Last month, we invited our PhD students and our early-career Fellows to visit our head office in Highbury, to find out more about the work we do, to meet each other and to meet our staff. Marta Narkiewicz, from our research team, tells us more about the day.
Our goal is to accelerate the discovery and development of treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus. This aim can only be achieved through the work of many scientists. To increase the number of scientists working on developing these exciting new treatments, we support talented researchers at the early stages of their careers. We provide funding to support PhD students and offer Fellowship grants to aid the career development of the UK’s most talented new ‘investigators’ towards becoming independent scientists.
The Future Research Leaders Day
Our annual student days are a great opportunity for us to meet our hard-working PhD students and this year, we also invited our Fellows to join us at our ‘Future Research Leaders Day’. It was an excellent opportunity for our new scientists to meet each other, discuss their research and find out more about Action on Hearing Loss and the work we do as a charity.
The day commenced with Ralph Holme, our Executive Director of Research, who spoke about the huge impact hearing loss can have on people, and gave an introduction to Action on Hearing Loss and its work. The group then got creative with Paul Hayward, our Head of Public Fundraising, in a fun workshop where they thought about the best way to describe their research to the public in the form of a ‘product’ box. The teams came up with many interesting ideas and made some great boxes!
Presenting their research
In the next session, the students and Fellows each gave a short presentation on their research to each other. Their talks covered a wide range of topics, including ear development, dementia and hearing loss, tinnitus, improving cochlear implants, and restoration of hearing – to name a few.
One of our newest Fellows, Dr Emma Holmes, is studying how hearing loss affects cognition, or more specifically, how hearing loss affects auditory attention when listening to speech in noisy surroundings. People with hearing loss find it particularly challenging to listen in noisy places, even when using a hearing aid. Researchers think that people with normal hearing use ‘spatial attention’ to overcome this problem and improve how well they can understand speech in noisy places.
Spatial attention is a specific form of attention, which enables us to focus our hearing towards a specific location. Emma wants to find out how this ability differs among people with different levels of hearing loss. She will also use brain imaging techniques to measure brain activity in her volunteers and will then create a computational model of the brain processes involved. Her findings could lead to clinical tests to improve diagnosis of hearing loss. Such tests could allow clinicians to predict how well each person will understand speech in noisy places, and whether they would benefit from specific interventions.
In the afternoon, Jennifer Bizley joined us for an engaging ‘Fireside Chat’ led by our Executive Director, Ralph Holme. Jennifer is a Sir Henry Dale Research Fellow and Professor of Auditory Neuroscience at the UCL Ear Institute. She spoke to the students and Fellows about her research, her career and the challenges faced by the new generation of scientists entering the field. Managing a busy and challenging career with her home life, Jennifer uses her time very efficiently – she is also a dedicated mother, blogger and a keen sculler!
Meeting our staff and supporters
The final part of the day was a poster session where the students and Fellows showcased their work and talked to Action on Hearing Loss staff and supporters about their research projects and what they hoped to achieve. The day concluded with a few words from our Chief Executive who thanked the students and Fellows for their hard work and our supporters who make this research possible.
Support our work
We depend on your donations so we can fund the best hearing and tinnitus research around the world. Donate today and help us continue our vital work into hearing treatments, so that people can live life to the full again.