Hearing Aids Are on Newsweek Cover

Saad Bhamla, Ph.D. who has been receiving support from Capita Foundation since 2018 for the design and fabrication of LoChAid $1 hearing aids that have been recently used for a study in Malawi is featured in a June 2023 Newsweek article:  

"10 Innovators Who Are Disrupting Health Care and Saving Lives"
 June 2023 Newsweek Cover:

Malawi Study:




Announcing 2022 Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) grant award recipients

Christopher Waterworth, Ph.D.

University of Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

Project Title:  "Global Audiology Baseline Needs Assessment"

This research aims to summarize the current state and geographic variation of ear and hearing care (EHC); specifically, we will survey providers globally to assess the availability of infrastructure, including equipment, materials, and ancillary services necessary to deliver care, facilitate training and educational opportunities, and overcome barriers to ear and hearing care service (EHC) delivery.  EHC providers include the multidisciplinary care team of ENTs (Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeons), audiologists, audiology technicians, ENT clinical officers, hearing healthcare workers (village healthcare workers trained in ear and hearing care), speech and language therapists, teachers of the deaf and primary health care professionals with specific audiology training. This is a complementary study to ongoing global otolaryngology head and neck surgery (OHNS) and audiology workforce studies which aim to capture the quantity and distribution of OHNS and audiology providers in each country. Taken together, these studies serve as a baseline needs assessment for audiology capacity on an international level, providing novel data needed to inform interventions and policies. These international studies have been developed by members of the Global OHNS Initiative, an international collaborative of over 250 care providers, trainees, and students from over 35 countries. This team has fostered discussion and mentorship across institutional and national boundaries. Beyond the discrete research outputs from this study, this study will facilitate research skill development for trainees who may otherwise have limited opportunities for research involvement and mentorship through their own institutions.

Pelin Koçdor, MD

Başkent University, Koç University, Istanbul, TURKEY

Project Title "An attempt to show endolymphatic hydrops and its treatment in a nitroglycerin-induced animal model of migraine"

Vestibular Migraine (VM) patients present with auditory symptoms such as aural pressure, tinnitus, and sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Half of Meniere’s Disease (MD) patients present with migrainous features, such as a headache with photophobia or positive family history of migraine. Moreover, about a quarter of VM and MD patients meet both diagnostic criteria. So far, the MD’s pathophysiology remains unknown. Nevertheless, depending on post-mortem temporal bone analyses, endolymphatic hydrops (EH) was noted as a potential MD marker. Current migraine treatment options have shown success in treating some of the patients with MD. In MD when medical treatment fails, the recommendation is to use a second-line treatment, such as the intratympanic injection of steroids. A third-line treatment could be either endolymphatic sac surgery or the intratympanic injection of gentamicin, which has a higher risk of hearing loss. The very last option is destructive surgical treatment labyrinthectomy, with or without cochlear implantation. Since VM and MD overlap, in a nitroglycerin-induced animal model of migraine, we may encounter endolymphatic hydrops experimentally and try to reverse the effect of NTG with migraine treatment. If our hypothesis is true; intractable Meniere’s disease’s treatment options would change and there would be no more destructive treatment methods like labyrinthectomy or intratympanic gentamicin injections and it could be treated conservatively. 



Announcing 2021 Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) grant award recipients

Brian M. McDermott Jr., Ph.D.

Case Western Reserve University
Project Title: "Understanding and implementing the self-healing capacity of the auditory hair bundle for the treatment of hearing-impaired children in the US"

Hair cells are the cellular receptors for sound that reside in the inner ear. These cells are the epitome of cellular specialization to accomplish a specific biological task: mechanotransduction—the conversion of mechanical stimuli into an electrical response. These cells contain specific organelles on which hearing is dependent, including the stereocilia. The mechanosensitive hair bundle consists of a precise arrangement of actin-based stereocilia, which extend from the hair cell's apical surface. A systematic increase in stereociliary length results in a bevel-shaped hair bundle. Each cylindrical stereocilium is stiff, but its uniform girth tapers towards the base to allow for flexion. When sound enters the ear, it causes these tiny stereocilia to vibrate at high rates. Damage to the stereocilia is often the cause of hearing impairment. The damage can be caused by either loud noise or genetic mutations. In this grant, we will explore the self-healing capacity of the hair bundle and examine how it may be used for therapeutic approaches. 

