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National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre

Establishment of the UK’s only Hearing Device Research Centre

The Hearing Device Research Centre will drive innovation in interventions for hearing loss, by facilitating and accelerating translational into the NHS, a first for the UK.

Hearing devices are the primary treatment for hearing loss and the NHS is the largest purchaser of hearing aids in the world (1.2m p.a.). Surprisingly, there is no UK centre that specialises in hearing device research. As a result, hearing device industries have no coordinated UK contact, and there is a lack of critical mass in UK hearing device research. The Manchester BRC has established the UKs only Hearing Device Research Centre (HDRC), commended by our international Scientific Advisory Board, which will drive innovation in interventions for hearing loss by facilitating and accelerating the translation into the NHS.

The following broad types of research will be carried out:

  1. Measures of efficacy and effectiveness of devices or individual device features. This will include both technical measurements, and behavioural investigations of the impact of the devices on hearing capabilities and quality of life.
  2. Develop and/or evaluate clinical service delivery models and procedures that increase the effectiveness with which devices rehabilitate hearing.
  3. Develop methods for determining candidature for hearing devices or features.
  4. Develop new algorithms and features for hearing devices.

Key developments:

  • Picked to host and support the evaluation of all NHS hearing devices over the next 5 years, an important service to the NHS and establishes Manchester HDRC as the ‘go to’ centre of excellence.
  • Secured first commercial study with Sonova. The study will examine the subjective and objective benefits of a deeply inserted hearing aid when compared to other in-canal sound delivering hearing aids.
  • Agreed funding from industry for 3 PhD studentships.
  • Finalising philanthropy donation for a 4 year post-doctoral researcher to work on implantable graphene microphone linked to the engineering solutions research programme.
  • Extended our dedicated hearing research facilities by establishing, and equipping, a bespoke ‘listening room’ with software to simulate real-world scenarios, as well as measure non-auditory responses such as movement.
  • Recruited Harvey Dillon, a renowned auditory scientist from Australia, author of world’s leading text on hearing aids and developer of novel, direct research-to-clinic translation in Australia.
  • Awarded an Honorary Professorship to Stefan Launer, VP for research at Sonova Holding AG, to advise on strategy and engagement with industry.
  • Successful showcase to 100 industry, third sector and hearing health professionals. A number of relationships formed with representatives from major hearing device companies invited to join new Industry Liaison Group.
  • Infrastructure development including employment of research audiologists and developing a volunteer database to improve recruitment to research studies.
  • In partnership with our Informatics and Data Sciences cross-cutting theme, we are establishing an information governance framework for research with digital NHS hearing aids (and have invited all BRCs with a Hearing theme to join us). In addition, the HDRC will benefit from our recent ISO 27001 certification, the international standard for an information security management system

Next steps

The HDRC will secure follow-on funding, increase research capacity, enhance training for clinical academics and trainee hearing healthcare practitioners/scientists (e.g., providing under- and post-graduate research opportunities), and generate new collaborations (e.g., with industry and other research groups).