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Development of a clinical diagnostic tool for cochlear lesions based on otoacoustic emissions


At least 85% of the estimated 160-million hearing-impaired people of Europe suffer from malfunction of the cochlea. Malfunction remains largely untreatable because function is not fully understood. Initiatives are required to develop more powerful, clinical tools to diagnose cochlear malfunction. However, this demands a better understanding of function. It is known that the basis of cochlear function is mechanical and that, in the healthy cochlea, mechanical processes send vibrations back tithe middle ear, causing pressure changes in the ear canal, called otoacoustic emissions (Oases).Although Oases are routinely used in clinical diagnosis, their full potential is far from being realized, because neither the basic cochlear mechanisms nor the OAE generation mechanisms are fully understood. Therefore, the scientific aim of this project is for the proposed Fellow, Dr. A. Beatnik, to develop a realistic model of the mechanics of the human cochlea under normal and pathological conditions, enabling him:
i) to provide an artificial experimental medium for interpretation of observed properties of Oases, and
ii) to design a novel stimulus paradigm for Oases to improve their clinical diagnostic value. In an ongoing project using cutting-edge technology (a variant of atomic force microscopy), Dr. A. Beatnik will be trained by the host institution to measure the nanomechanicalproperties of the cochlea in an animal model. He will use this data to improve his already established, innovative model of cochlear function, using it to design a more powerful stimulus paradigm for the generation of Oases in humans that will uncover pathological, mechanical processes in the cochlea. Drag. Beatnik will work together with clinicians in the host institution to gather OAE data in human subjects. Training in this multidisciplinary research project will give Dr. A. Beatnik the professional independence to establish a world-class, hearing research lab.

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