Vibhuti Agrahari, Ph.D.

University of Oklahoma

Project Title:  "ROS-responsive NanoSensoGel for Prevention of Cisplatin-Induced Ototoxicity and Hearing Loss" 

Cisplatin-Induced Ototoxicity (CIO) and associated hearing loss is irreversible and there are no treatments currently available to reverse CIO, therefore, prophylactic care is critical. However, to reduce CIO, there is a need to identify the appropriate route of drug administration, and selection of an optimal drug delivery strategy with enhanced therapeutic efficacy, and the product translation to clinical application. This project will investigate the development of novel targeted nanoformulations to provide a prophylactic cure of CIO not only in adults but also in pediatric patients. The bio-responsive nanoformulations (Nano-SensoGel) will be designed to provide a long-term therapeutic effect through enhanced bio-retention and inner ear targeted attributes of the delivery system. The outcomes of this study will be critical in addressing the clinical needs towards the development of inner ear targeted technologies for the prevention of CIO-induced hearing loss.



Announcing 2020 Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) grant award recipients

Alessia Paglialonga, Ph.D.

National Research Council of Italy (CNR); Institute of Electronics, Information Engineering and Telecommunications (IEIIT), Milan, Italy

Project Title: “Widespread Hearing Impairment Screening and Prevention of Risk (WHISPER)”

Project WHISPER will develop and evaluate a novel, web-based system to support widespread screening and prevention of hearing impairment. It will be the first system to combine: (1) remote speech recognition testing using an automated, language-independent speech-in-noise test, (2) assessment of the risk factors for developing hearing impairment via a language-independent, icon-based interface, and (3) modeling of the individual risk for developing hearing impairment and the associated cognitive decline using explainable artificial intelligence (AI). The project will help answer the need to increase access to screening and prevention (for older adults, for individuals in underserved areas, for minorities, and for those with low socioeconomic status). It will develop tools that are language-independent and natively designed to be delivered at a distance, e.g. via web or mobile app, and natively integrated with explainable AI to extract actionable knowledge from the measured data.

Daniel Q. Sun, M.D.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Project Title:  "Treatment of hearing loss using a novel magnetic nanoparticle gene delivery platform"

Currently gene therapy using adeno-associated viral vectors (AAV) has been successful in small mammals, but nearly 80% of all genes that are affected in genetic forms of hearing loss are too large to fit into AAV vectors found in humans. Thus, there is an unmet need for the development of alternative gene-delivery tools in the translational development of gene therapy for congenital hearing loss.  Successful completion of the aims in this proposal will provide a foundational understanding of Magnetic Nanoparticle (MNP) behavior in small animal models and accrue preclinical data to support the translational development of MNP technology for inner ear gene delivery. Leveraging this team’s experience in successfully bringing other inner ear therapeutics from the bench top to the bedside, we intend to similarly advance the translational development of MNPs into nonhuman primates and ultimately human clinical trials.

Mridula Sharma, Ph.D.

Macquarie University - Sydney, Australia 

Project Title:  "Effect of age and background noise on cortical EEG entrainment to natural conversation:  a preliminary study in adults with hearing loss"

This project addresses fundamental clinical and research needs in understanding how natural speech in a conversation is processed and perceived in complex listening situations and how this is affected by age in adults with hearing loss.  Therefore, the aims of this project are:
1. To assess and understand the mechanisms underlying speech perception in an innovative and more ecologically valid manner by using EEG and novel signal processing methods.
2. To delineate the effects of age on processing and understanding natural speech in noise.
3. To identify neural indices that could be used, in future clinical studies, as clinical measure of an individual’s ability to understand speech in the real world.
The outcomes will significantly advance knowledge in our understanding of the auditory processes that are required for older adults to understand natural speech. By including a clinical test population, the proposed project will provide the knowledge required for future development of clinical management protocols and strategies using speech tracking, thereby ensuring future clinical translation of the project outcomes.

The figure shows  EEG as recorded to the continuous speech and the continuous speech signal which is routed into the EEG amplifier. After the filtering and processing of the EEG and speech amplitude envelope, Temporal response function (TRF) is determined across all channels for the condition. Topographical maps of TRF at 100-150ms are also shown for the condition. 
The figure that shows the analysis from our pilot data

Soroush Sadeghi, M.D., Ph.D.

