2017 labiotech.eu and GlobeNewswire

Sensorion and Cochlear will explore if a combination of a drug and a hearing implant can improve the treatment of hearing loss. Based in the French city of Montpellier, Sensorion specialises in the development of treatments for inner ear disorders such as vertigo and hearing loss. The company’s technology received major recognition with the announcement that Cochlear, the world’s leader in the hearing implant market, will collaborate with Sensorion to improve hearing loss treatment.

sensorion As part of the agreement, Sensorion will run preclinical trials with a combination of Sensorion’s drug candidate SENS-401 and Cochlear’s implants. Cochlear will invest €1.6M in shares of Sensorion, which is listed on Euronext Paris, in exchange for the right to be the first to negotiate with Sensorion the licensing of the drug to further develop the combination. Preclinical studies will start in 2018, and the combination might take it into Phase II clinical trials as soon as 2019.

SENS-401 (R-azasetron besylate) is being developed by Sensorion as a treatment for sudden sensorineural hearing loss, also known as sudden deafness. This drug can protect sensory hair cells from dying, and it has received orphan drug designation from the FDA for its application to protect the hearing of children receiving chemotherapy drugs that cause deafness, such as cisplatin.

A similar rationale is behind the collaboration with Cochlear. The surgery used to implant hearing aids itself can cause hearing loss, but SENS-401 could help prevent the sensory hair cells from dying in the process. “The idea is that if we use SENS401 at the right moment during the surgical procedure for cochlear implantation, the combination of SENS-401 and Cochlear’s device may improve the hearing outcomes for patients,” Nawal Ouzren, CEO of Sensorion, said. 

Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions and invests more than AUD$150 million a year in research and development.  The company is also involved in more than 100 research collaborations in 20 countries. Cochlear is the technology and market leader in cochlear implants.

“This innovative approach of combining SENS-401 with cochlear implants may allow for better hearing outcomes,” said Lawrence Lustig, MD, Howard W. Smith Professor and Chair, Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Columbia University Medical Center.  “SENS-401 has the potential to provide cochlear protection following the implantation procedure, to support long-term functional stability of the implant, and to prevent continued degeneration in some patients.”

Dec 2017 Australian Hearing Hub

Music has the power to motivate, move and inspire. From Mozart’s graceful melodies to Bob Marley’s breezy reggae beats, its emotive qualities enhance our health and wellbeing. But can music heal mental and physical suffering or help people with hearing loss listen better? A growing body of research suggests it can. An article on the Harvard Medical School website says music can 

  • improve our experience of invasive medical procedures
  • restore lost speech in people recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury
  • reduce the unpleasant side-effects of cancer therapy
  • aid pain relief – ranging from acute to chronic pain
  • improve the quality of life for dementia patients. 

Music TherapyThis has led to an increased interest and participation in music therapy, which uses music to trigger emotional responses to relax or stimulate people or to help them communicate or heal. It is usually facilitated by registered music therapists who are often accomplished musicians. Research has shown it has positive effects on people with autism, stroke complications, dementia, depression and painful health problems. People involved in musical activities also appear to preserve speech listening skills better than others. Activities can involve singing, dancing, playing instruments, composing and creating.

To hear conversations well in loud, busy places, it helps if you identify sound sources. Socially, it’s also important to understand the emotional state of the speaker, which is conveyed by pitch, tone and rhythm –also known as prosody. All these nuances contribute to hearing and understanding speech well in social spaces and gatherings. Combining auditory rehabilitation, cognitive training and music therapy can help a person with hearing loss achieve this goal.

Chi Yhun LoThe relationship between music therapy and hearing loss is less well known. But a study by HEARing CRC Member Chi Yhun Lo (pictured left), at Macquarie University’s Department of Linguistics, has made some fascinating findings. “We wanted to see if music training benefits not just musical skills but also speech perception and social participation,” explains Chi, an audio engineer. His passion for music grew from working with the children’s band, the Hooley Dooleys.

Chi launched a free, 12-week music therapy program for children with hearing loss with Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia, a not-for-profit organisation based at Western Sydney University. Seventeen children wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants, aged between six and nine years old, attended the sessions at Macquarie University’s speech and hearing clinic. Chi’s sessions involve weekly, face-to-face group music therapy sessions, homework with musical apps three times a week and test sessions tracking the children’s reactions to music and their speech perception abilities. “After 12 weeks of music training, the children’s speech-in-noise perception was improved by more than two decibels and their emotional prosody improved by more than 10 per cent,” explains Chi.

