TAMPA, Fl. — The Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research (GCHSR) at the University of South Florida smells like fresh paint. The halls are mostly empty and there is plywood on some of the floors. Construction of the newest, state-of-the art facility at USF and was completed just weeks ago.
This world-renown lab arrived in 2010 from the University Of Rochester’s Medical Center (URMC). The GCHSR had been conducting research at URMC since 1990 and received a grant renewal last year. That is when the College of Behavioral Sciences and the College of Engineering at USF began courting the GCHSR. A multimillion dollar facility was built and the center was moved from Rochester, NY to Tampa, FL.
Florida’s aging population is expanding rapidly. Nearly everyone will experience some hearing loss with age, which is the third most chronic condition in elderly people, aside from cardiovascular problems and arthritis according to Robert Frisina, director of the GCHSR.
Frisina says, “Age related hearing loss can be very frustrating for an older person. Just when they want to spend time with their family and grandkids they cannot communicate.”
When a person begins to lose hearing, high pitches usually become inaudible first. Children have high-pitched voices and often resort to yelling when communicating with grandparents. Yelling only distorts sound and, eventually, children tend to lose patience. This leaves grandparents feeling left out of conversations, depressing for those who had normal hearing most of their lives.
Frisina speculates it will be years before age-related hearing loss is cured. It is a complex condition with ear and brain involvement. Researchers will probably develop ways to prevent hearing loss.
The GCHSR has a full animal model lab and full human clinical lab on the premises. The researchers plan to use the molecular and animal research to demonstrate how they can fix hearing loss. Eventually, clinical trials will be conducted on humans. The center has developed clinical labs that test the hearing of people up to 95 years old.
The center is always looking for participants. Test subjects will receive hearing tests normally worth hundreds of dollars free of charge. At the end of testing, the participant will know whether he or she is suffering from age-related hearing loss and what can be done to help this condition.