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Audiology and otology

It's estimated that hearing loss affects 17% of the population in the West Midlands. Birmingham is in the top 15 regions across England for people with hearing problems. As well as hearing loss, these problems can include impaired balance, dizziness, vertigo and tinnitus.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) has 35,000 clinic appointments a year relating to ear problems.

The Audiology and Otology department is staffed by a team of:

  • audiologists
  • clinical scientists
  • hearing therapists
  • ear, nose and throat (ENT) consultants
  • nurses, and
  • administrative staff

UHB is actively involved in audiology and otology research with academic and commercial partners and is continuing to develop its research portfolio.

Commercial studies

One of our current commercial study trials aims to evaluate the benefit of using hearing devices in both ears, with bone-anchored hearing systems. We are exploring how hard it is to listen using these devices and how this may vary depending on background noise.

Non-commercial studies

Non-commercial studies include ongoing work with Nottingham University on the benefits of bilateral (two-sided) cochlear implants versus unilateral (single-sided) cochlear implants.

We are also working with University College London’s Ear Institute to collect tissue from necessary surgical procedures that would otherwise be discarded as medical waste. The tissue will be used for experimental studies to find ways to replace lost hair cells with new ones as a means to reverse vestibular dysfunction, which can cause significant balance issues.

We are currently working with Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to contribute to an online database that aims to collect information on the health and treatment of people who have recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, a rare disorder that can make it difficult to breath and swallow. 

Recently completed studies

Recently completed studies include:

  • comparing a novel microphone device that was surgically placed inside the middle ear with the microphones currently used for cochlear implants
  • looking at the music listening behaviour of people with all levels of deafness with the University of Leeds. This aims to identify how the listening experience for people with hearing aids can be improved

MoD hearing health pathway

The hearWELL collaboration is looking at the prevention, detection and treatment of hearing loss in members of the Armed Forces. The team has a variety of academic projects that they lead and support with, in collaboration with defence teams, commercial companies, charities and universities.

Their main focus at present is RAPIER, a large trial which is testing a remote referral pathway providing a specialist opinion to help diagnose, review and treat hearing loss. This toolkit can be used both at a UK base and in a deployed setting.

Common conditions and trial topics

  • Cochlear implants
  • Bone-anchored hearing aids
  • Middle ear implants
  • Tinnitus treatment and management
  • Vestibular disorders and management
  • Listening effort and speech discrimination
  • Treatment for hearing loss
  • Acute acoustic trauma
  • Blast injuries
  • Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL)

Contact information

Last reviewed: 27 April 2021