Top priorities named in hearing loss research

Person using a hearing aid
26 Nov 2015 23:30:00.000

Experts have published a list of the most urgent priorities for researching a debilitating condition that affects more than 10 million people in the UK.

Published in The Lancet, the top 10 research priorities for tackling mild to moderate hearing loss aims to re-focus future studies on areas which could potentially have the greatest impact in furthering understanding of the condition and developing successful new treatments.

Lead author Dr Helen Henshaw, a University of Nottingham academic based at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit, said: “Hearing loss can have a profound impact on people’s ability to maintain relationships, lead a normal life and go out to work.

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“With such a huge proportion of the population affected by this condition, it is vital that hearing research funding is prioritised for the questions which are most important to them.”

Unanswered questions

Despite being one of the six health priority areas for the NIHR, significantly less is spent on hearing research – just £47 per one lost year of healthy life compared to other priority conditions such as sight loss (£99) and diabetes (£399).

Currently, evidence which underpins clinical practice is typically provided by researchers in universities that are far-removed from frontline clinical services and which often does not take into account the views and experiences of key stakeholders.

The list of Top 10 hearing loss priorities were identified by an innovative partnership coordinated by the NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit and guided by the James Lind Alliance, which brings together patients, carers and clinicians to identify the unanswered questions about the effects of treatments that they agree are the most important.

It canvassed the views of more than 460 people with either direct or indirect experience of mild to moderate hearing loss, on what they believed were the most significant treatment uncertainties before asking them to rank the importance of more than 80 research questions connected to these areas on a scale of importance. The top 30 ranked questions were then taken forward to a final prioritisation workshop, which then narrowed these down to the final top 10 based on consensus from a group of patients, family, friends and clinicians.

Dissemination of the top questions

The final top 10 includes questions about the prevention (or cure), diagnosis and treatment, with the majority of treatment questions concerned with aspects of hearing aid provision.

All of the uncertainties identified by the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership, including the top 10, will be uploaded to the Database of Uncertainties About the Effects of Treatments to be made widely to the public, the research community, research commissioners and research funders.

The project was supported by funding awarded by the Nottingham University Hospitals Charity and the National Institute for Health Research Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit

A full copy of the paper can be viewed on The Lancet website.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for three years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

The National Institute for Health Research

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit is a partnership between University of Nottingham, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust and Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research.

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Melanie Ferguson in the School of Medicine, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 823 2619,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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