Now Hear This
What's it Doing Now?
In 2001, Grand Lodge members in Ontario donated $2.13 million dollars to the Help-2-Hear project, a program funded through the Masonic Foundation. There was celebration as we topped the $2 million goal, but now the dust of the campaign has settled, can every newborn child in Ontario be guaranteed a right to hear?
Miracles Move Slowly
The first step was raising the funds in the most ambitious charitable goal ever set by Ontario Masons. The second was having the provincial government guarantee neonatal testing of every newborn child, which was our primary goal. Now, in the labs and clinics, those funds are making a miracle possible, step by step.
In his report to the Foundation, Dr. Robert Harrison stated that the Masonic Foundation continues to be instrumental in funding applied clinical research and basic research at the Auditory Science Laboratory in the Hospital for Sick Children.
Two Kinds of Research
Clinical research involves taking what we know and applying it to problems. Results are noted and methods are fine-tuned for better results. By way of example, we know that pushing a car and engaging the gears will jump start the motor. We've learned that a slow push won't turn it over, and that approaching the car from the rear at 40 kph will create other problems. Basic knowledge. Fine tuning.
Basic research is probing the frontier for knowledge and finding use for it later. Post-its were the result of a glue that 3M deemed useless because it wouldn't set.
A complete report from the Lab on latest developments funded under Project H.E.L.P. is available through The Foundation so I won't repeat its contents here. As a result of the Masonic foundation support, a number of scientific and medial research papers have been published and, while they are stirring great interest in many countries, the language can baffle the layman. For example, "Binary partitioning for continuous longitudinal data," what does it mean? I've taken literary license and tried to interpret some of the themes addressed in those papers.
- Deaf children who were given Cochlear implants before they could speak. How well do they develop an understanding of speech? It's a four year study.
- What kind of a vocabulary do kids develop after a Cochlear implant? Remember that their siblings had a head start.
- Timing. What is the best age to give a child an implant, and if they had any degree of hearing at that time, how does this "hearing memory" affect their speech patterns? This is a question which can be answered by part of that "binary partitioning" analysis.
- Children who heard and spoke prior to becoming deaf, how do they perceive speech? Speech, after all, is just noise until the brain interprets it.
These "follow-ups" have the patients teaching the professionals. It's called "clinical research" and results in more effective treatment for future recipients of cochlear implants.
Otoacoustic Emission Studies
It's a mouthful, but it simply involves the ear sending back sounds - "TALKING BACK." When you beat a drum, the vibrating skin sends impulses in both directions, inside the drum and out. When the membranes of the inner ear eardrum vibrate, they direct vibrations to the sensory cells of the inner ear. But they also send a much weaker signal back out of the ear towards the source. These return messages are measured and used in diagnosing hearing problems in the newborn and infant children.
If these signals are recorded from one ear, and, at the same time, sounds are also played to the opposite ear, then it is possible to measure the messages each ear sends to the brain. There are two papers are coming out with the details of these studies.
Electrocardiograms read heart activity. Electroencephalograms record brainwaves. Add a third. Magneto Encephalography (MEG) tracks activity in the central part of the brain that deals with sound by measuring magnetic fields generated around the head.
Sound enters our ears as vibrating air. The ear drum and inner ear translate this to electrical energy, the nerves being hot wires that take it into the brain. The brain interprets the signals and the result is speech, music, or just plain noise. The movement of electrical impulses along the nerves creates a minute magnetic field. That's what MEG reads. It's mapping pathways throughout the brain for us to explore. If the problem can be located, it can be addressed.
The Auditory Science Laboratory is part of a world wide network. Its work, partially funded by annual grants from the Masonic Foundation, has also attracted the interest of other research funding agencies such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE), and the Hearing Foundation of Canada. Its health science professionals have taken part in international conferences in Switzerland, Egypt and Denmark, Toronto and Montreal, and in Los Angeles, Florida and Chicago. The Toronto team has been assembled from Oxford to China and represents the world's best.
What Masons do
In his report, Dr. Harrison recognized the importance of government funds in continuing research and treatment. He applauded the Masonic Foundation for providing the funds outside that envelope, permitting the Lab to explore new areas. "The (Masonic) funding allows us to go outside a very strict research plan."
Had Columbus believed existing technology, he'd have never ventured beyond coastal waters for fear of falling off the edge of the world. The New World would have continued to be a theory until someone else dared.
By investing the $2.13 raised for Help-2-Hear, the Masonic Foundation uses that revenue to ensure that the Scientists at SickKids in Toronto, the National Centre for Audiology in London and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa can continue to look outside the envelope and expand upon the research funded by Project H.E.L.P.
Comments are Welcome
V.W. Bro. Ted Morris
76 Ballacaine Drive, Etobicoke, ON, M8Y 4B7
If you want to chat, call Ted at (416) 232 - 9545 or (705) 448 - 2574