Center for Hearing and Deafness, State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo

Project Title: "Improving the vestibular nerve function by pharmacological manipulation of the inner ear"

The general aim of my research is to reach a better understanding of vestibular signaling and its modulation following compensation or adaptation and to find practical ways for enhancing vestibular compensation in humans.  This can be specifically useful for patients (e.g., after therapeutic vestibular neurectomy) or in conditions where unusual adaptation is required (e.g., space travel). 

Figure 1

Figure 1. Intra-labyrinthine injection and VsEP recordings.
  (A) Method of injection through the oval window. Note the exit point made on the anterior canal.  (B) Mouse’s head is attached to a linear shaker for VsEP recordings. 

In recent years, the traditional notion that peripheral end organs (i.e., hair cells and afferent terminals) in the inner ear are mere sensors has been challenged due to the presence of feedback (via an efferent pathway) from central areas. It has been shown that efferent inputs can modulate the activity of hair cells and afferents in vitro. The funding from Capita Foundation will be used to study the effect of the GABAergic and cholinergic efferent pathways on the response properties of the vestibular pathway.  Using an in vivo mouse model, we will use a method developed in our lab for intralabyrinthine injection (Fig. 1A) of different agonists and antagonists of relevant receptors and ionic channels and evaluate their effect on the vestibular nerve response by measuring the vestibular sensory evoked potentials (VsEP) (Fig. 1B). To find the behavioral correlate of the observed neuronal changes, we will measure the effect of intralabyrinthine injections of these drugs on the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) – a reflex that functions to stabilize the eyes during head movements (Fig. 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2. Recording the VOR response in mice.   Eye movements will be recorded with an infrared camera in a head-restrained mouse. The mouse is rotated in the horizontal plane at different frequencies and velocities in the dark.  Right panel traces shows example eye movements during VOR response to head rotation.  

Results of the above studies could provide the means for designing new therapeutic approaches through local application of drugs in the inner ear, which could result in fewer adverse effects compared to the current systemic (e.g., oral) use of similar drugs in patients.



Capita Foundation funding acknowledged in PLOS ONE research article

LoCHAid: An ultra-low-cost hearing aid for age-related hearing loss 

Article published by: Soham Sinha, Urvaksh D. Irani, Vinaya Manchaiah and M. Saad Bhamla


Saad Bhamla, Ph.D.



Announcing 2019 Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) grant award recipients

Prof. Karen Avraham

Tel Aviv University

Project Title: "Gene therapy in a mouse model of human hearing loss DFNB76"

Adeno-associated virus (AAV) has become very popular in the gene therapy field in recent years, and several proof-of-principal studies in the field of hearing loss have demonstrated its potential for treatment of genetic deafness. AAV has major advantages for gene therapy. Most importantly, AAV appears to elicit no immunological response in humans and recombinant AAV is also almost entirely incapable of integration, which enhances its safety. Several synthetic AAVs have been engineered to transduce cells in the inner ear with high efficiency and have been used to demonstrate rescue of auditory and vestibular function in deafness mouse models.  We hope our efforts will lay the groundwork for future development of gene therapy in humans. In addition, we hope this work will contribute to the understanding of the roles of nesprin proteins in cellular processes in general, and specifically in outer hair cell physiology.

The point of no return? These outer hair cells are in excellent form, arranged in three rows, just a day before they start deteriorating due to an absence of the gene SYNE4. Alterations in the DNA sequence of the SYNE4 gene leads to deafness in children and adults. Models are being used to test methods of gene therapy, in order to rescue hearing due to defects in the SYNE4 gene.

Credit: Shahar Taiber, MD-PhD student

Karen Avraham - Genomics of Deafness laboratory, Tel Aviv University

Valeriy Shafiro, Ph.D.

