Sept 2017 Sydney Morning Herald

Australian philanthropist and socialite Lady Fairfax died peacefully at her family home 'Fairwater' in Point Piper.  Family and friends gathered for her funeral at the historic St Mark's Anglican Church in Darling Point, where her eldest sons Garth Symonds and Warwick Fairfax delivered eulogies. Two of the great passions of Lady (Mary) Fairfax's extraordinary 95-year-life were philanthropy and opera. 

Lady Mary FairfaxStamp of approval: Lady Mary Fairfax was featured in a series titled Australian Legends.

One of the most unlikely of people, Tim Palmer, 22, shared his memories of the woman who was instrumental in allowing him the gift of hearing. Lady Fairfax was one of the greatest financial supporters of research into hearing loss, including the Children's Cochlear Implant Centre, now the SCIC Cochlear Implant Program, a service of Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children. Lady Fairfax, together with businesswoman Jenny Tay, formed the East West Foundation, which supported the Metropolitan Opera scholarship awards and the Children's Cochlear Implant Centre.

The signature event of the foundation was the East West Ball held at Lady Fairfax's home, Fairwater, the proceeds benefiting children, such as Mr Palmer, who was diagnosed with profound deafness at six weeks of age. Mr Palmer received a cochlear implant in 1996, at the age of two. At 13, he received his second cochlear implant. Today, he coaches young soccer players, is a talented public speaker, writes for online publications about football, manages and writes his own blog, and achieved an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) in the 90s.

July 2017 livemint; Times of India

The ministry of science and technology launched a low-cost indigenous screening device on Monday to detect congenital hearing loss in newborns. The technology developed by the School of International Biodesign (SIB) start-up Sohum Innovation Labs India Pty Ltd. has until now been prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to many. The portable Sohum hearing screening device measures auditory brain waves via three electrodes placed on the baby’s head. When stimulated, they detect electrical responses generated by the brain’s auditory system. If there is no response, the child cannot hear.

“The battery-operated device is non-invasive, which means babies do not need to be sedated, which is the current, and risky, testing in process at present. Another key advantages over other testing systems is the patented, in-built algorithm that filters out ambient noise from the test signal. This is important because health clinics can be incredibly crowded and noisy,” a statement by the Department of Biotechnology said. The device has been installed in five clinical centres that are currently running the hearing screening program with the aim of screening 2% of hospital-born babies in the first year, before scaling up.

One of the most common birth disorders – congenital hearing loss – is a result of both genetic and non-genetic factors. These factors are mostly associated with resource-poor economies such as India where, unlike in advanced healthcare systems, hearing impairment goes undiagnosed. When it is discovered at 4-plus years, it’s too late to reverse the damage and this leads to a host of problems such as impaired communication skills and even possible mental illness, all of which have a deep impact on the child, emotionally and economically, life-long. Early screening can facilitate timely treatment and rehabilitation.

Aug 2017 University of Nottingham and Medical Xpress

A world-first study has found that lip-reading may have a beneficial effect on the brain and on a person’s ability to hear with a cochlear implant, contrary to what was previously believed.

Currently, when someone receives a cochlear implant, clinical professionals delivering rehabilitation encourage them to focus on the sound only, and to avoid reliance on visual language (such as lip-reading) for fear that it will limit how well they are able to learn to hear with their cochlear implant.

Lip reading helpsThe study, published in the journal PNAS, found that, in contrast to existing theory, the more a person’s brain became responsive to lip-reading the more it also became responsive to sounds delivered through their cochlear implant, and the better they were able to hear. The results could inform future rehabilitation of people with hearing loss who have implants fitted.

The team of hearing experts at the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre used a brain imaging method called fNIRS (functional near-infrared spectroscopy) that uses light to measure brain activity. The technique works by shining harmless infra-red light into the head to measure how much oxygen different parts of the brain are using – the more oxygen being used, the more active that part of the brain. Lead researcher on the project, Dr Carly Anderson, said: "Up to now, there has been no scientific evidence of a link between how the hearing parts of the brain respond to visual speech and how well a person can hear with their cochlear implant. It is difficult to measure brain activity in people with implants as the device has magnetic and electrical parts that are incompatible with well-known scanning methods like MRI. So we studied deaf adults who received cochlear implants from the NHS Nottingham Auditory Implant Programme and used infra-red light to examine brain activity instead. We measured how hearing parts of the brain responded to visual speech before the volunteers received their cochlear implant, and then again 6 months after the implant had been switched on. From this we could see how their brain activity changed over that time. We also tested how well they could hear speech with their implant 6 months after switch-on, using speech tests which require volunteers to repeat back spoken sentences played to them."

Dr Douglas Hartley from the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre and ENT Consultant Surgeon at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "The results of the brain imaging were very interesting and revealing. We found that the brain response to lip-reading did not need to decline from before to after implantation for a person to hear well with their cochlear implant. Instead we found that a greater increase in the brain response to lip-reading was linked to better hearing ability, as well as a greater increase in the brain response to auditory speech.” The study shows that activation of hearing parts of the brain by lip-reading does not limit the ability of these brain regions to be activated by speech sounds heard through the implant, nor does it limit the ability to hear with a cochlear implant. In fact it shows the opposite: increased activation by lip-reading could help achieve greater restoration of hearing following cochlear implantation. In other words, visual cues may help people with cochlear implants rather than hinder them.

The study is the first to have measured brain activation to lip-reading and heard speech before and after implantation in the same cochlear implant patients, and the first to link the changes in their brain responses to their ability to hear with a cochlear implant. The researchers stress that at present they cannot say what is linking brain activity to sound and lip-reading together. They have not compared peoples' ability to lip-read in this study. The team did not train people to become better at lip-reading from before to after cochlear implantation, or examine whether this helps a person to hear well with their implant. These are possible avenues of research in the future.

Aug 2017 Mass Device

Medical robotics start-up IotaMotion said today it raised $2 million in a seed financing round to support the development of its Iota-Soft novel robotic cochlear implantation platform. The Iowa City-based company, spun out from the University of Iowa’s Otolaryngology Department, is developing a robotic-assisted insertion device designed to aid surgeons in advancing cochlear implant electrodes. “We’ve completed our seed round, raising over $2 million within a few months from friends and family in the Midwest and around the world. The reception and excitement from both the cochlear implant community and strategic investors is a testament to the clear clinical need and the surgeon-centric robotics-assisted systems we are developing. The funds will be used to further our development efforts for the IOTA-Soft robotic-assisted cochlear implant insertion system,” co-founder Dr. Chris Kaufmann said.

The company claims that controlled insertion will lower surgical variability and help protect existing structures from damage due to manual insertion, which it says is especially critical when working with hybrid solutions with retained residual hearing capacity. “The core technology being developed at iotaMotion is notable in its simplified approach to robotic-assisted systems. Our aim is to develop devices that open up access to cochlear implant surgery for a wider audience of both surgeons and patients. We are especially grateful for the local and regional support that we received early on from the University of Iowa, and the state, to help us get to this point,” co-founder Dr. Marlan Hansen said in a press release. IotaMotion was spun out of the University of Iowa in 2015, and has received Small Business Innovation Research Grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health totaling $1.7 million.