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Wednesday / July 17.
HomeminewsA Fascination For The Senses

A Fascination For The Senses

Ms. Fleur O’Hare, a Clinical Research Coordinator with CERA’s Glaucoma Research Unit, is conducting a world-first study to investigate different aspects of auditory function in glaucoma patients. mivision spoke to Fleur about how she discovered a fascination for the senses.

Regular family visits to the Eye and Ear Hospital for her sister’s eye condition sparked an early interest in eye disease for Fleur O’Hare.

Now, as a Clinical Research Coordinator in CERA’s Glaucoma Research Unit, Fleur spends much of her time working in the same clinics where her sister was treated for a turned eye.

After completing a Bachelor of Science majoring in Orthoptics and Ophthalmic Science, Fleur honed her orthoptic skills by practising in various clinics.

I get a real buzz from finding new ways to treat and diagnose patients. I love being able to make a difference

According to Fleur, she was attracted to research early in her career.

“I’m a naturally inquisitive person. As an orthoptist, I’d constantly be asking questions about why some patient’s treatment was successful while others failed,” Fleur said.

“As much as I enjoy orthoptic work, there’s a point when you hit the ceiling and can’t progress without further study. I hit the ceiling pretty quickly and it didn’t take me long to seek further stimulation,” she said.

“Research felt like a natural progression.”

Outside the Square
Through her role at CERA, Fleur is undertaking a Masters of Philosophy in clinical ophthalmic research at the University of Melbourne. For Fleur, the best part of her job is the diversity it offers and the ability to exercise initiative.

“I have a good balance between clinic and research so I don’t get locked into one frame or the other.

“My CERA colleagues encourage me to ‘think outside the square.’ If I identify a problem in clinic, I’m encouraged to come up with solutions,” Fleur said.

Starting out in CERA’s Clinical Genetics Unit, Fleur helped to investigate the genes that are associated with hereditary cataract. From there, she moved to the Glaucoma Research Unit to assist with drug trials and conduct a study into patient compliance.

World First Study
Her Masters project, a world-first study to investigate different aspects of auditory (hearing) function in glaucoma patients, is perhaps Fleur’s most interesting project yet.

“Researchers are yet to reach consensus on whether patients with glaucoma suffer a greater hearing loss than that expected for their age. I’m looking at a patient’s ability to hear and the hearing pathways in order to find a definitive answer,” Fleur said.

As glaucoma is a neurodegenerative disease, researchers believe glaucoma patients are at a higher risk of sensory nerve problems. Fleur’s research focuses on the temporal processing abilities of glaucoma patients. Temporal processing, or the time related aspects of processing sound, is often described as the foundation of the hearing process.

“If patients can detect changes in pitch and timing, they’re more likely to perceive changes in articulation, vowels and speech sounds, which is important for speech recognition and communication in general,” Fleur said.

While the study is yet to produce solid findings, preliminary results suggest that a sub-group of glaucoma patients suffer hearing processing deficits, which could potentially have a profound effect on their daily living activities and ability to communicate.

“Discovering the impact of glaucoma on the other senses will help us to better understand its development and create screening tests for earlier detection and the prevention of vision loss.”

According to Fleur, the end goal is always to benefit the patient.

“I get a real buzz from finding new ways to treat and diagnose patients. I love being able to make a difference.”