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National Institutes of Health

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About the NIDCD Epidemiology and Statistics Program

The Epidemiology and Statistics Program (ESP) supports epidemiological (clinical) and population-based research studies in all seven mission areas of the Institute: hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language. Studies assess impairments of hearing and other communication disorders across the lifespan, including risks associated with other health conditions as well as behavioral, demographic, environmental, and genetic factors.

The ESP plans and participates in the development and implementation of epidemiologic studies on the incidence, prevalence and determinants of deafness and other communication disorders. For example, ESP funds community-based and nationally-representative health interview and examination surveys to advance knowledge of the prevalence and determinants of communication disorders. ESP maintains research collaborations on national health interview and examination surveys with other Federal agencies and with academic and private sector organizations via research contracts and/or interagency agreements. These studies address mission areas of NIDCD, but may also overlap with the mission of other Institutes (e.g., the National Institute on Aging also supports research on age-related hearing loss). In addition, ESP contributes to the analysis and interpretation of trends for the Hearing Health Objectives in Healthy People 2010, a major program activity led by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services.

NIDCD sponsored a Workshop on the Epidemiology of Communication Disorders in March 2005 in Bethesda, Maryland. The purpose was to review current epidemiologic knowledge in the field of communication disorders and to suggest ways to encourage more epidemiologic research. Findings from earlier epidemiologic investigations and reports on useful biostatistical methods were presented. Dr. Karen Cruickshanks, University of Wisconsin, presented the keynote address on the importance of population-based research studies for understanding the burden of communication disorders in society. She explained the critical role that epidemiologic research plays in the design and evaluation of interventions that may prevent or delay impairment and disability.

Workshop participants reviewed clinical and epidemiologic knowledge within each of the NIDCD mission areas and recommended priority topics where more epidemiologic research would be useful in extending our current knowledge and for suggesting prevention strategies. More information on the workshop is available at

Following the Workshop, NIDCD issued a program announcement entitled Epidemiological Research on Disorders of Hearing, Balance, Smell, Taste, Voice, Speech, and Language for R01 grant applications.