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Recognition for outstanding research into childhood hearing loss

Institute News
Wednesday, October 30, 2019 - 1:30pm

MCRI’s Dr Valerie Sung has been recognised for her exceptional research into improving the management of children with hearing loss.

Dr Sung has been awarded a 2019 L'Oréal-UNESCO Australian & New Zealand For Women in Science Fellowship.

The Women in Science fellowship program, launched in 2007, has recognised 49 scientists, supporting them to continue their research and help them rise to leadership positions in their field of expertise. 

The $25,000 fellowship will allow Dr Sung to continue her work on:    

  • The world’s largest bio-databank of hearing-impaired children of its kind (VicCHILD) to identify early genetic and environmental factors that predict a child’s future,
  • A trial to determine whether early hearing aids help babies with mild hearing loss, and
  • A pilot screening program for the virus CMV which causes hearing loss, in the hope of finding a breakthrough to prevent hearing loss progression.

Dr Sung said despite great advances in early detection and intervention, some hearing-impaired children still struggle with their learning and development. The underlying reasons are poorly understood, making it difficult for clinicians to recommend the best management options and predict the challenges children may face at diagnosis. 

“My aim is to provide clinicians with answers, as they search for clearer guidance to provide families about the best therapeutic options for their children,” she said. 
 
Hearing loss is the most common congenital condition screened at birth, affecting 1-3 per 1000 newborns.

“Despite very early detection of hearing loss through universal newborn hearing screening, children with hearing loss are still much more likely to struggle in their language development and learning when compared with their normally hearing peers,” Dr Sung said.

“If we can better predict which child will experience additional health burdens, better predict which child will face more developmental challenges, and have more understanding in how to treat each child, we will be able to alleviate many of these families’ burdens and help these children live more fulfilling lives. 
“One day, we may even potentially find a way to stop hearing loss from progressing, or cure hearing loss altogether.”