Press release: Inaugural Deafness Research UK conference on paediatric audiology

Inaugural Deafness Research UK conference on paediatric audiology

Event to mark National Knowledge Week for Hearing 2009

Leading national charity Deafness Research UK is organising a groundbreaking children’s audiology forum on Monday 16 March. ‘Recent advances in paediatric audiology (RAPA): The challenges in taking research into practice’ will be held at the New Connaught Rooms and, is supported this year by an educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline. The event – part of National Knowledge Week for Hearing 2009 – is aimed at audiologists, researchers and anyone with an interest in new developments and the latest thinking in paediatric audiology.

It is hoped that the RAPA conference will become an annual event that will help identify key areas of future research. This first meeting will focus on the four major topics of permanent deafness, otitis media, tinnitus and balance problems in children.  Additional support of the first RAPA conference is being provided by Oticon.

Dr Anne Mackie, Director of National Screening Programmes for the National Screening Committee will introduce the meeting and chair the first session. Professor Adrian Davis OBE, Director of the NHS Newborn Hearing Screening Programme and one of the key speakers at the meeting will give a talk on ‘The global impact of auditory problems in children.’

Professor Davis said: “Audiological problems probably affect one in three adults (in terms of hearing, tinnitus and balance) and probably account for over 5% of the burden of disease. An estimate is that the real financial cost of these problems is close to 2% of GDP, which is a significant financial liability for the country. No such data exists for children; if we can put in place the mechanisms to make sure we can acquire the data, we will then know the scale of the problem and be able to start better addressing children’s audiology issues through the appropriate research programmes.”

Ade Deane-Pratt, Research Communications Manager for Deafness Research UK, said: “In bringing together eminent professionals from the worlds of audiology and research, we hope to provide a regular forum for the advancement of scientific understanding in children’s deafness, tinnitus and balance. We expect the conference to deliver tangible conclusions that will help steer medical research into paediatric audiology in the future.”

In the UK there are substantial problems with hearing and deafness from birth in about 1 per 1000 children, and the impact of hearing problems is much wider than that figure would suggest. There are another 1 per 1000 who may have unilateral deafness and others who have more mild problems but which are nevertheless a compromise to health development. It is suggested that another 1 per 1000 may acquire deafness in childhood although there are no really definitive data that indicate that the bulk of these problems were not congenital in nature.

Data will be presented at the conference showing that there is considerable variation in the prevalence of deafness in children world-wide – and some of the developmental issues that may underlie these variations. Professor Davis’ will suggest that a better understanding of the risk factors underlying these problems is needed so we can address prevention and identification more systematically. The role of screening as a means of access to good quality data and to services that deliver improved outcomes for children with audiological problems will also be addressed.

Professor Davis added: “Properly constructed screening services can work to reduce inequalities in access to services as well as improve outcomes for deaf children. However, we now need a clear research infrastructure and network to address the issues of inequality of opportunity for these children and their families and this ought to be done on a national and global basis to make the quickest and most robust progress.”

The international programme of authoritative speakers includes:

Professor Adrian Davis OBE, MRC Hearing and Communication Group, University of Manchester: The global impact of auditory problems in children

Professor Christine Yoshinaga-Itano,  Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder: Evidence of improved outcomes with children detected very early

Professor Mark Haggard, MRC Multi-centre Otitis Media Study Group, Cambridge: New thinking about appropriately graded clinical response to otitis media

Dr Maroeska M. Rovers, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University Medical Center, Utrecht: Evidence to better define children needing detailed assessment and treatment

Professor Richard S. Tyler, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Speech Pathology and Audiology, University of Iowa: Tinnitus in Children: Diagnosis and Treatment

Professor Linda M Luxon, UCL Ear Institute and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children: The “Dizzy” Child

The Deafness Research UK Information Service provides free information and advice based on the latest scientific evidence and informed by leading experts. The Information Service can be contacted on Freephone 0808 808 2222

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