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Over onsMedische WetenschappenResearchDepartment of Otorhinolaryngology
University Medical Center Groningen

Auditory Research

Hearing impairment is a very frequently-occurring condition: 1.5 million people in the Netherlands and 275 million people worldwide have hearing loss. Two major causes of hearing impairment are aging and noise. Therefore, with the increased life expectancy and excessive noise exposure of the younger generations, hearing problems are expected to be even more prevalent in the future.

Hearing disorders canhave a profound impact on life. They may cause anxiety and stress in social interactions and may therefore severely limit societal participation of individuals. In children they may interfere with the ability to develop language skills and perform well in school.

The aim of the hearing research of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology is to better understand peripheral and central mechanism of hearing, as well as their disorders, with the purpose of contributing to the relief from these disorders. The departmental research program "Healthy Ageing and Communication" is incorporated in the School of Behavioral and Cognitive Neurosciences (BCN), Graduate School of Medical Sciences, of the University of Groningen.

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is an unwanted auditory percept, which, in many cases, is not related to an acoustical sound source. For example, people with tinnitus may continuously hear a tone for which no sound source can be identified. Tinnitus may constitute a mild inconvenience, but it may also have a devastating impact on the patient’s ability to function in daily life. An increasing amount of evidence suggests that mechanisms in the central auditory system play an important role in tinnitus. Our research projects focus on the role of the central auditory system in tinnitus, and on the normalization of neural activity in the central auditory system through restoration of the peripheral input to the brain.

Research staff
prof. Pim van Dijk, dr. Emile de Kleine, dr. Rutger Hofman, dr. Rolien Free, dr. Rosemarie Arnold, dr. Sonja Pyott, ir. Sander Ubbink

Collaborations
prof. Marc van Dijk (UMCG/Neurosurgery), Prof. Fatima Husain (University of Illinois), TINNET European COST consortium, ESIT European Research School, Medel Inc., Cochlear Inc.

Research topics
- Reorganization of the auditory cortex in tinnitus and hearing loss (Elouise Koops)
- Tinnitus and cochlear implantation (Francka Kloostra)
- Evaluation of clinical care in tinnitus (dr. Rosemarie Arnold)
- Diagnostics of objective tinnitus (ir. Sander Ubbink)
- Auditory brainstem implantation for tinnitus suppression (Minke van den Berge)
- Personalized
hearing aid fitting to ameliorate tinnitus (position open)
- Genetics of tinnitus (dr. Sonja Pyott)

Mechanics of the inner ear

The inner ear is where hearing starts. Its mechanical function forms the basis for the extraordinary sensitivity of the ear, and for its ability to discriminate sound frequencies, and hence communication sounds. In this project, otoacoustic emission are used to study the mechanics of the inner ear in a non-invasive way in humans.

Research staff
Prof. Pim van Dijk, dr. Emile de Kleine, ir. Bert Maat

Collaborations
prof. Geoffrey Manley (University of Oldenburg), prof. Christine Köppl (University of Oldenburg), prof. Bill Bialek (Princeton University), prof. Glenis Long (City University of New York), dr. Bastian Epp (Denmark Technical Univeristy), prof. Nomdo Jansonius (Ophthamology/UMCG), prof. Diek Duifhuis (ENT/UMCG), prof. Hero Wit (ENT/UMCG).

Research topics
- Otoacoustic emissions to probe cochlear frequency selectivity (Sina Engler)
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Intracranial pressure measured noninvasively in patients with normal tension glaucoma (Allison Loiselle)
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The physical limits to auditory perception (prof. Pim van Dijk)
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A mechanical model of the middle and inner ear (ir. Bert Maat)


Molecular function of the inner ear

Our ability to encode sound and head position rely on exquisite structures in the inner ear and a cascade of carefully orchestrated molecular events. While our senses of hearing and balance often go unnoticed, their loss can cause enormous disability. Research investigating the molecular function of the ear uses a variety of genetic, molecular, and physiological approaches to relate molecular physiology of the inner ear to in vivo function of the auditory and vestibular systems. This work is essential to understanding both normal function of the inner ear and also developing new treatments for inner ear disorders.

Research staff
prof. Pim van Dijk, dr. Sonja Pyott

Collaborations
University of Oldenburg, University of Nebraska, Johns Hopkins University

Research topics
- Channels and transporters as regulators of excitability in the inner ear
(dr. Hao Feng, Daniël Reijntjes, Nick Schubert, dr. Marcel van Tuinen, dr. Sonja Pyott)
Ion channesland transporters are the fundamental regulators of neuronal function and ionic homeostasis in the inner ear. This project identifies the molecular and functional contributions of channels and transporters to normal inner ear function and also inner ear disorders. A major aim of this research is to use this information to identify novel therapeutics for inner ear disorders.

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Form and function of inner ear synapses
(dr. Hao Feng, Daniël Reijntjes, Suzanne Bezema, dr. Marcel van Tuinen, dr. Sonja Pyott)
All information about sound and head position are relayed via the connections, or synapses, between the inner ear and brain. Understanding the function of these synapses is essential to understanding how sensory stimuli are, in general, properly encoded and relayed for perception. A major aim of this research is to relate changes in the function of these synapses to changes in auditory and vestibular function as part of normal development and also inner ear pathology.