Rush University

Project Title:  "Validation of the Basic Auditory Skills Evaluation (BASE) 

battery for internet home testing of cochlear implant listeners"

Accessible internet-based auditory testing can have a wide reach beyond the typical clinical settings and empower people with cochlear implants to take more active roles in monitoring their progress and rehabilitation. This project will evaluate a comprehensive online battery of tests in three general areas of auditory function: basic spectro-temporal processing, nonlinguistic meaningful sounds, speech perception in quiet and in noise. The results will provide a basis for further developing and implementing easily accessible and affordable online diagnostic tests and online auditory training programs for people with hearing loss.

Joseph C. Toscano, Ph.D.

Villanova University

Project Title:  "Improving speech recognition for listeners with auditory neuropathy"

Our research examines effects of hearing difficulty on speech perception, a problem that affects many adults even if they have normal hearing thresholds. These cases of "hidden hearing loss" can result in problems coding intensity differences at higher sound levels  and, in turn, can disrupt perception of certain acoustic cues used to distinguish speech sounds. This project will investigate a new technique to improve speech recognition by filtering the sound signal to make these intensity differences more salient, compensating for deficits associated with hidden hearing loss.

Saad Bhamla, Ph.D.

Georgia Tech University

Project Title: “The LoCHAid: A low-cost, open-source hearing aid for Age Related Hearing Loss”

Victor Wong, Ph.D.

Burke Neurological Institute



  My long-standing research interests lie in identifying molecular mechanisms for axonal regeneration after nervous system disease or injury. Axons in the adult nervous systems have little capacity to regenerate after injury. Although hearing regenerative capacity have been documented in avian and amphibian species, the reversal of hearing loss in mammals has been a persistent challenge. Although most therapeutic strategies have focused on the replacement of hair cells (HCs); there also is a need to address the subsequent degeneration of the innervating spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) for functional recovery of hearing. Moreover, very little is known about how to promote SGN neurite growth. There is, therefore, a critical and unmet need to determine how to enhance SGN peripheral neurite growth. The focus of my research is to examine how post-translational modifications can change the fate of SGN neurite growth. Specifically, the main objective is to understand how acetylation of microtubules, which affect microtubule stability, and acetylation of Miro, a mitochondrial transport protein, can impact SGN neurite growth under pathological conditions. Ultimately, I wish to capitalize these biological processes (i.e., microtubule dynamics and axonal transport) into therapeutic strategies to encourage neural regeneration and repair.

Dr. Amineh Koravand
University of Ottawa

Project Title:  “Investigating the Temporal Resolution Capacity in School Aged Children via Neurophysiological Measurement. Pilot Study.”

Prof. Koravand's research deals with the relationship between the peripheral and central auditory systems in children. Her goal is to develop neurophysiological measures (biological markers) to assess the central auditory functions of children during early childhood, to prevent disorders while brain plasticity is still significant.



Announcing 2018 Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) grant award recipients

Daniel A. Llano, M.D., Ph.D.

University of Illinois at Urbana & Champaign

Project Title:  “An exercise intervention to prevent aging-related hearing loss in a mouse model.”

In our research program, we will examine the impact of aging on the auditory system. We will focus on developing innovative approaches to measure metabolic changes in the aging auditory system and developing novel interventions to mitigate them. Successful completion of this work will lead to new approaches to preserve hearing as we age.

Josée Lagacé, Ph.D. and Benoît Jutras , Ph.D.

University of Ottawa

Project Title:  "Virtual Reality For Auditory Training Therapy: A Pilot Study"

Virtual reality (VR) allows an individual to interact in real time with a three-dimensional, computer-simulated environment. The objective of this pilot study is to evaluate VR as an effective interface for ensuring uptake and motivation to auditory training in children with auditory processing difficulties. Since many children with auditory processing difficulties also have learning problems at school, this approach could also contribute to the enhancement of their learning experience and as well as to a reduction of schooling failure.

Madhu Sundarrajan, Ph.D.

University of the Pacific

Project Title:   Audiological and Communication Outcomes in Children with Unilateral Hearing Loss: A Pilot Study.”

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) or single-sided deafness is a type of hearing impairment where individuals have typical hearing in one ear and impaired hearing in the other ear. Permanent UHL exists when the average pure tone air conduction threshold at 0.5, 1, and 2 kHz is greater than or equal to 20 dB HL or pure tone air conduction thresholds are greater than 25 dB HL at two or more frequencies above 2 kHz in the affected ear with an average pure tone air conduction threshold in the good ear less than or equal to 15 dB (National Workshop on Mild and Unilateral Hearing Loss 2005). It is estimated that 1/3 of children with hearing loss are diagnosewith UHL (Lieu, 2018).

