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$35,000 Research Grant Awarded to Boys Town Hospital Audiologists


ABR hearing test on baby

Friday, February 5, 2021

A team of research and clinical audiologists at Boys Town National Research Hospital® was recently awarded a $35,000 Researcher-Practitioner Collaboration Grant from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation).

The grant money is being used to improve high-frequency auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing. This test is important for identifying and measuring levels of hearing in individuals who are unable to provide reliable behavioral responses to sound, such as infants, very young children and individuals with significant developmental delays. At the time ABR testing was first being evaluated for clinical application, it was thought that high frequencies were not critical for speech understanding. However, more recent research suggests otherwise.

According to Heather Porter, Ph.D., the study's co-investigator and a research associate, this research has the potential to improve the diagnosis of high-frequency hearing loss, which can be directly applied to hearing aid programming at high frequencies. Jan Kaminski, the study's other co-investigator and coordinator of Boys Town Hospital's Clinical Sensory Physiology Laboratory, was part of the Boys Town team who originally evaluated ABR testing for widespread clinical implementation. She understands first-hand the widespread impact that researcher-clinician collaborations can have on patient care.

“Our objective is to overcome obstacles to clinical implementation of ABR testing at high frequencies because we now know that high-frequency audibility is important for hearing in daily life," explained Dr. Porter. “A large body of evidence now shows that high-frequency information contributes to successful speech understanding, sound localization and listening in background noise. Many of these important findings came from hearing research done at Boys Town by our former Director of Audiology, Dr. Patricia Stelmachowicz."

The research is expected to have direct clinical application wherever ABR testing is performed. That is one of the primary reasons the grant was awarded to Boys Town. The ASHFoundation encourages collaborations between researchers and practitioners to increase knowledge that will improve and enhance the care provided to individuals with communication disorders.

“We are proud to continue the tradition of leadership in translational research established at Boys Town National Research Hospital by those that came before us," Dr. Porter said. “This study would not be possible if not for their example, research findings and development of the infrastructure to support this kind of collaborative translational research."

In addition to Dr. Porter and co-investigator Jan Kaminski, the research team includes clinical experts in ABR assessment, Drs. Anastasia Grindle, Brenda Hoover, Ashley Kaufman, Natalie Lenzen, Haley McTee and Susan Stangl. The team embraces participation of current audiology trainees Christina Dubas and Abigail Petty, as student involvement is an important investment in inspiring future generations to support translational research to advance evidence-based care for individuals with communication disorders.