GN ReSound Designs Honored with Awards
Copenhagen, Denmark — GN ReSound’s newest product ReSoundAIR™ is receiving international acclaim, capturing the French design prize Janus 2003 (logo shown at left), The Danish Design Prize 2003, and the MCA multimedia award for training material.

GN ReSound launched ReSoundAIR in the summer of 2003. The innovative technological features, and successful first fit are the core benefits for hearing healthcare professionals. “Market research clearly shows that there is a large group of people in the 45-65 age group suffering from mild or high-frequency hearing loss,” says Jesper Mailind, CEO of the GN ReSound Group. “ReSoundAIR is designed for this specific target audience, and we hope to be able to expand the market by fulfilling the needs of this particular target group. So, this is the right product launched at the right time."

ReSoundAIR digital hearing instruments are specifically designed to provide optimum gain, stability and wearer comfort to those with high-frequency hearing loss. The instrument incorporates the company’s ComforTec‘ technology, a set of optimized hardware and software features for high-frequency fittings. ComforTec is said to resolve common wearer frustrations with this type of fitting, such as occlusion, over-amplification of lower frequency sounds, and excessive feedback. w


First Use of PABI Brainstem Implant Reported
Los Angeles– On January 16, physicians at the House Ear Clinic successfully implanted the first two patients with a Penetrating Electrode Auditory Brainstem Implant (PABI), the culmination of a 15-year effort by scientists, engineers, and physicians of the House Ear Institute (HEI) in Los Angeles and the Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI) in Pasadena. The prosthetic device, which is a product of Cochlear Limited, is currently in clinical trials.

 The Penetrating Electrode Auditory Brainstem implant was recently implanted in two patients.

The PABI is based on cochlear implant technology, but extends the utility to stimulating the hearing portions of the brain to restore some degree of hearing function to people deafened by bilateral tumors on their hearing and balance nerves (vestibular schwannomas). The PABI is a modified version of the existing Auditory Brainstem Implant (ABI) with the addition of an assembly of microelectrodes, designed to penetrate into the auditory portion of the brainstem (cochlear nucleus) and send sound signals to the brain.

Like the ABI, the PABI is designed for patients suffering from Neurofibromatosis Type II (NF2), a hereditary disease that can cause profound hearing loss through the growth of bilateral tumors on the vestibular nerves. Because of the location of these tumors, their removal typically necessitates severing the auditory nerve. In these cases, a cochlear implant cannot be used because the auditory nerve is not able to carry signals from the cochlea to the cochlear nucleus in the brainstem. Instead, the ABI or PABI applies a processed electrical signal directly to the auditory portion of the brainstem. Recipients of the existing surface-electrode ABI do not generally receive the level of benefit afforded to cochlear implant recipients because the surface electrodes do not make selective contact with the different pitch regions of the cochlear nucleus. The new PABI is designed to provide pitch-selective stimulation by inserting penetrating microelectrodes directly into the different pitch regions of the auditory brainstem.

“The PABI, like the ABI, offers patients…an alternative to profound bilateral deafness,” says Derald E. Brackmann, MD, of HEI. “Extensive research by our Institute scientists and their collaborators to create this new PABI provides even more hearing benefits and hope to our patients.”

The ABI, which was developed at the House Ear Institute (HEI) over two decades of research, was approved by the FDA in 2000 and has been implanted in more than 300 people worldwide. The new electrode array for the PABI was developed in close collaboration between research scientists and engineers at HEI and HMRI in the US and Cochlear Limited in Australia, with funding from the National Institutes of Health. For the past 12 years, these researchers have developed and tested the PABI to ensure the safety of the device for clinical use. The penetrating electrodes, which are surgically implanted following removal of a tumor, were designed and manufactured to safely stimulate the neurons in the brainstem. Patients who receive implantation by physicians of the House Ear Clinic (HEC) will be evaluated in the Department of Auditory Implants and Perception at HEI, where the research staff has extensive experience working with profoundly deaf patients using cochlear implants and ABIs.

"We anticipate that our first PABI patients may gain improved hearing benefits from the microstimulation of the brainstem with the new penetrating electrode array as compared to those who receive stimulation via the surface-electrode of the existing ABI,” says Bob Shannon, PhD, of HEI. “We hope that speech comprehension will be closer to that experienced by multi-channel cochlear implant users.”

“The PABI is the first clinical application of microelectrode technology,” says Doug McCreery, PhD, of HMRI. “The HMRI team is proud to have collaborated with HEI, HEC, and Cochlear Limited on this important project by developing the new penetrating electrodes and array, insertion instrument and safety testing with support from the NIH.”


 Extreme Makeover Focuses on Hearing Aids
Baton Rouge, La — In January, the ABC prime-time television show, Extreme Makeover, featured a segment that included a woman who obtained advanced digital power hearing aids, and the segment largely served as a promotion for the impact that advanced hearing aids and hearing care services can have on a person’s quality of life.

Cynthia Lunceford, of Baton Rouge, La, a mother of three who was born with congenital hearing loss, was featured on the show. Through the years, she compensated for her hearing loss by using two older mismatched hearing aids (which appear to be BTEs without custom earmolds) and by becoming a “master lip reader” as the show reports; however, as she got older her sight began to deteriorate and her lipreading skills became less effective. She was given a makeover by the program involving eye surgery, dental and cosmetic surgery, and she received two of the first Widex Senso Diva power hearing aids available in the US. Although the other aspects of her “extreme makeover” are covered, it is the impact that hearing again on her quality of life that takes center stage and evokes the greatest emotional response from her.

