Despite the implementation of a thorough clinical standard in diagnostics and treatment of hearing disorders, the current clinical repertoire of diagnostic methods and therapy is based mainly on the appearance of symptoms rather than on the exact cause of the underlying disease. Modern medicine, however, requires an individually-tailored therapeutic plan which takes into consideration the different pathophysiological processes that could cause similar symptoms.
To improve diagnostics and therapy, the implementation of new clinical methods is needed. Many psychophysical tests (e.g., speech audiometry tests, binaural interaction tests) which have already demonstrated their potential in basic hearing research have yet to be incorporated into the clinical diagnostic repertoire. The integration of these methods will allow a better prediction of the auditory performance in everyday complex acoustic settings than is currently possible with classical tests.
New developments in cellular and molecular biology, systems physiology, psychophysics, psychophysiology and in modeling auditory mechanisms will further allow for the development of a new diagnostic approach providing for a therapy that is based on the exact cause and extent of a given hearing impairment, such as, e.g., differentiating between inner hair cell and outer hair cell loss.
- The Task Group (1) "Diagnostics and therapy" focuses on integrating the different diagnostic approaches and defining a minimum set of functional diagnostic tests to provide sufficient information for the treatment of the patient and the selection of an appropriate hearing instrument within a reasonable amount of time.
- The Task Group (2) "Audio-Neuro-Tech" focuses on the audio-brain interface. A combined approach using psychophysical and objective electrophysiological testing procedures will be used to explore how the information in audio signals can most efficiently be transmitted to the central neural system of hearing impaired subjects and how recordings from auditory implants can help to diagnose the extent of central adaptations and degenerative processes taking place during hearing impairment.
- The Task Group (3) "Functional characterization of the individual" focuses on relating interindividual differences to the successful treatment of hearing impairment. Since standard audiological factors cannot fully account for the observed variance, factors beyond these measures must contribute to the differences. The task group will focus on cognitive, psycholinguistic,neural, genetic and sociodemographic factors usually not covered in audiological diagnostics to close the diagnostic gap between the individual patient's performance and a modelbased predicted outcome.