This resonates with a recent Canadian study of six to 15-year-olds that supports the relationship between instrumental music training and improved speech prosody perception. It recommends using music training to support auditory rehabilitation after receiving cochlear implants. In earlier research, Chi discovered that adults with cochlear implants – who had once had normal hearing – were able to improve their ability to identify questions or statements after learning basic musical skills. “I was looking at whether people could improve prosody, specifically being able to distinguish between questions and statements – where a question will have a rising intonation and a statement sounds flat or falls a bit,” explains Chi. Parents involved in the children’s program are singing its praises for the way it builds confidence, creativity, identity and listening skills. And the children clearly light up in classes. “I open the door to the clinic and the kids wave to me and run straight to the music room,” says Chi. “We try to leverage emotion and joy because when kids enjoy something they just learn it better,” he says.

James BarkerMusic therapy struck a positive chord with deaf schoolboy James Barker whose hearing issues improved after taking part in weekly sessions at Macquarie University’s speech and hearing clinic.

James, eight, became profoundly deaf with sensorineural hearing loss after contracting pneumococcal meningitis at the age of eight months. He wears cochlear implants and attends a mainstream Catholic primary school where he is well supported. Using a microphone and sound technology he is able to boost his hearing skills in the classroom. His mum heard about the music classes on the Aussie Deaf Kids Facebook page and applied after James and his twin brother Thomas recently took up learning instruments. “The twins had started in the school choir and were learning the clarinet (James) and the trumpet (Thomas) so the timing couldn’t have been better,” says his mum Grainne. She adds the benefits of the program have been three-fold. They have boosted James’ confidence, his ability to identify certain tunes and hear what people are saying in noisy situations.“He really enjoyed being in a music class with other hearing impaired children,” says Grainne. “I definitely think that James’ speech perception has improved. He’s saying, ‘Pardon?’ and, ‘Could you repeat that please?’ much less often. “He is quicker to pick out tunes on the radio and has more melody to his voice. The progress that he has made in just three months is very impressive,” she says.

Dec 2017 Bundaberg News Mail

Grace Lukan

 Grace Lukan and her mum Liz thank Queensland's Hear and Say Centre for improving her life immeasurably

Little Grace Lukan will one day be able to advocate for herself thanks to Queensland's Hear and Say Centre. Through Grace's parents, Dan and Lucy Lukan's words, this heart-warming story shares just how important even the most limited communication can make to a child and a family.
Dan Lukan said when Grace was born, she was like any other child; her cerebral palsy came later.

"Grace lost her hearing, her sight and her teeth and she's got no head or body control,” Mr Lukan said. "Her type of cerebral palsy means she can't communicate with the outside world. She wants to, and she can understand, but up to now she hasn't been able to communicate back.”

The years of early intervention and hard work has paid off. Grace, 6, is now able to interact, express herself, and over time, will learn to advocate for herself. For her parents, it was a dream come true when Grace learnt to communicate through eye gaze software and her cochlear implant, thanks to the work from the Hear and Say Centre. They are just one of many families who rely on the support and advocacy for a child born with hearing loss.

Dec 2017 13WMAZ

Baelin and Aveon Poole of Buford are only a year apart and as close as can be. In fact, they both had cochlear implant surgeries at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta on the same day. "Hopefully today is the beginning of great things," said their mother Jeri Poole. 

Baelin & Aveon Poole

Baelin and Aveon Poole, ages 11 and 10, are siblings who had back-to-back cochlear implant surgeries on the same day at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Their implants were also activated on the same day.  

It is rare that both children have suffered progressive hearing loss at about the same rate. Baelin, 11, was diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss as a baby. Aveon, 10, was diagnosed with the same hearing disorder when she was two years old. They have other siblings with no hearing loss. Baelin had cochlear implant surgery on his right ear two years ago, so he knew what to expect the second time around for his left year. It was Aveon's first implant, and it was on her right ear.

Baelin & Aveon Poole"It'll sound really weird. It might sound like robots or Mickey Mouse or staticky," said audiologist Kelly Murphy.

"It's very different from how our ear uses a hearing aid. With a few days or weeks of practice, the brain gets used to the stimulation, and it starts to sound more normal.” "I can hear it turning up," said Aveon in the moments after her implant was turned on for the first time. She said it sounded like a beeping robot. "It's going to take months of therapy to get the success Baelin has had with his first one, but I think it's gonna be great," Jeri Poole said.

After Aveon, it was Baelin's turn to listen with his new implant. "The new side sounds louder," he said. "I'm just not used to it.” Baelin will also have to adjust to his second cochlear implant, but he knows what to expect. As close as these two already are, this next part of their journey will bring them closer.