On October 28, 1988, Public Law 100-553 authorized the formation of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and established the core mission areas of the research we support on hearing, balance, taste, smell, and voice, speech, and language. It's estimated that more than 46 million Americans are affected by health conditions and disorders encompassed within the areas of research the NIDCD funds.
In the 25 years since the NIDCD was established, researchers supported by the NIDCD have expanded what we know about many common and high-impact health conditions, such as hearing loss, balance disorders such as Ménière's disease, and impairments of taste and smell caused by neurological disorders or simply due to normal aging.
NIDCD researchers have also shown us a great deal about voice, speech, and language, including the areas of the brain involved in dyslexia, aphasia (loss of the ability to use or understand language), stuttering, and autism spectrum disorder, for example, and the disorders of vocal use and misuse that affect those who use their voices for a living, such as teachers, singers, and preachers.
Hearing loss can lead to social isolation and significant challenges in school, at work, and in relationships. NIDCD-supported researchers contributed major advances to our understanding of how we hear, how to detect hearing loss, and how to help those who are deaf or who have lost their hearing. These advances laid the foundation for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention programs in all 50 states, which help ensure that nearly every hospital born baby (98%) is now screened for hearing loss before they are discharged—up from as few as one in 10 newborns just 20 years ago.
Perhaps one of the most visible rewards of our investment in hearing research is the recent LaskerDebakey Award in Clinical Medical Research given to two NIDCD-funded grantees for their seminal roles in the development of the modern cochlear implant, a device that has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who are deaf or profoundly hard of hearing, including 38,000 children in the U.S. The NIDCD is honored to have supported these remarkable scientists, their collaborators, and the many other researchers—and the study volunteers—who have brought us where we are today.
In this issue of NIH MedlinePlus, we invite you to celebrate our silver anniversary as we share highlights from the past 25 years of research supporting scientists dedicated to advancing biomedical research to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and technology for people with communication disorders.
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The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) maintains extensive research information and a directory of organizations that can answer questions and provide printed or electronic materials on all of the areas of its research: