Conference to present current genetic research about hearing loss

University of Western Ontario Professor and audiologist Susan Stanton and Tracy Stockley, associate director of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory at the Hospital for Sick Children, will present current genetic research about hearing loss etiology at an upcoming York conference entitled Genetics and Hearing Loss: Educational Implications for Cochlear Implants.

In addition, Sue Archbold, education coordinator of The Ear Foundation in Nottingham, England, who also teaches the deaf, will review the latest research on the impact that cochlear implants have had on deaf education, its practice and the educational choices that parents make.

Presented by York’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teacher Education Program in the Faculty of Education, the conference will run on Monday, Oct. 6, from 9am to 3:30pm, in the Robert McEwen Auditorium in the Schulich Business Centre, Keele campus.

Over the last 10 years, genetic research has substantially increased the understanding and knowledge of the pathophysiological basis of hearing loss and many deafness genes have been identified. As a result genetic testing is now available clinically for some of the most common genetic mutations. 

Right: The human ear. Graphic: Wikimedia Commons.

Stanton and Stockley will introduce basic genetics for the non-scientist and will review the structure and function of the inner ear as well as discuss profound new insights into the pathophysiology of hearing beginning with the discovery of the gene known as GJB2 or Connexin 26. Mutations in this single gene are responsible for a significant proportion of cases with congenital non syndromic hearing loss. Genetic hearing loss can be classified into syndromic or non syndromic forms and by the mode of inheritance. Some 50 to 60 per cent of congenitally hearing-impaired individuals in developed countries have a genetic basis for their hearing loss. 

Stockley and Stanton will also discuss future directions for research and hearing health care, including the potential for new treatments and ethical dilemmas arising from such advances.

Stockley’s recent research projects include screening for metabolic and analysis of point mutations in X-linked disorders. She is also interested in genetic causes of paediatric hearing loss and in creating and evaluating molecular diagnostic assays to assess genetic mutations causing hearing loss. Stanton’s basic research studies have investigated issues in auditory development with a focus on the plasticity of the structure and function of the primary auditory cortex as well as electrophysiological and behavioral responses in patients with a variety of disorders.  

Archbold, who coordinated the Nottingham Cochlear Implant Program from its inception in 1989 until 2004, developed methods of assessing and monitoring young children for implantation and a database to manage a cochlear implant program. She will discuss the influence of cochlear implants on educational choices for communication mode and placement, and on outcomes. Archbold, who has published widely on education of deaf children and outcomes from implantation, will also address what support children and young people with cochlear implants need to succeed in school.

To register, e-mail Shelby Vavra at or call ext. 55971. The cost of the conference is $40.