“I hope to see a future where there is a convergence of biological science and engineering in hearing health. I hope that combination therapies between regenerative approaches and hearing aid treatment can help to mitigate the weaknesses of either alone.”
My main role as head of Eriksholm is to set high level research strategy and direction to ensure both scientific and business impact. As a senior leader, I am also responsible for the working environment for our team, striving to create opportunities for growth and development and an atmosphere that embraces and utilizes diversity. Finally, I am responsible for external university engagement and long-term research partnerships.
I was originally educated as an engineer, specialized in acoustics and vibration. When the time came to choose a topic for my PhD, I was primarily interested in nonlinear statistical signal processing and had the option to follow two directions based on the academics I wanted to work with. The first was to pursue a project in defense (think hunting cigar shaped objects underwater using sound) or to explore the nonlinearities inherent in the inner ear through systems identification and otoacoustic emissions. Hearing science sat better with my own values, and the rest is history.
I started my career in academia, first as an Assistant then Associate Professor in Physiological Acoustics and Technical Audiology, at the Technical University of Denmark. I then spent a few years at the University of Warwick in the UK, at the Institute for Digital Healthcare. However, in Oct. 2013, I decided to leave academia and helped establish the Interacoustics Research Unit – essentially a new little brother/sister to Eriksholm but focused on applied research in technical audiology and diagnostics. In Jan. 2020, an opportunity arose to take over as head of Eriksholm. In both roles, I am responsible for establishing a portfolio of projects and research strategy to develop new diagnostics or rehabilitation technologies or deepen our understanding of the impact of hearing impairment for the benefit of society and our business.
I am very fortunate, I work with a team of smart, passionate and dedicated people. We have a very large degree of freedom on what we can work on at Eriksholm, and our mission is inherently motivating. We aim to explore the latest developments in basic hearing science and identify opportunities to move these findings towards clinical or commercial applications.
Untreated hearing loss impacts individual lives so much more than the coldly described reduced audibility and speech intelligibility. It disconnects you from people, leading to social isolation, poorer mental health and as has been recently emerging has negative impact on our cognitive processing. Positively impacting the management and treatment of hearing impairment at scale through partnership with industry, health systems and academia is our reason for being here.
Being physically active in nature is a big thing for me. I am a thoroughly unimpressive runner, hiker, camper, rock and mountain climber, but these are the things that keep me busy outside of work.
In hearing science we have seen a number of exciting developments in recent years. We have seen new genetic biomarkers that can allow us to predict an individual’s susceptibility for certain types of hearing loss. We have seen deeper understanding develop on the biological basis or mechanisms that lead to noise induced hearing loss. And we are starting to understand the connections between cognitive decline, dementia and untreated hearing impairment.
We are also only just beginning to see the impact of the latest tools and advances in engineering enter into rehabilitation technologies. Machine learning and data science are moving at an incredible pace, allowing us to bring context and a kind of intelligence to our hearing aids that has never been possible before.
If I were to speculate, I hope to see a future where there is a convergence of biological science and engineering in hearing health. I hope that combination therapies between regenerative approaches and hearing aid treatment can help to mitigate the weaknesses of either alone.
I hope to see true personalized medicine develop for hearing. i.e. through genetic testing. Understanding monogenetic losses is of course hugely valuable, but understanding the myriad of genes that support or contribute to earlier onset or faster onset presbycusis could impact a huge number of people. I believe this could pave the way for personalized medicine based on genetic biomarkers.
I also hope we will tease apart the thorny questions around causation in the correlative links we have so far seen with cognitive decline and untreated hearing health. This could lead to better recommendations, treatment and prognosis of hearing impairment and its negative psycho-social impacts.