Los Angeles — The House Ear Institute Board of Trustees has officially announced that it is changing its name to House Research Institute (HRI). The nonprofit organization says that the change to “Research” more accurately reflects its expanding mission.

James Boswell, chief executive officer of HRI explained in the press statement, "Although our focus is still the ear, we are finding more and more that hearing dysfunction often goes beyond the ear. While we remain at the cutting-edge with regard to development of hearing prosthetics like the cochlear implant and the auditory brainstem implant, some of our most innovative science is in the areas of genetics, regeneration, prescription drug-induced hearing loss, neural tumors, and autism."

In the last several years, research has expanded beyond the institute’s traditional study focus where hearing loss is the primary diagnosis. For example, medications to treat HIV/AIDS, cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis and cancer can be ototoxic sometimes damaging the sensorineural hair cells in the inner ear resulting in permanent hearing loss or even deafness to the patient.

"The name change removes limitations that researchers often encounter when applying for grants and opens opportunities for development staff to approach an expanded donor base," added Daniel Graham, executive vice president of development at House Research Institute.

One example is the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation that recently renewed funding for an HRI research project that seeks to identify a possible therapeutic treatment that could protect a patient’s sensorineural hair cells from the ototoxic side effects of antiretroviral medications.

Another example is the Bruce Ford Bundy and Anne Smith Bundy Foundation that is funding a HRI research project to study a gene associated with autism that may play a role in causing deafness. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 110 children in the United States has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). When compared to the general population, a diagnosis of ASD doubles for children with hearing loss.

While these two projects are representative of how HRI’s research is expanding to related areas, the organization says that its primary focus will remain hearing and hearing related disorders.

SOURCE: House Research Institute