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Sound investment

Memorial-led hearing loss research focus of R&D centre in Central N.L.

Research | Frameworks in Action

By Jeff Green

A team of researchers—led by Memorial—is setting up shop in Central Newfoundland to study families from this province with genetic forms of hearing loss.

Their goal is to try and model hearing defects and develop better algorithms for hearing aids and other devices. If they’re successful, the research could improve the lives of people here at home and around the world.

They’ll do their work in a new state-of-the-art genomics-based R&D centre for hearing science, which officially opened April 6 in Grand Falls-Windsor. Memorial, ACOA and the provincial government are investing more than $1 million in infrastructure support for the new facility.

“We hope that what we learn will help us improve hearing aids and services to people and their families with hearing loss.” — Dr. Terry-Lynn Young

‘Improve our lives’

Dr. Terry-Lynn Young, professor, Faculty of Medicine, is the principal investigator for the project. Scientists, audiologists and computer engineers from Memorial, the University of Western Ontario and McMaster University are collaborating on the innovative research study.

Research members include Anne Griffin, audiologist and research associate, Memorial; Matthew Lucas, PhD candidate, University of Western Ontario; Dr. Terry-Lynn Young, principal investigator; and Dr. Sue Stanton, research associate, University of Western Ontario.
Research members include, from left, Anne Griffin, audiologist and research associate, Memorial; Matthew Lucas, PhD candidate, University of Western Ontario; Dr. Terry-Lynn Young, principal investigator; and Dr. Sue Stanton, research associate, University of Western Ontario.
Photo: Submitted

“The question we want to ask is, what does having a specific genetic mutation change about a person’s perception of sounds in their environment and especially their perception of speech in noisy circumstances?” Dr. Young said in an interview with the Gazette.

They’ll use family genetics to identify and study the causes of auditory hearing loss. The results will be used to create computer models of the damage to the auditory system and how it affects acoustic signals. This information will enable industry to tailor hearing aid technologies to compensate for hearing loss caused by specific auditory damage.

“Genomics can only improve our lives when we figure out how best to make use of the new insights we gain from looking at genetic differences between us all,” said Dr. Young, a Memorial alumna who has studied hearing loss since the 1990s. “We hope that what we learn will help us improve hearing aids and services to people and their families with hearing loss.”

Better outcomes

Dr. Young says nobody really knows how prevalent hereditary hearing loss is in the province or around the world. Utilizing genomics research focused on Newfoundland and Labrador’s population, collaborators are aiming to provide better outcomes for people with hearing loss.

The new centre has attracted investments from both the federal and provincial government. ACOA is investing $632,716, while the provincial government is investing $190,000. Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine is contributing $180,000.

From left Dr. Terry-Lynn Young, principal investigator, Memorial; Anne Griffin, audiologist and research associate, Memorial; Dr. Sue Stanton, research associate, University of Western Ontario; Matthew Lucas, PhD candidate, University of Western Ontario; and Sarah Predham, genetic counsellor, Memorial.
From left are Dr. Terry-Lynn Young, principal investigator, Memorial; Anne Griffin, audiologist and research associate, Memorial; Dr. Sue Stanton, research associate, University of Western Ontario; Matthew Lucas, PhD candidate, University of Western Ontario; and Sarah Predham, genetic counsellor, Memorial.
Photo: Submitted

“Through our Strategic Research Intensity Plan, Memorial University is addressing research priorities in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Richard Marceau, vice-president (research). “Dr. Young and her collaborators are engaging in innovative research that will improve the well-being of the people of our province and beyond. Memorial is proud to contribute to the establishment of this new R&D centre in Grand Falls-Windsor.”

Exciting partnership

The new centre was established through an ongoing collaboration with the EXCITE Corporation, the not-for-profit business development unit of the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor. It promotes a knowledge-based economy by facilitating new investments and partnerships in the region in key sectors such as health care and life sciences.

“Dr. Young and her collaborators are engaging in innovative research that will improve the well-being of the people of our province and beyond.” — Dr. Richard Marceau

Dr. Young says the corporation and town have provided a dedicated clinic research space.

“Our team audiologist, Anne Griffin, has lived and worked in Grand Falls-Windsor for many years, so we decided that this central location would also serve the province’s population well,” Dr. Young pointed out, “as many families we serve live beyond the overpass.

“I can’t imagine how we would get started without the amazing support and resources that the EXCITE Corporation has brought to the table. Our team is looking forward to working with the community on this study.”


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