Historically UHL was typically not treated in children with the presumption that the contra-lateral ear with hearing levels within the typical range will suffice in providing adequate acoustic stimuli for development of speech perception and communication skills (Oyler, Oyler & Matkin, 1987). However, recent research has shown that children with untreated UHL have poorer communication and academic outcomes compared to typical hearing (TH) children (Kishon-Rabin, Kuint, Hildesheimer, & Ari-Even, 2015, Fitzpatrick et al., 2018; Lieu, 2018), indicating that children with UHL may benefit from an amplification device fitted to the poorer ear.
This project aims to ameliorate the critical gap in the literature by comprehensively investigating audiological and communication outcomes in children with UHL. Furthermore, this project will provide vital information regarding clinical recommendations for children with UHL, in order for them to maintain age appropriate auditory, communication and academic outcomes.

Matthew J. Wilson, Ph.D.
Northern Illinois University

Project Title:  Relationship Between Cognitive Changes and Speech-in-Noise Deficits in Individuals with a History of Concussion: An Efferent System Study.” 

It is well known that long-standing cognitive deficits in the areas of attention and memory frequently accompany concussion. The role that these cognitive deficits play in the development of auditory processing difficulties, such as trouble understanding speech in noise (SIN), following injury remains unclear. Processing auditory information requires a complex interaction between afferent and efferent auditory pathways. The nature of the relationship is such that afferent information, which travels from cochlea to cortex, can be modulated by top-down, cortical influences via feedback loops in the efferent system (ES). These loops are integral for a variety of auditory skills, like understanding SIN. ES strength can be non-invasively measured using a technique known as otoacoustic emission (OAE) suppression, which quantifies how well outer hair cell activity is suppressed in the presence of noise. Greater levels of suppression are indicative of stronger ES activation and have been shown to correlate with better auditory comprehension abilities.
The interdependence of the cortex and efferent pathway suggests that alterations in cortical activity, like what is seen following concussion, may have an impact on overall suppression levels and, by default, play a role in the development of SIN difficulties; however, the nature of the relationship remains poorly understood. Thus, this study aims to examine the relationship between electrophysiological indices of cognition and SIN abilities and how those relate to changes in behavioral performance. Finding will not only improve audiological diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation options, but will also expand the role of the audiologist in the area of head injury research.

Philippe Vincent, Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Project jointly funded with Hearing Health Foundation

Project Title:   Investigating mechanisms of degeneration of ribbon synapses between auditory inner hair cells and type 1 afferent nerve fibers after noise trauma in mammals.”

During all of our life, we are surrounded by sounds that include different frequencies and intensity levels. In the inner ear, the sensory hair cells pick up the sound signal and transmit it to auditory nerve fibers via chemical synapses by releasing the transmitter glutamate; and auditory nerve fibers transmit the sound-coding signal to the brain.

Sound intensity is encoded by the amount of glutamate released by the hair cell, leading to glutamate receptor activation and then action potential firing in auditory nerve fibers. During noise exposure, it has been described that auditory nerve fiber endings can be damaged short- or long-term, most likely due to and excess of calcium influx into the auditory nerve fiber endings. This phenomenon is called excitotoxicity, however, the underlying mechanisms are not completely understood.  

Here I propose to investigate molecular mechanisms of synaptic transmission between hair cells and auditory nerve fibers and to test how they are affected after noise trauma.

Valerio Magnaghi, Ph.D.

University of Milan

Project Title:  “Unrevealing mechanisms of Schwann cell in vestibular schwannoma and their impact on hearing loss.”

Vestibular Schwannoma is a benign tumor of the acoustic nerve causing hearing loss. It arises from Schwann cells, the main myelin-forming cells in the nerve. Thus, changes in the oncogenic properties of these cells may be involved in hearing loss.

The main goal of our project is to analyze the molecular mechanisms underlying the human Schwann cells oncogenic transformation, potentially responsible of the vestibular schwannoma onset, and their vulnerability to environmental electromagnetic fields, that in principle might be pathologically relevant for the hearing loss.