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Integration of afferent and efferent circuits in the inner ear
(Daniël Reijntjes, dr. Marcel van Tuinen, dr. Sonja Pyott)
The inner ear sends (afferent) information about sound and head position to the bran but also receives (efferent) information from the brain. The aim of this research is to understand the integration of these pathways in the inner ear and understand how disruption of these pathways contributes to central auditory disorders, like tinnitus.


Cognitive function and hearing impairment

Speech communication is a complex process that involves more than simple transduction of sounds from the ear to the brain. A large part of the process involves cognitive functions, such as attention, memory, processing speech, lexical activation and rehearsal, amongst others. Hearing impairment results in degradation of the speech signal, and makes speech comprehension often a challenging task. As a result, hearing impaired listeners need to compensate by relying even more on cognitive strategies. Our research investigates how hearing impaired individuals, with and without hearing devices, extract the linguistic and non-linguistic content from the signal.

Research staff
prof. Deniz Başkent, dr. Rolien Free, dr. Anita Wagner, dr. Terrin Tamati, dr. Christina Fuller, dr. Paolo Toffanin

Collaborations
dr. Esther Janse (Radboud), prof. Roelien Bastiaanse
(RUG Faculty of Arts), prof. Frans Cornelissen (UMCG Opthalmology)

Research topics
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The perception of real-life speech by cochlear-implanted individuals (dr. Terrin Tamati)
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Enhancement of speech emotion recognition (Julie Kirwan)
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Top-down enrichment of speech perception (Elif Kaplan)
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Automatic and attentional processes in speech perception by normal and hearing impaired listeners (dr. Anita Wagner)
- Perceiving the emotion in communication by persons with combined visual and auditory impairment (Minke de Boer)

Funding
NWO VIDI, NWO VICI, Marie Curie People, Marie Curie Actions, Stichting LSBS (Uitzicht)


Hearing and hearing impairment in children

Hearing is an important component of speech communication, which greatly contributes to the overall development of children, including linguistic, cognitive and social aspects. A hinderance to hearing, therefore, can lead to serious negative consequences of a child's development. The projects listed here aim to better understand and provide a comprehensive view of the effects of hearing impairment on children's perceptual skills and overall development.

Research staff
prof. Pim van Dijk, prof. Deniz Baskent, dr. Etienne Gaudrain (also at CNRS, Lyon)

Collaborations
dr. Margreet Luinge (Hanzehogeschool Groningen), prof. Petra Hendriks (RUG Faculty of Arts), dr. Anastasios Sarampalis (RUG Psychology), dr. Wander Louie (RUG Fa culty of Arts). dr. Debi Vickers (UCL, England), dr. Monita Chatterjee (Boystown, USA)

Research topics
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Auditory processing disorders in children (Ellen de Wit)
- Motor skills and executive functions in hearing-impaired children (Baudina Visser)
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Second language learning in adolescent cochlear implant users (Enja Jung)
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Perception of indexical cues in children with normal hearing and CIs (Leanne Nagels)

Funding
NWO VIDI, NWO VICI

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implantation is the therapy of choice for severe hearing impairment and complete deafness. A cochlear implant (CI) partially restores hearing by direct electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve (N VIII). Research in our department focuses on identification of the effectiveness of implants in terms of quality of life, hearing abilities, cognitive functions and linguistic development of pediatric and adult implant users, identifying factors that lead to a successful implant outcome and the improvement of implant technology.

Research staff
prof. Deniz Başkent, dr. Rolien Free, dr. Anita Wagner, dr. Terrin Tamati, dr. Etienne Gaudrain (also at CNRS, Lyon) , dr. Christina Fuller, ir. Bert Maat, dr. Paolo Toffanin, Thirsa Huisman

Collaborations
dr. Monita Chatterjee (Boystown, USA), dr. Olivier Crouzet (CNRS Nantes; UMCG visiting scholar), dr. Tim Jürgens (Oldenburg), dr. Waldo Nogueira (Hannover), dr. Luise Wagner (Universitaetsklinikum Halle), prof. Natasha Maurits (UMCG Department of Neurology), dr. Robert I. Harris (Hanzehogeschool, het Groninger Conservatorium), dr. Jane Opie (Med-El)

Research topics
- Improving the perception of vocal characteristics in cochlear implants (Nawal El Boghdady)
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The Early-Deafened, Early-Implanted CI user: a new implantable group? (dr. Christina Fuller)
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Voice perception and linguistic processing in hearing impairment and cochlear implants (prof. Deniz Başkent, dr. Etienne Gaudrain, dr. Anita Wagner, dr. Terrin Tamati)
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ArtiBrain (Artifact in recordings with CI users) (dr. Anita Wagner)
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Individual differences in the adaptation to the signal transmitted via CI (dr. Anita Wagner)
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Neural entrainment in speech perception by CI users (dr. Anita Wagner)
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Using humanoid robot SAM for testing and training CI users (Thirsa Huisman)
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Musical training in CI users - The effect of musical training in a prospective study (ir. Bert Maat, dr. Rolien Free)

Funding
NWO VIDI, NWO VICI, Dorhout Mees, Advanced Bionics, Med-El, Cochlear, Mandema Stipendium, Marie Curie People

Last modified:04 May 2017 2.42 p.m.