Annual Report 2010

Steven Green

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Steven Green, professor of biology and faculty member in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience, has a research goal of improving hearing in cochlear implant recipients.

Cochlear implants restore hearing by electrically stimulating auditory neurons in the inner ear. While cochlear implants are very effective in restoring speech perception in a quiet environment, they are not very effective in noisy environments or in restoring music perception. To the extent that auditory neurons degenerate, the efficacy of the implant is compromised.

Green’s lab investigates degeneration and death of auditory neurons in animal deafness models including the question of how electrical stimulation, such as that received from cochlear implants, affects the intracellular machinery that controls neuronal death and survival. “An outcome of our research could be means to develop cochlear implants that replace not only the sensory functions of lost auditory sensory cells but also their function in maintaining the health of auditory neurons,” Green said.

The compelling case for research on hearing loss

  • Approximately 17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss.
  • The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that approximately 15 percent (26 million) of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds or noise at work or in leisure activities.
  • About 2 to 3 of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard-of-hearing. Nine out of every 10 children who are born deaf are born to parents who can hear.
  • More than 112,000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants. In the United States, roughly 23,000 adults and 15,500 children have received them.

— Source: Deafness Research Foundation