Saad M. Bhamla, Ph.D.

Georgia Tech University

Project Title:  A low-cost, open-source and self-fitting hearing aid.”  



Announcing 2017 Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) grant award recipients

Alisha L. Jones, Au.D., Ph.D., CCC-A

Auburn University

Project Title:  “The effects of auditory training on acceptable noise levels”

Acceptable noise levels have been found to assist in predicting potential success with hearing aids. If we can find a way to lower a person’s acceptable noise level, then their potential for success with hearing aids might increase. This project will examine the effects of three different computer-based aural rehabilitation programs on acceptable nose levels in adults with hearing loss.

Jacopo M. Fontana, Ph.D.

Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Project Title:  Gender Differences to Noise Trauma in the Mouse Cochlea Abstract”

Project Description:
The overall goal of my project is to study the effect of sex hormones on hearing loss due to noise in female mice.

Noise induced hearing loss is a permanent hearing impairment common in our society resulting from prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. Recent findings demonstrated that the circadian rhythms plays an important role in modulating auditory sensitivity to noise trauma. Mice day-exposed to noise recovered to normal hearing thresholds compared to the nigh-exposed ones. This diurnal variation demonstrates the result of strict interaction between hormones like glucocorticoids and the circadian cochlear clock. Sex hormones like estrogen have also a circadian regulation but most of the published studies on noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) used male only even if NIHL affects both men and women. Therefore, a new study is needed to better explain the effect of sex hormones on hearing loss due to noise in females to better understand the potential role of estrogen receptor signaling in the auditory system. 

Victor Wong, Ph.D.

Burke Medical Research Institute

Project Title:  "Microtubule Dynamics and Microtubule-Based Transport in Spiral Ganglion Neurons"

My long-standing research interests lie in identifying molecular mechanisms for axonal regeneration after nervous system disease or injury. Axons in the adult central and peripheral nervous systems have little capacity to regenerate after injury. Although hearing regenerative capacity have been documented in avian and amphibian species, the reversal of hearing loss in mammals has been a persistent challenge. Most therapeutic strategies have focused on the replacement of hair cells (HCs); however, HC replacement has been largely ineffective since subsequent degeneration of the innervating spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) peripheral neurites severely compromises efforts for functional recovery of hearing. Both the success of cochlear implants (CI) and of future therapeutic approaches critically depend on the integrity of SGNs and the availability of functional neurites for direct stimulation. Moreover, very little is known about how to promote SGN neurite growth. There is, therefore, a critical and unmet need to determine how to enhance SGN peripheral neurite growth. The neuronal processes contain a network of cytoskeletal structures necessary to steer neurite outgrowth and maintain structural integrity. Such structures comprise of actin and microtubules that are under the influence of extrinsic cues, thereby affecting their stability, dynamics, and the ability to re-direct neurite growth. Moreover, changes in actin and microtubule dynamics have been implicated to impact transport of important cargoes such as mitochondria and mRNAs in the neuronal processes. These biological processes are necessary to re-establish proper innervation and circuit assembly. Therefore, the main objective of my research is to understand 1) how changes in microtubule dynamics affect neurite growth under pathological conditions, 2) how axonal transport is regulated by microtubule stability, and 3) how to capitalize these biological processes (i.e., microtubule dynamics and axonal transport) into therapeutic strategies to encourage neural regeneration and repair.

Dunia Abdul-Aziz, M.D.

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute

Project Title: Generation of Inner Ear Organoids and ATOH1 – Reporter to Study Hair Cell Differentiation"

Loss of inner ear hair cells is the predominant cause of hearing loss. High throughput screening of drug libraries for compounds that may promote hair cell regeneration has until now been precluded by the relatively few number of cells that can be derived from the mammalian cochlea.  Our lab has recently established a protocol for expansion of inner ear progenitor cells in culture, thereby generating “inner ear organoids” which can be used to study pathways in inner ear development. 

We propose to design an Atoh1-reporter system in which the regulatory elements of the key hair cell- fate determining gene, Atoh1, drive luciferase signal.  Delivery of this reporter into inner ear organoids allows us to directly study, in a high throughput fashion, the regulation of Atoh1 in primary hair cell progenitors. We propose to use this organoid-based reporter system to test the effects of candidate genetic /epigenetic  modifying drugs on Atoh1 activity. This will serve as one of potentially several applications of this reporter system in drug and genetic screening.

