Does Obstructive Sleep Apnea affect hearing?

Principal Investigator:  Irene Cheung, University of Auckland

Associate Investigators: Prof Peter Thorne, University of Auckland, Dr Michel Neeff and Dr Syed Hussain, ADHB, Dr Ulrich Sommer, Universitat Witten


Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition characterized by the collapse of the upper airway during sleep has been extensively linked to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and mortality. However, its possible association with hearing disorders has not been widely investigated. This project will investigate the occurrence of OSA with hearing dysfunctions and the potential benefit of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. Not only would this study increase the awareness of concurrent OSA and hearing dysfunction, CPAP could be used as an alternative non-invasive therapy for patients with hearing disorders.

Can we treat tinnitus by combining stimulation of head and neck nerves with sound?

Principal Investigator: A/P Yiwen Zheng, University of Otago

Associate Investigators: Prof John Reynolds, Prof Ming Zhang, Prof Paul Smith, Prof Dirk De Ridder, University of Otago


Chronic tinnitus, a phantom sound, is a debilitating condition and produces many detrimental effects on the quality of life. However, treatment options are very limited and not effective. This research will test a stimulation protocol for tinnitus by pairing sound with electrical stimulation of the somatosensory system, in an animal model of tinnitus.  The results will significantly improve our current understanding of tinnitus and may lead to the development of effective therapies for tinnitus.

How does damage to the auditory pathways in the brain contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease?

Principal Investigator:  A/P Henry Waldvogel, University of Auckland

Associate Investigators: Prof Peter Thorne, Dist Prof Sir Richard Faull, University of Auckland


Hearing loss may accelerate development of dementia.  Why this occurs with dementia is not known, but it may be because auditory parts of the brain may be affected early in development of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.  In this study we will look at the pathology of the brains donated from people with Alzheimer’s disease and see if the hearing parts of the brain show common pathology to parts of the brain that affect memory.  This will help to understand the hearing changes in Alzheimer’s disease and may help to develop interventions to prevent cognitive decline in those with hearing loss.

Therapies to reduce auditory and cognitive deficits in ageing mice

Principal Investigator:  A/P Srdjan Vlajkovic, University of Auckland

Associate Investigators: Prof. Peter Thorne, Dr Jordi Boix-i-Coll, University of Auckland


The loss of hearing or balance problems can increase the rate of cognitive decline in older people with mild dementia. Recent studies show that, by reducing the risk factors such as hearing loss, smoking, depression, diabetes, hypertension and obesity, more than a third of dementia cases might theoretically be preventable. In this study, we present a novel strategy to delay the progression of age-related hearing loss using a mouse model. As a secondary outcome, the impact of delaying of hearing loss in these animals will be correlated with cognitive decline.