Recently awarded grants


Grants Awards 2021

The Eisdell Moore Centre has provided $368,000 of research funding in 2021 for 1 Maori Grant Project, 1 Pacific Grant, 10 Project Grants and 2 Student Grants.  Our grant round was considerably oversubscribed this year, so grant-in-aid funding has been provided to applicants. Congratulations to all of our grant recipients.

Māori Research Grant

Development of te reo Māori speech-hearing assessments in Aotearoa – $35,000 for 1 year

PI: Alehandrea Manuel (Ngāti Porou), University of Auckland

AI’s: Prof. Greg O’Beirne, Dr Mike Maslin, James Dawson, Tare Lowe (Kāi Tahu), Prof. Jeanette King, Jen Smith (Ngāti Whātua), University of Canterbury; Kylie Bolland, Hutt Valley DHB; Daniel Robertson, Northland DHB; Chessie Egan, New Zealand Audiology Society and eHearing; Dr Rebecca Garland, Hutt Valley DHB; A.P. Holly Teagle, University of Auckland and The Hearing House.

There is limited availability of valid and robust te reo Māori hearing assessments in Aotearoa. This is an area of research that requires further attention from a Kaupapa Maōri stance. In the proactive support of reo Māori revitalisation, this project aims to develop partnerships in Aotearoa to create and develop te reo Māori hearing assessments. Embedded within Kaupapa Māori theory and methodology, narratives will be shared through wānanga and Māori realities will be brought forward to explore what te reo Māori speech-hearing assessments could look like and how they could be applied in clinical or community settings.

Pacific Research Grant

 Worldviews, knowledge and beliefs of Ear and Hearing Health in Pacific Peoples in New Zealand: A pilot study – $35,000 for 2 years

PI: Dr Elizabeth Holt, University of Auckland

AI’s: Ms Latasi Koro (Tokelau, Samoa, New Zealand) Bay Audiology, Dr Fiona Langridge (New Zealand, Papua New Guinea), A/P Vili Nosa,  (Niue, New Zealand), University of Auckland.

Pacific peoples in New Zealand experience difficulties accessing health care and shortcomings in the quality of care received because of several factors, including a failure to acknowledge Pacific values, challenges and strengths in Pacific communities.  Understanding community members’ worldviews in ear and hearing health are essential in establishing appropriate hearing healthcare programmes. Individuals and groups can have vastly different notions of health and disease, influencing the expectations and experiences within the health care setting.  This study will examine the knowledge, beliefs and practises of hearing health in Pacific communities to inform equitable hearing health care services in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Seed-funding and Capability Research Grants

Messenger RNA tools for treating inner ear disorders – $35,000 for 1 year.

 PI: A/P Srdjan Vlajkovic, University of Auckland

AI’s: Dr Zimei Wu, Dr Ravi Telang, Prof. Peter Thorne, University of Auckland; Prof. Gary Housley, Dr Jennie Cederholm, University of New South Wales, Sydney.­

This research proposal aims to develop a novel treatment strategy for genetic disorders of the inner ear. This strategy is based on messenger RNA, which carries genetic information to produce cellular proteins. Synthetic mRNA has the potential to replace a defective or missing protein. This study aims to establish a proof-of-concept that synthetic mRNA packaged in lipid nanoparticles can be introduced into the inner ear tissues and thus replace or complement a defective protein. If successful, this molecular strategy would provide a new molecular therapy tool to correct genetic hearing loss.

Investigating clinical outcomes of children and parental viewpoints following grommet insertion in a high-risk population – $35,000 for 2 years.

PI: Michelle Pokorny – Counties Manukau DHB

AI: Prof. Randal Morton, A/P. Zahoor Ahmed, Counties Manukau DHB. 

Children undergoing grommet insertion for ear disease at Counties Manukau DHB are seen after surgery either by their GP or recalled to ORL clinic for follow-up. This study is the first to look at whether there are differences in outcomes 2 years after their surgery. It asks the question of whether GP follow-up or ORL follow-up is better for children who are known to have higher levels of ear disease, such as Māori and Pacific children. It also seeks to understand parental and whanau preferences for follow-up processes after grommet surgery.  

