29 January 2020

Emmanuel Mylanus and Wendy Huinck of the ENT department of Radboudumc have received a Horizon 2020 grant of €1 million for the MOSAICS project. In this project, the researchers will create a precise overview of factors determining the optimum performance of a cochlear implant (CI). They hope to be able to use this information to more accurately predict which individuals’ hearing would improve most with CI.
“The MOSAICS project is expected to improve the predictability of the results of cochlear implants in people with profound hearing impairments and deafness,” states ENT physician Emmanuel Mylanus. “Predictability is currently too low.” A cochlear implant consists of an external component (that receives and transmits sound) and an internal component (that receives the signals and forwards them to the auditory nerve through an electrode). The device has now been implanted in more than 600,000 people worldwide.

Wide variations

Mylanus: “On average, the results of CI are favorable. The hearing of sounds—and thus the ability to understand speech—is vastly improved. There are nevertheless wide variations in the results. For some patients, CI works really well, while others experience much more disappointing results. For example, we know that the duration and extent of auditory impairments preceding the implant play a role. The position of the electrode in the cochlea and other factors have a role to play as well. Nevertheless, all of these factors together explain only one fourth of all of the differences that we observe. This percentage needs to be higher if we want to predict who will and will not benefit from CI. This is the goal of MOSAICS.”

Major impact

Profound hearing loss has a major impact on people’s well-being, as well as on their opportunities within the community and society. “This places a strain on a wide range of ordinary matters, including communication, work, and social relationships,” explains Wendy Huinck, a speech and language pathologist and co-applicant for the project. “Although hearing aids are fine for most people with hearing loss, they are not always sufficient for those with profound hearing impairments. Cochlear implants (CI) might offer a solution. Unfortunately, however, we are not yet able to accurately predict who would benefit most from CI.”

Improving communication

Physicians and researchers would therefore like to improve their understanding of why some people develop good speech comprehension while others do not. Huinck: “With the MOSAICS project, which will start on 1 February, we will be searching for factors that play a decisive role in the results. Our ambition is to achieve the best results for everyone with CI. We hope to do this, because we know that improving communication for people with CI is essential to retaining their social contacts, autonomy and position in the labor market.”

Increase in profound hearing loss

According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 6% of all people worldwide have profound hearing loss. Hearing loss is currently ranked as the 15th most common health problem worldwide, but it is expected to be in 7th place by 2030, due in part to the advancement of population aging. In the MOSAICS (Minimized Outcome Spread and mAximized participation In Society) project, Radboud university medical center is collaborating with partners including the CI producer (Cochlear), Hannover Medical School (MHH), VUmc, and Trinity College Dublin.

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