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Toolkit to assess added value of new hearing loss treatments among BRC work linked to Lancet Commission

Researchers are building a unique toolkit able to identify which innovative hearing loss treatments will be cost-effective and can be adopted into hearing care – in one of many UCLH BRC-supported projects contributing to the work of the Lancet Commission on Global Hearing Health.

The cost-effectiveness toolkit – being built by Dr Rishi Mandavia as part of his PhD at the UCL Ear Institute’s evidENT team – will ensure investments are not wasted and are directed to innovations that will benefit as many people with hearing loss as possible. It forms part of the evidENT team’s broader research into the clinical testing and future adoption of innovative hearing loss treatments, and will support the Lancet Commission’s goal of ensuring widespread access to hearing innovations.

The Commission’s other key aim is to identify novel approaches to diagnose and treat hearing loss  themselves – which is at the heart of the BRC Deafness and Hearing Problems theme led by Prof Anne Schilder, who is one of the Lancet Commissioners.

Current work of the BRC theme towards this aim includes the REGAIN trial of a drug injected into the ear to reverse age-related hearing loss, and the AUDIBLE-S trial of a drug taken in pill form that may be able to restore hearing in sudden-onset hearing loss.

In parallel, BRC researchers led by ENT surgeon Mr Nishchay Mehta are developing data-driven approaches to analyse routinely collected hearing data to better understand hearing loss; identify new targets for drugs to act upon; and target innovative treatments to individual patients.

Overall, the Lancet Commission’s work aligns closely with the vision of the UCLH BRC theme to develop precision medicine for hearing loss.

Dr Mandavia, whose research is supported by both the BRC and the NIHR Applied Health Research Collaboration (ARC) North Thames, and who works closely with health economists at the Radboud University Medical Centre Nijmegen, said:

“The field of drugs and gene and cell-based therapies for hearing loss is rapidly progressing. If these treatments work well they could radically change hearing services in the next 5-10years. It is essential that we start planning for these new treatments now so that valuable ones can be successfully brought into healthcare systems and used. This will help make sure that patients can benefit from these treatments, and that healthcare systems will get value for money.

“We are carrying out this research in a novel way, uniquely bringing together health economics and implementation science while engaging with scientists, clinicians and companies. We hope to use this approach for other hearing innovations, such as phone app-based hearing tests or over the counter hearing aids. If successful, we hope to translate this approach to innovations in other medical conditions and explain the complex factors that will influence their uptake in healthcare systems.” 

Prof Schilder said: “Our research  work is an important part of the work of the Lancet Commission – both to guide policy makers and raise awareness among the public about novel treatment approaches for hearing loss that are underway. It is exciting to do this work together with Commissioners at other universities in the US, Africa and Asia."

The evidENT team together with researchers of the Ear Institute and clinical staff will today be celebrating World Hearing Day in the atrium of the Royal National ENT and Eastman Dental Hospitals on Huntley Street from 11am-3pm.