During the show, Lunceford is shown being evaluated by doctors and audiologists at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles, who explain the various options available to her, including custom earmolds for her current hearing aids, new power hearing aids, and cochlear implants. The first and last of these options are essentially ruled out through diagnostic testing, as viewers see Lunceford going through the standard battery of audiological tests. The hearing care professionals are shown counseling her, explaining that she has a 90% hearing impairment (73-89 dB HL), and an audiologist is shown taking her ear impressions.

Once the new digital power aids are fitted, a dramatic transformation is seen in Lunceford. Viewers see that she can respond to speakers in back of her, and she tearfully enjoys music as she listens to a special private concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.


Atlantic City 2004 Convention Takes On Best Practices Protocol
Atlantic City, NJ — The 25th Annual Atlantic City Convention, held March 14-16 at Caesars Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, will examine a best practices protocol based on scientific inquiry and evidence. Among the speakers and presentations at the conference will be Sergei Kochkin, PhD, who will detail why best practices standards are critical to improving customer satisfaction; Robert Sweetow, PhD, who will discuss options on how to counsel patients from first contact to long-term professional relationships; Michael Valente, PhD, who will give the Leitman Memorial Lecture on verification and validation of hearing instruments; and Gustav Mueller, PhD, who will speak on differentiating available amplification technology for an optimum fit. Additionally, a panel discussion “Grand Rounds” will feature experts’ opinions on best practice protocols.

The conference holds great pertinence to today’s dispensing professionals. Increasingly, third-party payers require evidence of benefit of treatment. Only a systematic, evidence-based approach to hearing aid selection and fitting can provide a mechanism for the documentation of benefit and improvement as a direct result of hearing aid use.

The convention is sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Hearing Health Professionals. All hearing care professionals and disciplines are welcome to attend. CEUs from ASHA (1.3) and IIHIS (13) are offered. For more information, contact Convention Chair Paul F. Kennedy at 908-722-7202, or visit the organization’s Web site at www.njahhp.org


 Hearing Scientist Poul Eric Lyregaard Dies
Hellerup, Denmark — Poul Erik Lyregaard, the driving force behind the establishment of Oticon’s esteemed Eriksholm Research Center, died in December at age 61. Lyregaard earned international recognition for his extensive work and research and is credited with profoundly influencing the way hearing aids are fit today.

In addition to publishing over 65 scientific reports and analyses, Lyregaard initiated a number of important projects in cooperation with other leading hearing aid manufacturers during his tenure as head of development for Oticon. These cooperative ventures included the Odin project—a five-year research project carried out jointly by GN ReSound, Widex, and Oticon—and the recently established Center for Applied Hearing Research at the Technical University of Denmark. In 1983, Lyregaard and Geary McCandless published the POGO (prescription of gain/output) fitting formula which has been widely used by dispensing professionals. He also served as chairman for the working group for the “Provisional head and torso simulator for acoustic measurements on air conduction hearing aids” (IEC 959, 1990).

Lyregaard, who joined Oticon in 1976, was responsible for the generation of the audiological knowledge and background for several of Oticon’s most successful hearing aids, including MultiFocus, reportedly the world’s first hearing aid with an automatic volume control. His commitment to the highest standards of ethics and honesty helped to shape the Eriksholm Research Center into a world-class resource for knowledge-sharing among hearing care researchers and practitioners alike. Using his links to universities and other academic organizations around the world, he helped to ensure that the knowledge attained at Eriksholm benefited the entire industry. Lyregaard was also instrumental in establishing Oticon’s Eriksholm Workshops, international gatherings where researchers meet to prepare consensus reports on special audiological topics.

“Poul Erik is an outstanding example of the incredible contributions made by researchers in the fields of audiology and hearing aid technology,” says Mikael Worning, president of Oticon. “His many contributions to improving the world of hearing-impaired people continue to benefit hearing care professionals and their clients throughout the world.”

“Poul Erik was a modest man who never had any wish to promote himself,” says Claus Elberling, general manager of research for the Eriksholm Research Center. “His experience and knowledge served as inspiration and background for many of the scientific and development projects within Oticon.”

In recent years, Lyregaard played an important role as a mentor for young engineers working on the development of new hearing aids. In honor of Lyregaard, Oticon will introduce a new award category to the 2004 Oticon Focus on People Awards to recognize outstanding researchers whose work has contributed to changing the perception of what it means to have a hearing loss. Call for nominations for the 2004 awards program will begin in the spring.


 Correction
In the January 2004 HR article about the ADA convention, a mistake was made in identifying a photo. In the photo that appeared on p. 62, former ADA President Jim McDonald is shown receiving recognition for his steadfast work on behalf of the Academy from ADA President-elect Craig Johnson. The erroneous photo caption stated that the picture shows Kenneth Lowder, the recipient of the first ADA Leo Doerfler Award. The correct photo of Kenneth Lowder with ADA President Cynthia Ellison is shown here. Also, in the discussion of the ADA mentoring program, HR should have mentioned that the AFA provided $25,000 to cover all the travel expenses of students attending the convention.