We fund research projects in the following focus areas:
- Finding a cure for hearing loss
- Understanding the genetic causes of hearing loss
- Improving hearing aids and cochlear implants
- Helping children and their families
- Finding a cure for tinnitus
- Preventing noise-induced hearing loss
- Understanding age-related hearing loss
Developing stem cell technologies to treat deafness
£163,000 fellowship grant
Dr Marcelo Rivolta, University of Sheffield
Most hearing loss is caused by the death of sensory hair cells in the inner ear. In humans, when these cells die they are not replaced. Using stem cells, we could in theory repopulate the ear with the cells that have been lost.
Marcelo and his team are researching how to produce stem cells for the inner ear. This work offers real hope of a cure for this most common type of hearing loss. Learn more about this project.
Discovering a drug-based treatment for hearing loss
£71,250 studentship grant
Professor Matthew Holley, University of Sheffield
This project is trying to discover chemicals that could treat progressive or age-related hearing loss. It is investigating a chemical signalling pathway within cells that controls the development and survival of sensory hair cells and their nerves.
Discovering the cause of otosclerosis
£73,723 studentship grant and £14,950 small project grant
Dr Sally Dawson, University College London Ear Institute
The smallest bone in the human body is found in your ear. Otosclerosis is a disease that affects this bone, causing hearing loss. It is known to have a genetic component and while a few genes have been associated with the disease, none have been confirmed. It mainly affects young adults.
We want to understand what causes otosclerosis and how we might be able to cure it. Find out more about this research.
Identifying genes that cause deafness from birth
£74,050 studentship grant
Dr Andrea Streit, King’s College London
This project is using the latest molecular biology and computer analysis techniques to identify more of the genes that cause deafness from birth.
We hope that identifying more genes will help us improve our diagnosis of hearing problems, and help us develop new strategies for preventing deafness.
How do children with cochlear implants hear speech?
£67,894 studentship grant
Professor Andrew Faulkner, University College London
Children fitted with cochlear implants before the age at which they develop language are often found to be much better at understanding speech than people who have been fitted with cochlear implants as adults.
We want to find out how these children hear, in the hope that this will help us improve the design and fitting of cochlear implants, and of speech and language training for people who receive cochlear implants. Learn more about this research.
Improving the fitting of hearing aids
£30,899 short fellowship grant
Professor Brian Moore, Cambridge University
Two new methods of fitting hearing aids have been developed recently (one by Brian Moore's lab in Cambridge). This study is assessing and comparing the two methods to find out which gives more benefit to users.
The project started by testing people with mild hearing loss, and now the team aims to test people with a wider range of hearing losses. Learn more about this research.
Improving the performance of hearing aids when listening in background noise
£30,000 short fellowship grant
Professor Brian Moore, Cambridge University
Hearing aids work by taking in a sound signal through a microphone, processing it electronically to match the individual's hearing loss, and then playing the sound through a speaker.
This project is working to improve electronic processing in hearing aids, especially in situations with background noise. The researchers are developing a tool to select processing parameters for different hearing impaired listeners, and using this to customise the processing to suit the hearing loss of the individual.
Improving hearing tests for newborn children
£11,502 small project grant
Dr John Stevens, Royal Hallamshire Hospital Trust
Deafness Research UK pioneered the newborn hearing screening that is now used across the NHS to test all new babies for hearing loss. If the results suggest that the child might have a hearing problem, they are usually referred on for an auditory brainstem response (ABR) test. This project is investigating how we can improve this test.
Understanding what’s happening in the brain of tinnitus sufferers
£69,885 studentship grant
Professor Deb Hall, NIHR National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing, Nottingham
What are the differences in brain activity between people with tinnitus and people who don’t experience tinnitus? We don’t yet understand what links the causes of tinnitus to the experience of tinnitus.
By using brain imaging to better understand this link, we hope to identify possible targets for the treatment and management of tinnitus.
Developing tinnitus-relieving sounds for cochlear implant users
£54,510 studentship grant
Dr Bob Carlyon, Cambridge University
Sounds to relieve tinnitus have been developed for patients with normal hearing, and for patients with hearing aids, but none have been specifically developed for cochlear implant users.
The researchers hope to develop these sounds and create a computer programme that will allow patients to select an effective sound that is right for them.
Detecting the early effects of noise damage to hearing
£134,830 project grant
Dr Kathryn Hopkins, University of Manchester
The test we use to find out if someone’s hearing has been damaged by overexposure to loud sound may not be sensitive enough. Recent research suggests that the audiometry test might not be able to detect the early stages of permanent noise damage.
Researchers in Manchester aim to develop new ways to reliably detect early changes to hearing caused by noise exposure in the workplace. This will help us better protect people from noise damage and may bring about a revision to the HSE Noise regulations for employees.
How do loud sounds change the ways in which the brain processes sound information?
£69,987 studentship grant
Professor Ian Forsythe, University of Leicester
We know that prolonged exposure to loud sounds damages hearing, by killing the sensory hair cells in the inner ear. We also know that it leaves a lasting impression on how the brain processes sound, but we don’t yet properly understand this process.
These researchers are working to improve our understanding, and hope that this knowledge can help us identify and improve treatments to protect our hearing from loud sounds.
Why do we become less effective at localising sound as we get older?
£15,000 small project grant
Professor Quentin Summerfield, University of York
Older people often have difficulty in judging the location and movement of sounds. This makes it especially difficult to understand people talking in noisy situations. The way the brain interprets sounds is likely to be involved in this difficulty with ‘spatial listening’.
Quentin and his team are developing a technique for measuring how the brain’s processing of space changes with age. This is an essential step towards understanding and diagnosing the origin of a listener’s difficulties. Learn more about this research.
Understanding the genetics of age-related hearing loss
£14,732 small project grant
Mr Jaydip Ray, Royal Hallamshire Hospital,Sheffield
We want to understand the role genes play in determining how likely someone is to experience age-related hearing loss, how this hearing loss will develop, and how severe it will be. We are supporting a team to enable the collection of 1,000 DNA samples from UK patients suffering with age-related hearing loss.
The team will analyse these samples in collaboration with a well-established group of researchers at the University of Antwerp. The identification of the genes responsible may help in the development of a cure for this type of hearing loss. Find out more about this project.
Improving the diagnosis of dementia in British Sign Language (BSL) users
£15,000 small project grant
Dr Joanne Atkinson, University College London
There are currently no tests of memory and thinking designed for deaf people who communicate using British Sign Language (BSL). This means that they are not as effectively assessed for conditions like dementia.
We've funded Joanne Atkinson to develop a set of cognitive tests in BSL. This will allow BSL users to receive appropriate cognitive assessment, leading to better diagnosis, treatment and care. Learn more about the project, and read our latest update on the project's progress.
If you'd like to learn more about any of this research, please get in touch and we'll try our best to answer any questions you might have.
Help us take this further
We're able to fund all of these innovative projects because of our brilliant supporters.
We know that with more funding we could be advancing research even further, and more quickly. If you'd like to join us in making this happen, there are lots of ways you can support our research.
To be a part of our work, you can take on a sponsored challenge, fundraise for us, or make a donation. You can also help by sharing your story, allowing us to better explain why hearing is so important, and the impact that deafness and other hearing conditions can have on people’s lives.