Tāmaki Innovation Campus


UNILATERAL HEARING LOSS STUDY


Oscar Canete Oscar Cañete

Globe-trotting Oscar Cañete has notched up Chile, New Zealand and now Denmark in his academic career so far, and admits he remains open to any ideas as to what the future might bring.

Oscar completed his professional degree at the Universidad de Chile in Medical Technology majoring in ENT. He became the clinical audiologist at its ENT department at the Hospital Padre Hurtado in Santiago of Chile, providing services such as hearing/balance assessment in children and adults and hearing rehabilitation (e.g. hearing aids) in children and adults as well.  

He also ran an early hearing loss identification programme and aural rehabilitation program for elderly clients in the hospital.    At the Universidad Andres Bello (Chile) he was in charge of the clinical electrophysiology paper for audiology students and was the research project supervisor for audiology students for five years. 

In planning his next career move, Oscar then applied for one of the annual scholarships provided by the Chilean government for postgraduate studies abroad.

“There are about 400 scholarships for PhD studies each year, and it can be in any field. Applications are analysed by              a committee, who score it according a scale (e.g. experience, publications, ranking of the University where you are applying, etc.). When I applied I was #41 out of 400 scholarships awarded that year, so I felt pretty good about my chances.   

“When I was looking for a suitable programme, I came across with the work of Professor Suzanne Purdy, so I emailed her asking whether there was the opportunity to do a PhD with her. She gave me some topics and that inspired me to apply to            the University of Auckland to work with her.”

Oscar Cañete completed his PhD in Speech Science on the Tāmaki Campus in the School of Psychology and says his clinical experience in Chile proved useful. His PhD topic looked at the effects of a unilateral hearing loss in children and adults.

He explains: “We wanted to know how people who present this condition are affected in daily life. Traditionally, people who have a problem in just one ear are not considered for amplification (e.g. hearing aids) as there is the idea that one ear will be enough to develop language or listening in challenging situations. We think that my research will support further research in      a longitudinal study of brain responses of babies with unilateral hearing loss (my research just covered school age children). But the information collected supports the idea that people with this condition presented difficulties which could be diminished with the help of amplification devices such as hearing aids or remote microphone systems.

He notes the challenges he faces are similar to many other doctoral candidates at Tāmaki, for whom English is a second language. “A big obstacle for me during my PhD was writing a PhD thesis in another language; it proved quite challenging.       My supervisor had very important role and Professor Purdy was supportive helping me to improve my language skills every day.“

An unusual feature of his research indicated that children and adults with unilateral hearing loss presented several problems:   an increase of the effort in everyday listening situations, and that the “normal” ear is not totally normal (which is particularly interesting as normally research has been focussed just on the “bad” ear).

Oscar’s work has been published in international journals and he has presented his work in conferences and meetings in Australia, Korea, Canada and the USA.

“I’m really proud that most of my PhD work has been disseminated, contributing to the knowledge of the topic in the audiological field. I’ve always wanted to work with people who need medical assistance and help them improve their quality of life. Audiology allows me to help in the important area of communication.”

Just a few months ago, Oscar took up a position at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) well recognised internationally for its work in audiology.  He notes Denmark has three of the most significant hearing aids companies and advanced hearing assessment equipment for its research. He is working on BEAR (Better Hearing Rehabilitation Project), which aims to improve hearing rehabilitation in Denmark and around the world through an evidence-based renewal of clinical practice.