be used to analyze the “pay-off” for audiological treatment (and particularly for amplification) of hearing loss.

Management of Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Using a Multidisciplinary Chronic Pain Model: Robin Hamill-Ruth of the Univ. of Virginia Health System and Roger Ruth of the Univ. of Virginia and James Madison Univ. detailed treatment options for patients who suffer from tinnitus and hyperacusis. Because those suffering from tinnitus, hyperacusis and chronic pain share many similarities, the presenters contend that emotional and psychosocial considerations, along with unique treatment options, should be considered to fight the onset of co-occurring ailments like depression, anxiety and problems with friends and family. They stress a multidisciplinary approach that includes therapies, noise generators for neural retraining, education on sleep and hearing hygiene, and stress and depression management counseling.

AAS Lifetime Honorees

1991    Elmer Carlson
1992    Aram Glorig
1992    John Boardley
1993    Richard Silverman
1994    Kenneth Berger
1995    Edgar Villchur
1996    David Green
1998    Howard House
1999    Robert Bilger
1999    David Pascoe
2000    William House
2001    Harry Levitt
2001    Daniel Ling

Awards and Special Honors
The annual Carhart Memorial Lecture, in honor of the late Raymond Carhart, was presented by Susan Jerger on the topic “Perceiving and Remembering Speech.” Beyond being honored for her research and her career as an author and educator, Jerger was also thanked by AAS for her 10 years as editor-in-chief of Ear and Hearing, a post she leaves this year.

Jerger presented Ear and Hearing’s Editor’s Awards to Yvonne Sininger of the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles and Michael Gorga of Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha. Both have authored important research articles related to newborn hearing screening and diagnostics.

Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented by AAS President Brenda Ryals to Harry Levitt of the Lexington Center in New York City for his numerous contributions to hearing science and aural rehabilitation, and Daniel Ling of McGill Univ. for his years of commitment to the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Additionally, special recognition was given to the life achievements of the late Samuel Lybarger, one of the hearing care field’s most prominent engineers, educators and industry leaders of the 20th century, who died in November.

The 2002 Scientific Meeting of the American Auditory Society will be held on March 14-16 at the Scottsdale Sunspree Hotel. For more information, contact: AAS, 512 East Canterbury Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85022; email: [email protected]; website: www.amauditorysoc.org.

Acknowledgements
The Hearing Review extends its thanks to AAS secretary Wayne J. Staab for his assistance with this article and Paul J. Willoughby, Portland, OR, for the photos used in this article.