Plenary Sessions


Acquired hearing loss: Are prevention or reversal realistic goals?


Dr. Colleen Le Prell

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Dr. Le Prell will review how noise, drugs, and aging cause cell death in the inner ear and introduce the changes in sound-evoked physiological responses, threshold sensitivity, and deficits “beyond the audiogram” that can be measured in clinical and research settings. Hearing-in-noise difficulties and tinnitus are common patient complaints. Although sometimes referred to as “hidden hearing loss”, they are not-so-hidden to either the patient or the audiologist when the appropriate test battery is completed. With increasing attention to both the high prevalence of acquired hearing loss and patient complaints about real-world hearing difficulties has come interest in the potential for treatment using medicines that protect or repair inner ear sensory cells. Tests measures and data from completed and ongoing clinical trials will be reviewed. This is an exciting time in the development of inner ear medicines. There is an active drug discovery pipeline with academic labs and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies seeking to identify and develop medicines that effectively treat auditory complaints using support from government, industry, and venture capital sources.

Colleen Le Prell is the Head of the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing and the Director of the recently launched Clinical Trial Unit at the University of Texas at Dallas, where she holds the Emilie and Phil Schepps Professorship in Hearing Science. Dr. Le Prell has received funding from government, industry, and philanthropic sources for research that programmatically advances the understanding and prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. Dr. Le Prell previously served as President for the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA), currently serves on the CDC-NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Hearing Loss Prevention Cross Sector Council, and is an invited participant in the World Health Organization (WHO) “Make Listening Safe” campaign.  She contributes to the peer review process in several Associate Editor roles, and serves on the Auditory System (AUD) Study Section for the National Institutes of Health.



Tall Needle Building Movement Noises, an Innovative Acoustic Solution Set and What We Learned Along the Solution Set Path

Dr. Bonnie Schnitta

A tall needle building typically has a height-to-base ratio of 10:1. Recently these tall needle building are constructed with a ratio of 24:1 defying what many once considered to be impossible. To put this into perspective the Empire State Building has a ratio of 3:1. In 2016 my company was hired as an acoustic consultant to solve a noise problem that is common in tall needle buildings - disturbing noises experienced on windy days. The client was renting an apartment on a floor in the 50’s in a tall needle building, while they were building a full-floor residence several floors above. The noises were reported by the client as so “frightening” that they were considering abandoning the construction project of their dream home several floors above. SoundSense engineers took the common first step to engineer a solution set by taking airborne readings in the rental unit on a very windy day. The rental was a newly built residence that used standard construction techniques. After reviewing the airborne readings, it became apparent that there was a dynamic aspect of the source creating the noises that could only be solved by obtaining more than just the airborne 1/3 octave band frequency readings. Accelerometer readings were then taken simultaneously with airborne readings. With this duality of airborne with structure-borne acoustic readings at several heights and locations in the residence, insights into a successful solution set were acquired. A variation to standard rigidly connected structures in the construction, along with some innovative products and product applications, the problem of unique disturbing noises of a tall needle building were solved. This presentation discusses the unique solution set that was used to solve the issue of wind condition noises as experienced in tall needle buildings. Furthermore, this case study will be used to show what was learned that has advanced our own practice of acoustic engineering, especially as it applies to tall needle buildings, or building subject to high wind conditions.

Bonnie Schnitta received her BS in Mathematics from Purdue University. She worked for GE upon graduation, while earning an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts. Following Tufts Dr. Schnitta then pursued a Ph.D. at the University of Miami, while working as a principal on research projects for DARPA, ONR, and DOD at the Institute for Acoustic Research. In 1981 Dr. Schnitta moved to and founded an acoustic engineering firm in East Hampton, New York, drawing on her experience in engineering and academic research in signal processing (inclusive of active noise cancellation). The company evolved into SoundSense LLC, a unique design-build firm that now also includes divisions for her patented concepts developed working in the field for over 40 years, including a full product line and trained installers.

Since 2011 Dr. Schnitta has been awarded nearly 20 patents. The most recent patent is for a flexible, portable acoustic enclosure designed to reduce unwanted noise. Dr. Schnitta has authored numerous published articles on acoustics and holds several trademarks associated with her patents, including the Paradise Effect™, a proprietary algorithm for creating an acoustically correct, soothing environment. Bonnie also supports and mentors women in STEAM, including providing an annual scholarship to a graduating high school woman who is passionate about science. SoundSense and Dr. Schnitta have been the recipients of multiple awards, such as WIPP Innovator of the Year, Stevie Award, Commercial Integrator Best Acoustic Product Award, Tufts University Career Achievement Award, NY Enterprise Report-Best Technology, IWEC, Excite Award, member of fellow status in the Acoustic Society of America and Lifetime member in the IEEE.


Underwater Human Noise in the Ocean: Challenges, Advances, and Opportunities

Dr. Brandon Southall

Sound is pervasive under water from a host of environmental, biological, and human sources. The later is a relatively new introduction since the dawn of the industrial age. We know that unwanted noise from human activities, whether intentional for some purpose (e.g., seismic exploration, sonar) or an incidental byproduct of some human activity (e.g., vessels, construction), can have a range of effects on marine life. We also know that such effects can range from barely noticeable to, in extreme cases, mortality of animals in some cases including endangered species. Considerable scientific, regulatory, and industrial focus and effort has been placed on understanding and measuring these effects and the challenges in avoiding or mitigating them. Major scientific and technological advances have been made along these lines. Recently, efforts around the world have begun to move beyond measurements and calls to action into operational and engineering approaches to directly reduce such impacts. Progress thus far has been measured given the magnitude of the underlying challenging and the broad distribution and complex characteristics of the associated industries. This talk will focus on some of those advances and opportunities to move from measurements to action - and the necessity and value in doing so with cross-sectoral collaborations and partnerships between industry, scientists, regulators, and conservationists.

Dr. Brandon Southall is President and Chief Scientist for Southall Environmental Associates (SEA), a Research Associate with the University of California, Santa Cruz, an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Duke University Marine Laboratory, and a Senior Scientist for the California Ocean Alliance (COA). He obtained Masters and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California Santa Cruz, studying communication and hearing in marine mammals, and subsequently directed the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean Acoustics Program where he developed the first systematic marine mammal noise exposure criteria. He has published nearly 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers and technical reports and given hundreds of presentations to scientific, regulatory, Congressional, and general audiences around the world. He leads several large, inter-disciplinary behavioral response studies of marine mammals through SEA and is engaged in a wide variety of field and laboratory research projects on hearing and the effects of noise on marine mammals. He also contributes to educational and mentorship programs for high school and undergraduate students through COA.