At the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery (ENT), numerous scientific projects are conducted. In 2020, 20 researchers, doctoral students, master's students and interns were involved in audiovestibular research. The research department of the ENT clinic consists of experts from the fields of audiology, medicine, physics and engineering. The scientists conduct translational research and focus on implantable systems in the ear. The main goal is to develop innovative technologies to help patients with hearing disorders and to assist physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of inner ear diseases. Since 2019, additional research space in SITEM-INSEL has been acquired for translational ear and balance research. We are pleased to present a selection of our current research projects.
Link to the ARTORG Hearing Research Laboratory:
Investigation of spatial hearing with cochlear implants
Cochlear implants electrically stimulate the auditory nerve, bypassing damaged structures of the ear. A limitation of these implants is spatial hearing, which can affect the wearer in everyday life. Healthy subjects recognize the direction of an acoustic signal based on level and time differences between the two ears. The aim of this project is to investigate the influence of different signal processing strategies on the spatial hearing performance of patients with bilateral implants.
Dynamic sound field audiometry
Our team develops novel test environments based on extensive basic research and clinical expertise in audiology. It combines state-of-the-art acoustic equipment with robotics and sensory monitoring of vital parameters. Our technology enables innovative, realistic and reproducible hearing tests, such as dynamic sound localization tests or speech intelligibility tests with moving noise sources. In addition, our systems enable new diagnostic approaches in audiology and neurotology to better monitor the benefit with hearing aids and implants and to test novel technologies.
(link to Unitectra: https://switt.ch/sites/switt.ias/files/technologies/top_is20342_wimmer.pdf)
Hearing implants and implantation technology
Development of an inner ear function monitoring tool
Cochlear implants are increasingly used in patients who still have residual hearing. In these individuals, residual hearing can be preserved intra- and postoperatively. Studies have confirmed that patients with postoperatively preserved residual hearing show significant benefits in speech comprehension and music perception later in life. However, complete preservation of residual hearing is currently achieved in only one of three cases. In this project, we are developing an objective measurement tool for inner ear function monitoring. This will enable the validation of therapeutic and surgical interventions that prevent the loss of residual Hearing.
Cochlear implantation requires a high degree of precision of the surgeon.
The access to the inner ear is performed between the facial nerve and the taste nerve. The insertion of the implant is done manually and the structures of the inner ear can be easily injured. Therefore, a gentle insertion of the implant is particularly important. The aim of this work is to develop an intelligent implant insertion tool based on the needs of surgeons.
Comparison of brain activity in patients with and without Tinnitus
For tinnitus patients, who suffer from disturbing ear noises, no uniformly effective treatment is known to date. About 10-15% of the general population suffer from this condition. Tinnitus can lead to health problems such as insomnia, anxiety or depression and significantly affects the quality of life. To better understand tinnitus, currently available diagnostic methods need to be improved. The investigation of neuronal activities in the brain of affected persons could be a possible approach for an objective diagnosis of tinnitus. The aim of this project is to compare brain activity in tinnitus patients and healthy volunteers to enable an objective assessment of Tinnitus.
stroke assessment in patients with vertigo in the emergency Department
Patients presenting to the emergency department with vertigo are common and their treatment is costly. In most cases, the dizziness is due to a benign cause. However, in some of the patients, the dizziness is due to a stroke. These patients are at high risk of misdiagnosis, which can lead to serious harm such as disability or death. Therefore, improved diagnosis of patients with vertigo and early detection of vertigo patients with stroke is central. The main objective of this study is to improve the diagnosis of patients with vertigo and to detect patients with stroke at an early stage. Therefore, establishing a method that can be used by physicians without specific training to diagnose strokes in patients with vertigo is of central importance