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 Research Expands with COBRE Grant


Research Expands with COBRE Grant

Boys Town National Research Hospital is a very unique research environment. Since its inception there has been an emphasis on recruiting multidisciplinary perspectives. These insights blend to allow us to be creative and unique. It’s critically important that we build on our research history. For years we have looked at the outcomes of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The COBRE adds some new unique perspectives from experimental studies that beautifully compliment that previous work.

COBRE stands for Center of Biomedical Research Excellence and our specific COBRE is called the Center for Perception and Communication in Children. This project is funded by the National Institutes of Health to provide support for early stage investigators.

The funding is a million and half a year for five years. It supports parts of thirty people within the research program. There are more than a hundred of these across the country and so it’s a big program overall. There are very few of them that are this clinically oriented.

Our COBRE grant focuses on understanding the consequences of childhood hearing loss for language, learning, and communication. All the investigators are exploring different viewpoints on that issue and exploring how we might support children and families in their education.

There are five areas of study supported by our COBRE.

The first is the work being done in this lab by Dawna Lewis. She’s looking at problems of children with mild and unilateral hearing loss. These children don’t receive much support in the schools but they have a lot of difficulties in school actually as result of the hearing loss. What she wants to do is look at issues of how to handle these things better in classrooms and to better understand what the problem is.

The second project looks at issues faced by second language learners - working in particular with Latino children with hearing loss, so we are looking at the issues that those children face when we have a combination of hearing loss and second language issues.

The third project is by Dr. Nicholas Smith. He is looking at how mothers interact with children with hearing loss and what kind of gestures, facial expressions and so forth that they use to try and convey information and again kinds of things that we could pass on as best practices, things that work things that don’t.

The fourth project is by Marc Brennan. He’s looking at hearing aid fitting issues in children and how we might best do the preliminary testing to improve the hearing aid fitting process.

The fifth project is by Kristin Janky who runs our vestibular lab and our vestibular clinical program here looking at people with balance issues and the research part of her program is looking at these kinds of issues in children with hearing loss starting with children with cochlear implants.

We are unique in terms of the makeup of the work that we’re doing. Everything we are doing here will have impact in terms of clinical programs.

Our early stage investigators are our future so it’s extremely important that we invest in our young investigators so that they become successful and carry on the legacy of research here.

Ultimately in order to best serve children who are deaf and hard of hearing we need research evidence. We need to understand what are the best practices. There is still a great deal that is unknown. It’s an important mission here at Boys Town that we fill some of the gaps in research and that leads directly to better management of those children either in terms of fitting devices or educating them and fostering their learning in the real world.

​The Center for Perception and Communication in Children (CPCC) at Boys Town National Research Hospital was newly created in 2014 with the assistance of a Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The goal of the CPCC is to expand the range of our current research programs by providing a unique environment for the development of junior faculty who have an interest in understanding the consequences of childhood hearing loss for speech and language perception and processing. Ultimately, our research faculty hopes to describe the performance of children with hearing loss in the real world.