Tāmaki Innovation Campus


COCHLEAR IMPLANT RESEARCH ON CHILDREN A FOCUS FOR HOLLY TEAGLE


Holly Teagle Associate Professor Holly Teagle

Associate Professor Holly Teagle has made a career of clinical care and research in the area of cochlear implantation, and not surprisingly, has a passion for all things audiology, calling it         a ‘wonderful blend of science, technology, psychology and medicine’.

For Holly, it ticked all the boxes as a student and young health professional and continues to intrigue and excite with the growing developments and applications of the technology. Her driver is the belief that there is always more potential for improving the lives of people affected by hearing loss. “That’s important,” she says, “since the incidence of hearing loss is ever increasing in the general population.”

As an audiologist, she has spent her career in university clinical settings focusing on cochlear implant technology, patient care and research, and moved to New Zealand in June (from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill to assume a joint position with the University of Auckland  and The Hearing House. The Hearing House is part of the Northern Cochlear Implant Programme that provides audiologic and habilitative services for recipients and support for their families).

She explains her research programme, based on the dynamic technology of cochlear implants that restore hearing function for people who are not able to benefit from hearing aids.

 “Children who are born deaf, and receive cochlear implants at an early age, can learn to listen and speak commensurate with their hearing peers when specialised rehabilitation is provided.  For adults, access to sound through a cochlear implant can be life changing, restoring their ability to function socially and vocationally. This technology is continually updating and this area of medicine provides an abundance of opportunities for translational research.

“With this dual appointment, I have been tasked to help bridge clinical care, teaching and research between the University   and The Hearing House. We hope to grow relations and build on the existing level of collaborative research and teaching that has been accomplished to date,” she says.

She explains that there are a number of directions that research related to cochlear implantation could grow. Recently, the Eisdell Moore Centre sponsored a retreat with a group of clinicians and researchers to share ideas and resources.  From basic science to large scale population studies, there is great interest in developing a better understanding of factors affecting outcomes with cochlear implantation and general health, including balance, mental health in adults and risk factors for less than optimal outcomes for children.

Holly Teagle says there are opportunities to work with industry partners that could be further explored but for now, the focus is to make the programme a centre of excellence and engage in projects that lead to that end.

Her career in this area began at the advent of this technology, about 30 years ago, and she has seen it evolve and offer more benefits to more people over time.  Having long and lasting relationships with adults, children and families affected by hearing loss has been a bonus and she has watched with interest, the expanding indications for use of the technology and outcomes for children.

 “Reflecting on what’s kept me in this field so long, I have witnessed how the technology works well for most recipients, but it’s the ones that cannot use the technology to its full potential that stay in my mind and keep me engaged to learn more.

“Finding alternatives for children who are deaf, when cochlear implantation is not an option, led to work with Auditory Brainstem Implants (ABI).  Recently I was a clinical investigator in a feasibility study on this topic with a team at the University of North Carolina. I feel our findings made a significant contribution in this area. Teaching in this area forces me to continually grow my knowledge; I enjoy working with students and hope to ignite them with my enthusiasm for this field.

Holly Teagle’s goals for her time on Tāmaki Campus are to “help the wonderful clinicians and researchers in Auckland set The Hearing House on a course to be a Centre of Excellence in clinical care, research and teaching.”

She says this will require consolidating and bolstering paediatric and adult databases so they, and other stakeholders can have access to our population through a useful and secure model.

“I am also interested in improving patient and family engagement so that, as a centre, we can do everything possible to provide families with the support, knowledge and skills they need for success. Finding ways to meet the needs of CI recipients, wherever they live, need to be developed and proven.  Tele-medicine will be essential to meeting that goal.”