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Academy Research Conference 2017: Interview with Dr. Anne Marie Tharpe

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Academy Research Conference 2017: Interview with Dr. Anne Marie Tharpe

February 10, 2017 / By Christopher Spankovich In the News

Pediatrics: Advancements in Assessment and Rehabilitation

AT: Dr. Tharpe thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about the Academy Research Conference 2017, titled Pediatrics: Advancements in Assessment and Rehabilitation. You have compiled an impressive list of speakers, what went into your decision-making?

AMT: Thank you, Chris, I appreciate talking with you today. I want to start by thanking the planning committee, as they provided stimulating discussion and thought through how we wanted to put this conference together. Our committee consisted of Drs. Linda Hood, Doug Sladen, Marlene Bagatto, and me. We discussed some approaches and ideas, before coming to this particular set of speakers. We were very fortunate that every speaker we invited agreed to participate. Everyone on the program is a first choice, which we are very happy about.

One of the primary things we kept in mind was the research emphasis; this is, after all, a research conference. Nonetheless, we know many clinicians will be attending this meeting. Therefore, we wanted to be able to identify speakers who could address the research behind the practice and ensure a useful and stimulating experience for the attendees. We also wanted a program that would impact either how attendees practice audiology or how they think about the science of hearing.

AT: I agree, I think that is a very important consideration. If you can please give a brief overview of the speakers and the topics they will be discussing. I must say these are not only great researchers but also great speakers that can translate their knowledge in an effective manner.

AMT: I am happy to do that. Our opening speaker is Dr. Brenda Ryals from James Madison University, who has a long and accomplished career in hair cell regeneration research. Dr. Ryals is going to provide an update on the impact of her work on future therapies to restore hearing. I anticipate this will be a thought-provoking presentation that will make us think differently about the future of audiology.

AT: I thought this was a compelling topic for this conference, as in the future this may be something our patients are receiving that may not necessarily cure deafness or hearing loss, but another tool to enhance audiological approaches to improve hearing.

AMT: Absolutely, I imagine and anticipate audiologists will serve in significant roles in identifying candidates for hair cell regeneration and determining how we supplement hearing through a combination of technology and other non-medical treatments. I think it will be a fascinating topic.

AMT: Next we have an interesting pair of researchers Drs. Phillip Gilley and Kristen Uhler from the University of Colorado in Denver. They have been doing work in the area of speech perception in infancy and assessment methods and are working on the development of a clinical tool. Their presentation will integrate the clinical and basic research they have conducted on this topic. Many of us in pediatric audiology have longed for the capability of assessing speech perception very early before children can cooperate with current formal measures.

Dr. Ruth Litovsky from the University of Wisconsin will address spatial hearing and cognitive load, in users of bilateral cochlear implants (CI). Of course, today bilateral implantation is the norm. Dr. Litovsky will challenge us to think not only about binaural auditory benefits but also about mental effort or cognitive load in those who are implanted bilaterally. I think this relatively new attention to hearing and cognition is going to be an important and interesting topic for this conference and the field.

AT: I agree and find an interesting play between Dr. Litovsky and Ryals' talks. The idea of binaural CI and having appropriate stimulation early on, but then on the other side, the potential availability of therapeutics available in the next 20 years, does the implant present a barrier to taking advantage of these therapeutics?

AMT: Right, it takes me back to an argument in the early days of cochlear implantation when people did not want to implant the second ear of children—they wanted to "save" the non-implanted ear for future, more advanced technology. Today, CI technology is very advanced, and we can begin to think about a merger of technology and biological advances to improve hearing—blending human tissue with electronics.

AMT: Another presenter highly regarded in pediatric circles is Dr. Susan Scollie of the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Scollie is well known for her work with the Desired Sensation Level (DSL) hearing aid fitting approach and is regarded as a "clinician's clinician." This fitting approach radically changed the way that children in this country and around the world are fit with hearing aids. She will present her views on optimizing pediatric amplification fittings. I anticipate a very practical presentation, rooted in decades of research, that will provide immediately applicable guidance to clinicians.  

AT: Excellent

AMT: Our final presentation of the day will be by Dr. Ben Hornsby from Vanderbilt University. He will discuss the topic of fatigue in children with hearing loss. This is a hot topic in audiology. I love this topic because we are finally starting to look at the total child, not just the ears.  There is a lot of interest in what measures of fatigue might mean for managing those with hearing loss. Does it mean we will have a new way of measuring hearing aid benefit and other technology benefits to children beyond just speech perception?  This presentation promises to end our day on a high note!

AT: Will there be any time for a panel discussion?

AMT: Yes, there will be ample time for discussion. In fact, a generous amount of time, and I know frequently this does not happen. First, during lunch, attendees will have time to browse the posters. At the end of the day, we will have a generous allotment of time for questions from the audience followed by a wine and cheese reception (sponsored in part by Phonak, LLC) during, which poster presenters and the ARC presenters will be available for questions and discussion.

AT: Any other comments or words for those attending or considering attending ARC this year?

AMT: I think we have an excellent panel of speakers and I am personally looking forward to it. You started our interview by asking how we came up with the topics and speakers. Simply, we wanted a conference that we would want to attend as audience members. I think we accomplished that. I want to hear these presentations and hope the attendees are looking forward to it as well.

AT: Thank you for the time

AMT: No problem, I appreciate you getting the word out!

Anne Marie Tharpe, PhD, is a professor and the chair of the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences and associate director of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She is also the chair of the Academy Research Conference 2017.

Christopher Spankovich, AuD, PhD, MPH, is an associate professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. He is also an associate editor of Audiology Today and www.audiology.org

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