Au.D. alum publishes capstone research in prestigious otolaryngology journal

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Helen Kochilas, Au.D., a recent graduate of the professional doctor-of-audiology program, published the paper, “Vagus-nerve stimulation paired with tones for tinnitus suppression: Effects on voice and hearing,” in Laryngoscope – Investigative Otolaryngology. (Editor-in-Chief, D. Bradley Welling, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman of Otolaryngology, Harvard Medical School).

Co-authors on this publication included her mentor, Professor Anthony T. Cacace, Ph.D., Director of the Hearing Science Lab, Amy Arnold, Au.D., research audiologist, Michael Seidman, MD, Neuro-otologist, surgeon, and former staff member in the Department of Otolaryngology, Henry Ford Health Systems, Detroit, MI, and W. Brent Tarver, BS-EE, Vice President of Clinical Affairs, MicroTransponder, Inc., Austin, TX.

This research was motivated by the need to demonstrate limited or no adverse side effects of the vagus-nerve stimulation paradigm paired with tones for tinnitus suppression on vocal and hearing function in select individuals with tonal tinnitus. The application of this targeted neuroplasticity/neuromodulation procedure enhances its applicability and therapeutic benefit of tinnitus suppression in humans.

The marked resurgence of tinnitus in active military and VA populations in recent years corresponds to their service-connected exposure to blasts and intense noise in the field of battle. Indeed, hearing loss and tinnitus have been ranked as the number one and two service-connected disabilities affecting these individuals particularly those servicemen and women returning home from conflicts and wars in the Middle East, including Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Enduring Freed (OEF), and New Dawn (OND).

Available evidence indicates that the effects of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) like roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, flash-bang devices, tank ordinance, high-grade explosives like cyclo-trimethylene-tri nitramine (C-4), trinitrotoluene (TNT), etc., have been the weapons-of-choice by insurgents to induce maximum harm to military personnel serving in these regions.

Other highly vulnerable settings where civilian populations have been targeted by terrorists include federal office buildings, hotels, buses, trains, bus and railroad stations, sporting events (marathons), targeted vehicle explosions, suicide-bomb attacks, etc. These scenarios are no less catastrophic and carry the same medical, psychological, physical, and social co-morbidities as in their military cohorts.

As a consequence of these overt acoustic traumas from terror-related activities, there is an urgent need in the scientific and medical communities to develop novel treatment paradigms to mitigate the burdens of chronic tinnitus and provide treatment options for noise-induced hearing loss. The vagus nerve stimulation paired with tones paradigm for tinnitus suppression was fast-tracked by the National Institutes of Health from animal-to-human studies based on successful basic-science experiments. Because the vagus nerve innervates laryngeal structures responsible for motor-speech production, vocal output, and speech acoustics, demonstrating negative adverse effects using quantitative voice metrics, represents an important contribution to the scientific literature.

Dr. Kochilas is currently employed as a staff audiologist with North Atlanta, ENT and Allergy, Atlanta, Georgia.

We congratulate Dr. Kochilas on this unique achievement and wish her further success in future endeavors!

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