Dr. Andrew Wise

Bionics Institute, Melbourne, Australia

Project: Drug delivery to the cochlear for synaptic repair
The Problem: Most adult people, including you and I, are likely to have damaged the highly sensitive sensory cells in our inner ear (see image). We will be disappointed to learn from our doctor that there are no therapeutic options to treat this damage and that unfortunately our condition is likely to worsen over time. There is desperate need to develop drug therapies that can treat, or possibly reverse hearing loss.
Project Aims: We have developed a novel way to deliver medication to the inner ear using specially designed particles that are made using nanoengineering techniques. In order to develop this system for use in the clinic we need to test their effectiveness in delivering medication into the inner ear. Therefore, the aim of this project is to measure the levels of medication inside the inner ear following delivery using the particle system. Outcomes of this study will be critical in further developing the technology so that it can be used to treat hearing loss in the clinic.

A primary cause of hearing loss is damage to the sensory cells in the inner ear – the hair cells and neurons that are responsible for detecting and transmitting sound information to the brain. What we are beginning to understand is that the sensitive connections (red dots – arrow) between the sensory hair cells (blue cell) and the neurons (green cells) are highly susceptible to damage. We are developing drug therapies to ‘reconnect’ the cochlea to treat hearing impairment.


PLOS ONE publication by Valeriy Shafiro, Ph.D.
Capita Foundation is pleased to announce that Valeriy Shafiro, Ph.D., who was awarded a grant from us in 2012 for a research project titled, "Environmental sound and speech perception in relation to language development in children with cochlear implants," has recently published a research report in PLOS ONE. 

Link to report:  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0167030

We congratulate Valeriy and all his contributors for the exceptional work.



Announcing 2015 Capita Foundation Auditory Research (CFAR) grant award recipients

Amanda Lauer, Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins University, Dept. of Otolaryngology


Project Title: “Optimizing hearing with top-down brain control of the ear.”  

Project Description

The overall goal of my research is to understand how auditory input from the ear affects the brain, and how the brain in turn affects the ear through efferent feedback loops. I am particularly interested in understanding the hearing disorders that develop when input to and from the brain is altered. We propose to study top-down efferent effects on hearing to understand how the brain controls the ear using optogenetic, behavioral, and immunohistochemical techniques in rodent models. Understanding how these pathways work may open up new treatment avenues for hearing disorders and will help us understand how hearing is optimized by top-down brain control of cochlear activity.

Medial (MOC) and lateral olivocochlear (LOC) neurons project from the brain to the ear and control information sent back to the brain. Adapted from Lauer et al. (2012). Neurobiology of Aging.

Sanjee Abeytunge

The Rockefeller University

Project Title:  "A Novel Micro-probe for Direct Stimulation of Cochlear Hair Cells

The ear is the fastest and most sensitive sensory organ in the human body. It can resolve data a thousand times faster than the eye and can detect vibrations in the environment at the atomic-scale. The dynamic range of human hearing embraces up to 120 dB of sound-pressure level (SPL). This dynamic range allows humans to hear a millionfold range of amplitudes. The frequency response of a human ear extends to 20 kHz while other mammals, such as whales and bats, can hear up to hundreds of kilohertz. However, the current stimulation probes of hair cells in the cochlea, the sense organ of the ear, to study the mechanics of the inner ear is limited to less than 1 kHz. This limitation leaves most of the mammalian auditory frequencies unstudied. This experimental limitation is due to the physical dimensions of the probes and their configurations used during experiments. My work is design and construction of a micrometer scale novel probe that will overcome the current frequency limitation.


A World Without Barriers
"Hearing Hands", an ad campaign for Samsung of Turkey, brought the small suburban community of Bagcilar together for one man by the name of Muharram.  

With no more than a month of planning, Muharram became the center of an extraordinary stunt. Take a look below to see how Samsung heart-warmingly created a "World with no barriers".


Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory

"Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory," is a story of hope.  The captivating documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music's ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls short.


