HHF Events

Intern Awareness: Reflections from HHF

By Vicky Chan, Lauren McGrath, and C. Adrean Mejia

This spring, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) has been fortunate to welcome two outstanding, dedicated young professionals to its office: Vicky Chan, Copywriting Intern and C. Adrean Mejia, Social Media and Digital Communications Intern. In honor of Intern Awareness Month, celebrated each April, Vicky and Adrean reflected on their experiences as members of the small yet mighty HHF team under the supervision of Lauren McGrath, Marketing Manager.

Vicky, a recent graduate from Brooklyn College with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, believes that interning at HHF has equipped her with invaluable, real-world experience to grow as both a professional and an individual. So far, Vicky has utilized her skills by editing, researching, and conducting interviews for HHF’s blog and magazine. A former writing tutor, Vicky acknowledges that writing for an official publication like Hearing Health magazine is markedly different than completing a college professor’s assignment. Unlike academic essays, Vicky’s articles at HHF must fit the voice of an established organization. And to effectively craft interview-style stories, Vicky has learned to put herself in the subject’s position to determine how they want their story to be portrayed.

  Adrean Mejia (left) interned with HHF as a Social Media and Digital Communications Intern this semester. Vicky Chan is a current Copywriting Intern.

Adrean Mejia (left) interned with HHF as a Social Media and Digital Communications Intern this semester. Vicky Chan is a current Copywriting Intern.

“Everyone at HHF has been open to my questions or suggestions to create an inviting learning environment,” Vicky notes. She’s pleased that HHF has given her purpose and the responsibility to produce written content about hearing health awareness. “Each time I complete an article or see my name on the byline, I feel a sense of satisfaction and pride because it shows that I am working towards my career goal—one step at a time.” Vicky plans to pursue a career in the book publishing field.

Adrean, who will soon complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College, recently ended his internship feeling inspired by HHF’s mission and enlightened by what he’s learned. Adrean, speaking honestly about the experience, admits, “At the beginning, adapting to the nonprofit sector and understanding the concepts related to hearing health were challenges for me.”

Fortunately, the role turned out to be enjoyable for Adrean thanks to the accommodating, communicative staff. He is grateful for the experience, which has opened up his eyes to new horizons and enabled him to contribute to an inspiring mission. Now ready to begin his postcollegiate career, Adrean’s long-term professional goal is to achieve a high position in the entertainment and beauty industry to showcase his vision as an artist.

HHF is grateful to Vicky, Adrean, and the dozens of other interns who have offered their time and talents to further hearing loss research and awareness. The foundation looks forward to meeting its Summer 2018 interns, who will pursue projects related to awareness, advocacy, video production, communications, digital media, fundraising, and donor management. To learn about Fall 2018 opportunities, contact us at careers@hhf.org or visit www.hhf.org/join-our-team in August.

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Highlights from Our 2017 Annual Report

By Gina Russo

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is pleased to share that our latest Annual Report is now available for your review. The report provides in-depth coverage of our activities, events, and achievements for fiscal year 2017 (October 1, 2016 - September 30, 2017). Highlights from the report include the following:

Promising investigative work in hearing and balance. Thanks to the generosity of many individuals and organizations, HHF funded nine Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) projects and 14 Emerging Research Grant (ERG) recipients last year.

Using three animal models, HRP scientists continued their collaborative quest (pp. 14-18) to permanently cure hearing loss and tinnitus through hair cell restoration. Says HRP consortium member David Raible, Ph.D., “Collaboration is the key to innovation. Although there is a romantic picture of a scientist slaving away in isolation, toiling toward ‘eureka’ moments, science works best with communication and sharing ideas.”

Meanwhile, our ERG recipients (pp. 19-22) were awarded grants to fund their up-and-coming work in the areas of Ménière's Disease, tinnitus, central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), hearing health, Usher syndrome, hearing loss in children, and stria vascularis.

Introduction of a research program, Ménière's Disease Grants (MDG). HHF funded two former ERG recipients, Drs. Gail Ishiyama and Ian Swinburne, who will help to advance our understanding of the inner ear and balance disorder Ménière's Disease. These grants (p. 23) were generously supported by a family committed to finding better treatments and cures for this disabling condition.

