For the Cure strand of our new strategy, the working group considered three strategic questions: what can we do to speed up the development of treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus, how can we increase funding for our biomedical research, and what role should we play in co-ordinating the global hearing research community to find treatments and cures faster?
To answer these questions, we consulted both our beneficiaries and the scientists working on hearing loss and tinnitus, as well as doing some research of our own.
We asked our beneficiaries about the areas of hearing research where breakthroughs would make the most difference to them, and what they thought about being more involved in our research – not as participants, but in setting our priorities or being involved in making decisions about which projects we fund.
They told us that better hearing aids and biological treatments for hearing loss were the main priorities. More than three-quarters of those we asked also showed an interest in being more involved in our funding processes.
We also surveyed the worldwide hearing research community to find out about the challenges they face in their work, and what we could do to help them. Unsurprisingly, the biggest challenge to them is not enough funding, although more junior researchers also told us of a lack of support when making the transition to becoming an independent scientist.
The most commonly mentioned factor delaying the development of treatments is a lack of understanding of the biology of hearing loss. There was also strong support for involving our supporters in our funding processes, though quite a lot of disagreement about the best way to do so!
We looked at new ways of funding research that would enable us to significantly increase investment in research, studying what other charities do, and how ‘venture philanthropy’ might work for us to secure funding to turn our research discoveries into actual treatments.
We identified other global funders of hearing research, who we could work with to boost funds for hearing research. Another project looked at how we could engage with the government to boost spending on hearing research, identifying departments with an interest in hearing loss and a budget to fund research, such as the Ministry of Defence, that we could approach.
All of these findings will shape our strategy for how we will work ‘towards a cure’ over the next five years.