When Sound and Touch Collide: A Little Synesthesia Exists in All of Us

Everyone knows the feeling -  the chills when you hear that one song, or the painful shivering at the sound of nails against a chalkboard.   Now, imagine if your body continuously heard sound through its skin.

Sherrilyn Roush is the first reported individual to have developed this form of synesthesia, a neurological mix-up of senses, after a stroke that left her numb in the left side of her body.  Researcher Tony Ro was lucky enough to study her incredible anomaly, and his theoretical findings are monumental.  He believes sense of hearing may have evolved from a sense of feeling, and that Roush’s merging of sound and touch is just an exaggerated version of what happens in all of our brains. Although speculative, it’s possible that what scientists now interpret as a merger of sound and touch might actually be a reflection of an earlier state in which the two senses were one.

Read the extraordinary story that led to this theory, here.


Why Some Cultures Don't 'Mind' Auditory Hallucinations

An auditory hallucination is a form of hallucination that involves perceiving sounds without auditory stimulus.  Although an alluding stigma of mental disorders may cause you to think that auditory hallucinations rarely stray from harsh and threatening, 'voice-hearing' can be quite the contrary. 

A new study suggests that schizophrenic people in more collectivist societies sometimes think their auditory hallucinations are helpful. Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann found that voice-hearing experiences of people with serious psychotic disorders are shaped by local culture – in the United States, the voices are harsh and threatening; in Africa and India, they are more benign and playful. This may have clinical implications for how to treat people with schizophrenia, she suggests.


The Distorition of Sound

81 years young with 27 Grammys under his belt, Quincy Jones is the musical titan of the 20th century.  But what does he have to say about music of the 21st century?

Harman Kardon's new documentary, The Distortion of Sound, ventures into the complex pros and cons of music of the digital age.  Whilst the documentary contends a generation of music lovers being 'raised on low-grade sonic sludge', Jones' has a new dedication to soul and sound, which is making certain that music shall be heard and enjoyed in the way that its creators intend.

Take a look at the firm, here!


Making Instruments, Not Just Music: A Competition for Inventors

The Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, attracts instrument inventors from around the globe to compete for $10,000 worth of prizes in addition to recognition for their design, performance, and engineering ingenuity. 

The competition is designed to showcase how extraordinary ideas have the potential to change the way music is made and experienced.  Diverse participants shatter conventional boundaries and uniquely challenge the norms of musicality.  Take a look at some of the incredibly imaginative masterpieces, here!

By Bruno Verbrugghe & Jules Hotrique, France

By Christophe d'Alessandro, Boris Doval, 
Lionel Feugere, Olivier Perrotin, France

By Peter Bussigel, USA

By Dominik Hildebrand Marques Lopes, 
Amelie Hinrichsen, & Till Bovermann, Germany
Nomis, By Jonathan Sparks, USA


Harvard and M.I.T. Are Sued Over Lack of Closed Captions

Advocates for the deaf filed federal lawsuits against Harvard and M.I.T., saying both universities violated antidiscrimination laws by failing to provide closed captioning in their online lectures, courses, podcasts and other educational materials.

The lawsuits, filed by the National Association of the Deaf, which is seeking class-action status, say the universities have “largely denied access to this content to the approximately 48 million — nearly one out of five — Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing.”


Meet Jonathan Lamberton, New York's New Favorite ASL Interpreter

Jonathan Lamberton, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s sign language interpreter, is getting a blizzard of attention for his highly animated ways that were on full display during recent weather briefings.

Mr. Lamberton, 38, is deaf, a relative rarity in his profession, and he uses an innovative form of interpreting that can be easier for some hearing-impaired people to understand.


One School's Mission to Help Deaf Children 'Hear'

The college has installed an interactive light studio at the American Sign Language and English Lower School in New York City.  Equipped with a wall-mounted digital-projection system and specially designed computer programs, the studio enables the children to visualize sound, and further, uniquely understand and experience it.


Deaf People 'Feel Touch' With Hearing Part of Brain


The brain is capable of rewiring itself in extraordinary ways.  Individuals who are born deaf use the "hearing" part of their brain, the auditory cortex, to process both touch and visual stimuli.

"If scientists could measure how much the auditory cortex has been hijacked for other sensory processing, they might be able to figure out how to retrain the brain to devote more capacity to auditory processing instead."

Read more here.