Research Overview

Capita Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds hearing research scientists with micro-grants to innovate. Our seed grants encourage researchers to think outside the box and explore fearlessly in prevention and cure of hearing disorders. Over the past decade of micro-grants our Capita awardees have averaged a 10 fold return with subsequent [NIH, NSF, etc] funding.

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Announcing 2014 Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) Grant Award Recipients

Didier A Depireux, Ph.D.
Inst. for Systems Research   
School of Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park 
Project Title:  Optimizing delivery of drugs to the middle ear without tympanostomy”

Over the years, my research has focused on the sense of hearing, in sickness and in health. In particular, after developing a rat model of noise-induced tinnitus, I was struck by the lack of methods to deliver drugs to the ear only, bypassing the severe side-effects of most (for instance, oral) treatments. Over the last several years, we have developed a magnetically assisted drug delivery method using biocompatible drug-eluting nanoparticles which allows us to deliver therapeutic drug levels in the cochlea only. More recently, we realized that this method could be used to deliver antibiotics and other drugs from the ear canal to the middle ear, without the need for tympanostomy tubes. 
Our long-term goal is to improve and transform the treatment of ear infections by delivering medications into the middle ear with nanoparticles magnetically pushed through the tympanic membrane which remains intact. Ear infections are the leading cause of visits to pediatricians. In the US, there are ~15 million cases/yr of acute ear infections in children less than 5 years of age. About 20% of these children will progress to chronic ear infections with effusion of fluids in the middle ear. Tympanostomy tube placement under general anesthesia for the treatment of recurrent or chronic ear infections is the most common pediatric surgery requiring anesthesia in the US. This crucial Capita foundation grant will allow us to obtain the preliminary data necessary to establish the validity of the method and some optimal parameters for maximal drug delivery.
Jason A. Beyea, M.D., Ph.D., FRCSC
Ohio State University Eye and Ear Institute

Project Title: Cochlear Hair Cell Regeneration using Adipose Stem Cells in NIHL.”
This research seeks to use a novel source of stem cells, adipose-derived stem cells, to regenerate lost cochlear hair cells in an attempt to improve hearing in a chinchilla model of noise-induced hearing loss.
Novel hearing aids lead to bionic future of disability devices

Two brand new models of advanced hearing aids can be adjusted with exquisite precision through software built into Apple’s iPhone. They NOW allow fine-grain control over acoustic systems. “This state-of-the-art technology will give people with hearing loss the ability to outperform their normal-hearing counterparts,” said Dave Fabry, a Starkey vice president, whose company along with GN ReSound Linx developed this technology, each independently.

 Researchers from both Starkey and GN ReSound used the iPhone as a way to correct problems that had forever hampered hearing aids using a low-power version of Bluetooth wireless technology. The phone could act as a remote control, a brain, and an auxiliary microphone and it would finally let people make phone calls and listen to music without carrying a wireless device.

“I’m surprised they haven’t done this earlier — putting it all in an app, that seems so obvious these days,” said Todd Chamberlain, a 39 year-old industrial safety officer who has worn hearing aids since he was 3 years old.
original New York Times article

Sailing to Honor Capita Grant Recipients and 37th ARO MidWinter Meeting
On Monday, February 24th, a group of  Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) awardees boarded the Shine On schooner loaded with beer and tamales to sail San Diego Bay.

The best hearing researchers and scientists were in town for the 37th ARO Meeting, a conference showcasing innovative and advancing research in Otolaryngology, which took place February 22-26 in San Diego's sunshine.

A very special thanks goes out to Dockmaster Neil Wilson, of Fifth Avenue Landing, for making this event possible.

Northwestern's Claus-Peter Richter, M.D., Ph.D. led talks about decreases in  federal funding for research.  Looking to private sources as well as how to get out the good word about Capita and other private foundations were among the proposed solutions discussed.  Alyssa Wheeler, Ph.D., suggested we show the significance of all this great work in a Youtube, e.g. Boy Hears for the First Time.

Aboard the Shine On schooner


Infant Sleep Machines at Maximum Volume Reported as Hearing Risk

Sound devices used to lull infants to sleep can be loud enough at maximum volume to damage their hearing, researchers reported Monday. 

Researchers at the University of Toronto evaluated 14 popular sleep machines at maximum volume and found they produced between 68.8 to 92.9 decibels at 30 centimeters, about the distance one might be placed from an infant’s head. Three exceeded 85 decibels, the workplace safety limit for adults on an eight-hour shift for accumulated exposure (NIOSH). At 100 centimeters, all the machines tested were louder than the 50-decibel limit averaged over an hour set for hospital nurseries in 1999 by an expert panel concerned with improving newborn sleep and their speech intelligibility.
“Farther away is less dangerous, a lower volume is better and shorter durations of time, all things that deliver less sound pressure to the baby,” Dr. Papsin said. Yet some models are designed to be affixed to the crib.
A concern is whether listening to white noise can be detrimental to auditory development. A 2003 study (Science) found continuous white noise delayed development of the brain’s hearing center in newborn rats. In humans, the brain of a newborn is learning to differentiate sounds at different pitches even during sleep, said Lisa L. Hunter, scientific director of research in the division of audiology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “If you’ve conditioned them to white noise...they might not be as responsive as they otherwise should be to soft speech,” she said.
 (original article by Catherine Saint Louis from March 3, 2014 New York Times)
When Hands Talk, Be Careful Where You Point
Written by Nina Raine, “Tribes” is a comic drama about that revolves around Billy, a young deaf man at odds with his intellectual and argumentative working-class family in London. Some posters feature American Sign Language, which is used in the show, and display different design approaches.

(original New York Times article by Erik Piepenburg)