Developmental outcomes of South Auckland 3-year-olds who had hearing screening – $25,000 for 2 years

 PI: Dr Joan Leung, University of Auckland

AI’s: Alehandrea Manuel, Dr Elizabeth Holt, Prof Suzanne Purdy, A/P Alain Vandal, University of Auckland; Louise Dickinson, Dr Jin Kwun, Prof Randall Morton (Counties Manukau DHB)

In NZ, hearing loss is more prevalent in communities with higher levels of socioeconomic deprivation. Hearing screening is crucial for identifying childhood hearing losses that contribute to poor developmental outcomes. However, there are a number of barriers that hinder families from receiving hearing healthcare in a timely and accessible manner. It is important to engage with and seek advice from stakeholders who work directly with these communities, with the ultimate goal of developing culturally appropriate hearing screening programmes, followed by effective clinical referral pathways, that aim to improve access, quality, sustainability, and equity. 

Hearing trajectories across the life course, neural changes, and cognitive functioning – $30,000 for 1 year

PI: Dr Kirsten Cheyne, University of Otago

AI’s: Dr David Ireland, University of Otago; Dr Joan Leung, Prof. Peter Thorne, Prof. Suzanne Purdy, University of Auckland. 

Hearing loss is associated with increased rates of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults. This novel project will evaluate changes in both hearing and cognition from childhood to midlife. Data come from over 800 New Zealanders who have been studied from birth as part of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study. Brain scans will be assessed for related changes in brain structure. We expect to find specific cognitive and neurological trends associated with “good” and “poor” life course hearing trajectories. Identifying pre-clinical indicators of hearing loss would provide an opportunity for early interventions, potentially delaying the onset of cognitive decline. 

Exploring the genotype-phenotype relationship in a New Zealand family with familial bilateral audiovestibular dysfunction – $30,000 for 1 year

PI: Dr Rachael Taylor, University of Auckland

AI’s: Dr Haruna Suzuki-Kerr, Prof. Peter Thorne, A/P Richard Roxburgh, Ms Miriam Rodrigues, University of Auckland and Auckland DHB.

The causes of inner ear problems are poorly understood, which limits the possibility of developing treatments. This project brings partnership between researchers and a Kiwi family affected across the generations by bilateral hearing loss and balance dysfunction. Through the project, we will establish a relationship with the family, collect information about their hearing and inner ear balance function and what could be the underlying cause of their disorder. This work will help us understand how genetics affect the ear, and provide the basis for a larger-scale project which in the longer-term could lead to new treatments. 

A metabolomics-based approach in understanding inner ear inflammation in cochlear implantation model – $25,000 for 1 year

PI: Dr Ravi Telang, University of Auckland.

AI’s: Dr Ravindra Telang, Dr Haruna Suzuki-Kerr, A/P Srdjan Vlajkovic, Prof. Peter Thorne, University of Auckland;  A/P Yiwen Zheng, Prof. Paul Smith, A/P Philip Bird, University of Otago. 

Inflammation of the inner ear is thought to be a significant contributor to the development of cochlear injury and the concomitant sensorineural hearing loss from many different causes, as well as a consequence of inner ear surgery. A thorough biochemical understanding of the inflammatory process would enable us to diagnose earlier and develop more effective therapies. The proposed project aims to investigate the inflammation associated with CI surgical trauma using metabolomics technique and characterise biochemical changes in cochlear tissue. We also aim to search for any potential biomarkers of diagnostic value in blood plasma.

Objective assessment of aided speech discrimination in infants with hearing loss – $22,000 for 1 year

PI: Dr Kim Wise, University of Auckland.

AI’s: Dr Andrea Kelly, Auckland DHB, Prof. Suzanne Purdy, University of Auckland. 

