In the spotlight

Do you hear what I hear?

For children in their early stages of life, the ability to hear is critical to their cognitive and social development, especially between the years of birth and age two. Early identification and treatment of infant hearing loss during these years is important to ensure that children have the optimal chance to develop speech and language.

Network researcher Marlene Bagatto and her colleagues at the National Centre for Audiology at The University of Western Ontario are making significant advances in the assessment of infant hearing loss through their work in improving the process for fitting infant hearing aids.

"We wanted to figure out the best way to refine the hearing assessment information we get from babies in order to make the hearing aid fitting procedures better," says Dr. Bagatto.

"At that very young age, a child can't tell us or give us a reliable physical indication that they can hear a particular sound, and you can't ask them to sit still while you're taking your measurements." As a result of the challenge, Bagatto has focused her work to refine the calculations used to measure the individual acoustics of a child's ear, and to develop new hands-on testing and treatment protocols for taking the measurements.

Bagatto's expertise has been a tremendous resource for Ontario's Infant Hearing Program, which screens approximately 130,000 newborns annually and provides about 1,200 children with hearing aid services each year. She has trained both provincial and international audiologists in the testing and treatment protocols that she and her team have developed. "Our goal is to give clinicians some procedures that are based on evidence, so that hearing aid fitting can be as accurate as possible at this important stage of life."

Marlene Bagatto's work has earned her the Young Innovator's Award from the federal government's Networks of Centres of Excellence. The award honours Canadian researchers who, with the support of their Network, have been successful in translating their innovative research into business, process, or service to benefit society at large.

See feature article in Clarity magazine

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