Unique audiology research van to improve the lives of infants with hearing problems
Researchers from Manchester are taking to the road
in a unique research van that will travel up and down the country,
visiting the homes of infants with hearing problems.
Hearing loss can be a devastating long-term condition for
children, but early intervention can reduce its negative impact on
development. For this reason, babies in the UK are offered a
hearing check soon after birth and hearing aids are typically
prescribed and fitted by 2-3 months of age. However, there are
currently no reliable tests that can provide information about how
well young infants hear through their hearing aids.
Previous research has identified a promising solution to this
problem called Cortical Auditory Evoked Potentials (CAEPs), which
tests if sounds are being detected by the brain using recording
leads attached to the head. Research led by
Kevin Munro, Ewing Professor of Audiology at The
University of Manchester will now seek to validate the procedure in
babies who use hearing aids.
Professor Munro and his team took into consideration the
pressures on families that can make participation in research
extremely difficult and made sure that they were involved in the
design of the study. These families explained that if the research
could be carried out at their home, it would make it much easier
than having to travel to their local hospital or the
The £350,000 NIHR-funded study will recruit 200 infants with
hearing aids from across the country. Each child will be visited by
a mobile hearing research van which has been bought and kitted out
through the generous funding of the Marston Family Foundation. The
van, which is the first of its kind, is fitted with the necessary
testing equipment and appropriate noise attenuating treatment.
Professor Munro, who is also an Honorary Consultant Clinical
Scientist at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation
The unique mobile hearing van will allow us to take our
research to the families and this should mean more of them will be
able to participate in this much needed study.
The van will travel across the country visiting infants at 3-6
months of age; the same babies will then be revisited at 7-9 months
so that the research findings can be compared with the traditional
hearing test, which works by rewarding babies who turn their head
and look for sounds. The results are expected to be published 2018
and the researchers hope that their findings provide evidence that
the test can be used nationwide.
Sarah Bolton, 30 from Preston, has experienced the
difficulties in the provision of support as being both a previous
hearing aid wearer herself and having a child diagnosed with
hearing loss. Using her knowledge and experience she helped develop
this research study.
"As a parent of a child with hearing loss, I know that
this research is of paramount importance to many families who feel
the gap between hearing aid fitting at 2-3 months and then nothing
until 7-8 months. This is a time when babies need reliable access
to all the sounds around them in order to learn and grow.
A representative of the Marston Family Foundation
said: "We are honoured to support this innovative research study at
The University of Manchester. It is our hope that through its work,
the mobile hearing research unit will help to ensure early
intervention for children with hearing impairment and reduce the
devastating impact that hearing loss can have on a child's early