Newborn hearing screening programmes provide an early indication of infants’ detection of screening sounds, using a method that records responses from the brain’s hearing pathways. This technique does not provide information about an infant’s ability to discriminate different sounds, a skill which is essential for speech and language development. A specific type of brain response, the mismatch negativity response (MMR), where the perception of contrasting sounds generates a unique auditory brain “signature” response, can be used to measure sound discrimination ability. MMR will be investigated to determine its use for clinically optimising hearing device settings for infants with hearing loss.

A Multisensory Virtual and Augmented Reality Platform for Clinical Hearing and Balance Research – $30,000 for 1 year

PI: Dr Philip Sanders, University of Auckland

AI’s: Dr Amit Barde, A/P Grant Searchfield, Dr Burkhard Wuensche, University of Auckland, Prof Denise Taylor, AUT

This project will develop a virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) platform for research in balance and hearing disorders, and pilot it with tinnitus treatments. We will use AR to improve tinnitus
masking, where pleasant sounds like ocean waves are used to relieve tinnitus. These are more effective if they sound like they are located where a person hears their tinnitus. An apparent visual source can shift the perceived location of a sound towards the visual stimulus. We will use this illusion to improve control of the perceived location of masker sounds by pairing them with visual stimuli presented through an AR headset.

Are abnormal auditory processing and anxiety linked in autism spectrum disorder? – $30,000 for 1 year

PI: Dr Juliette Cheyne, University of Auckland

AI’s: A/P Johanna Montgomery, A/P Frederique Vanholsbeeck, University of Auckland, Prof. Ramesh Rajan, Monash University, Melbourne.

In autism spectrum disorders (ASDs),sensory changes contribute to other symptoms including anxiety, repetitive behaviours, learning difficulties and social problems. Normally harmless sounds are often unpleasant for individuals with ASD, which can trigger anxiety. We predict that abnormal processing of sounds in the brain contributes to anxiety in ASD. We will use sound to trigger anxiety while recording brain activity in a mouse model of ASD. Our data will reveal the brain circuit changes that alter sound processing and contribute to anxiety in ASD. This may lead to new treatments that target sound processing circuits to reduce anxiety in ASD.

Visual fixation retraining: a potential treatment for visually induced dizziness – $30,000 for 1 year

PI: Shikha Chaudhary, AUT

AI’s: Dr Usman Rashid, Prof Denise Taylor , Dr Nicola Saywell, AUT.

Visually induced dizziness is a debilitating symptom that interferes with the daily life of an individual. It is characterised by nausea, dizziness, and imbalance in environments like shopping malls and supermarkets. Currently, there are no effective treatments for visually induced dizziness, and people report being frustrated due to a failure in symptom resolution. The proposed research will develop an intervention to treat symptoms of visually induced dizziness. This would be a considerable breakthrough in the field of vestibular disorders. 

Student Grants

Investigating the effect of noisy galvanic vestibular stimulation on somatosensory perception in healthy adults – $3,000

Preet Kaur, AUT

Supervisors: Dr Sharon Olsen, Prof. Denise Taylor, AUT.

Many sensory systems in the brain work together to maintain a person’s balance. Therefore, it is important to understand the links between these systems and how they influence each other. We are studying the links between the sensory system in the inner ear and the sensory information coming from the foot. To do this, we apply a weak stimulation called noisy galvanic vestibular stimulation (nGVS) behind the ear to see if it affects how much feeling a person has in their foot. The study will help us to understand the effects of nGVS on balance and help to develop treatments for people with poor balance.

Purinergic signalling in the cochlea: A comparative study across mammalian species – $3,000

Seunga Han, University of Auckland

Supervisors: Dr Haruna Suzuki-Kerr, Prof. Peter Thorne, University of 

Hearing loss is the most common sensory impairment affecting more than 1.5 billion people worldwide. A majority is due to damage to the sensory hearing organ, the cochlea and/or auditory nerve, leading to sensorineural hearing loss. Currently, there are no effective pharmacological therapies to prevent or mitigate cochlear injury. In this study, we will comprehensively characterise purinergic receptors in the human and sheep cochlea and assess their functional expression. This study is the essential step towards the development of novel targeted pharmacological therapies for hearing loss.