Press Release

Cluster of Excellence Hearing4all again successful

A great success for Oldenburg University, Hannover Medical School and Leibniz University: The Cluster of Excellence proposal „Hearing4all: Medicine, Basic Research and Engineering Solutions for Personalized Hearing Care“ was successful in the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and the Länder and will be funded for a further seven years.

The funding applied for amounted to 55 million euros. Based on the results of the previous Excellence Cluster, the Oldenburg researchers developed their application together with hearing researchers from Hanover. In total, 57 of 88 finalists in the Germany-wide „Excellence Cluster“ funding line were awarded a contract. „The renewed success of the Hearing4all cluster is proof of the high level of hearing research in Lower Saxony. The research network from basic research to applied technology continues along the path towards personalised medicine. The researchers are thus improving the quality of life of a large number of patients,“ said Lower Saxony‘s Science Minister Björn Thümler after the announcement of the funded clusters.
„We are proud of our hearing research. Further funding is a great success for our university, our university medicine and our strong partners,“ said University President Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans Michael Piper on the occasion of the decision. „Building on their many years of experience and scientific competence, the hearing researchers can now continue to work on their ambitious goals.”

„Following the decision in 2012, we can once again count ourselves among the top researchers in Germany,“ said the cluster‘s spokesperson, the Oldenburg physicist and physician Prof. Dr. Birger Kollmeier. „We will continue our work with all our strength and, for all forms of hearing loss, develop solutions that are specially tailored to the needs of those affected. Our goal is a modern, data-driven sciencific- and precision medicine of the highest standard“. The clinical spokesman for the new cluster is Prof. Dr. Thomas Lenarz, Clinical Director of the Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic at Hanover Medical School. „The commitment to the continuation of our hearing research within the framework of excellence promotion is, on the one hand, a recognition of our research; on the other hand, we are happy to accept the contract to continue research into the basics of hearing and to develop new forms of therapy with and around cochlear implants,“ Lenarz emphasized.

For many years now, the Oldenburg researchers have been working with their scientific partners to continuously develop technical hearing aids and treatment options for hearing impaired people - from mild hearing loss to deafness. In recent years, Hearing4all researchers have developed important building blocks for better diagnostics, hearing systems and assistive technologies: These include multilingual language tests, implants in the part of the midbrain that processes hearing signals, and the ability to use machine learning to predict the improvements provided by a hearing aid.

In the new Cluster of Excellence, the scientists are now bundling their research into four strands: These strands represent the developmental chain from basic research to hearing technology on the one hand, and the severity of hearing loss on the other. In the first strand, the scientists use modern neuroscientific methods to investigate the complex interplay between hearing, perception and processing in the brain over a person‘s lifetime and thus contribute to understanding these even better. The second strand involves IT-based research with the aim of establishing a virtual multilingual hearing clinic. In the third strand, the researchers will develop individually targeted diagnostic and treatment methods for patients with moderate to severe disabilities and even complete deafness. Based on the scientific and technical findings, a fundamentally new system technology for the hearing aids of the future will be developed in the fourth strand.

Twenty-five neuroscientists, physicians, psychologists, linguists, physicists and engineers from Oldenburg University, Leibniz University Hannover and Hannover Medical School will participate in the new cluster of excellence. In addition, the Jade University, HörTech gGmbH, the hearing centres in Oldenburg and Hanover, the Fraunhofer IDMT Institute for Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology, the Fraunhofer ITEM and the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK) in Delmenhorst are project partners.

„Hearing4all“ is one of the world‘s leading centers in medical technology, hearing research, audiology, medical diagnostics and therapy. About 80% of all hearing aids worldwide contain know-how from Oldenburg. Since 2012, the Cluster of Excellence, which is currently still running, was funded with almost 30 million euros. In addition, the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and the Volkswagen Foundation are supporting the cluster, which will be completed at the end of 2018, with an additional one million euros.

About the Excellence Strategy:

With the Excellence Strategy, the Federal Government and the Länder intend to continue and further develop their projects to strengthen universities, in particular those begun with the Excellence Initiative (running from 2005 to 2017). Specifically, scientific excellence, profile building and cooperation within the science system will be promoted in order to strengthen Germany as a science location. There are two funding lines: clusters of excellence and universities of excellence. Funding for clusters of excellence begins on 1 January 2019 and will run for seven years.

Center of Excellence for Hearing Research

The Center of Excellence for Hearing Research is an overarching, sustainable scientific umbrella structure that operates the Hearing4all project across the three supporting universities, Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Hannover Medical School and Leibniz University Hannover. The aim is to support and coordinate joint research between the universities, which builds on complementary expertise in basic, applied and clinical research on hearing aids and hearing implants at the internationally recognised and well-networked cluster locations of Oldenburg and Hanover. The Center of Excellence for Hearing Research contributes to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the cluster‘s hearing research and to achieving stronger links between the existing, inner-university and diversified research groups as well as the university structures oriented towards hearing research.