Preview of our exciting Hearing Loss Survey findings. HHF, in partnership with the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), surveyed 2,300 people to understand how to better serve the needs of the hearing loss community. Affordability and accessibility of hearing healthcare was an underlying trend in the responses (pp. 11-12), and participants overwhelmingly support the government playing a role in access to hearing loss treatment. A full survey manuscript and executive summary will be available in April 2018.

Thank you to all our fundraisers and donors. We were fortunate to receive large-scale support from Cantor Fitzgerald Charity Day, marathon runner Catherine McLoughlin, and the De Francesco family. You can read about each on pp. 8-10. Additionally, you will find a complete list of our FY’17 donors on pp. 26-36, who all helped make a difference in hearing loss research.

Continued outstanding financial transparency. HHF retained top marks from all charity watchdogs (BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and Guidestar) and was recognized, for the second consecutive year, as a “Best Charity for Your Donation” by Consumer Reports. Examine our Report’s Financials on pp. 37-39 for more information about how we efficiently steward donor dollars.

Should you have any questions about the report, please get in touch with us at info@hhf.org. To learn more about naming a grant and other giving opportunities, contact development@hhf.org. If you are able to help us fund research programs in 2018, we encourage you to make a contribution to HHF before September 30, 2018 to see your name included on the list of donors in next year’s Annual Report.

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Women’s History Through the Lens of HHF

By C. Adrean Mejia

Before Women’s History Month concludes, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) would like to highlight the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), including those who have been instrumental to our own progress toward preventing, treating, and curing hearing loss and related conditions.

Historically, STEM has been majority male, but the growing inclusion of women in the industry is closing the gender gap. In fact, LinkedIn reports the percentage of women entering STEM roles in the last four decades is greater than that of any other professional sector. In 1978, the STEM workforce was only 10% female, while today about a third of this field is comprised of women.

  Emerging Research Grants (ERG) recipient Dr. Wafaa Kaf administers a hearing screening. Credit: Missouri State University.

Emerging Research Grants (ERG) recipient Dr. Wafaa Kaf administers a hearing screening. Credit: Missouri State University.

As individuals and as an organization that values inclusiveness, we all at HHF applaud the trend of growing opportunity for women in scientific professions, while remaining equally grateful to the male researchers and Board members who offer their commitment, support, and expertise. Our founder was a woman; 60 years ago, Mrs. Collette Ramsey Baker began a quest to find better treatments and cures for hearing and balance conditions which is championed by all today.

We would like to acknowledge the outstanding women on HHF’s Board of Directors, whose altruism and intelligence have furthered hearing research and HHF’s growth. Our Board Chair, Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., who has been an auditory researcher for more than 30 years, began her association with HHF as a grant reviewer. Dr. Keithley has conducted and published a number of studies related to the mechanisms of inflammation and aging on the inner ear.

  From left: HHF Board Chair Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., and Board member Judy Dubno, Ph.D.

From left: HHF Board Chair Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., and Board member Judy Dubno, Ph.D.

Board member Judy Dubno, Ph.D., professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, is considered one of the most important otolaryngology researchers in the nation. Her work has focused on auditory perception, hearing loss, and speech recognition. Dr. Dubno was also a contributor to the report that successfully urged the FDA to create a category of over-the-counter hearing aids to make hearing loss treatment more accessible to American adults.

Also serving on the Board is Ruth Anne Eatock, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, who studies sensory signaling by hair cells and neurons in the inner ear. She was recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience for her investigation of inner ear sensory cells in rodents.

HHF is also thankful for the three female scientists who are part of our Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) consortium working to permanently cure hearing loss: Ronna Hertzano, M.D., Ph.D., Tatjana Piotrowski, Ph.D., and Jennifer S. Stone, Ph.D. Their labs at the University of Maryland, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and the University of Washington, respectively, have uncovered valuable insights related to a biological cure for hearing loss.

Our Emerging Research Grants (ERG) program has empowered many brilliant, female researchers, including those recently published: Wafaa Kaf, Ph.D., researching new techniques to diagnose Ménière's disease; Michelle Hastings, Ph.D., investigating early genetic intervention for Usher syndrome; Elizabeth McCullagh, Ph.D., examining the connection between sound localization difficulties and Fragile X Syndrome; and Samira Anderson, Au.D., Ph.D., working to improve hearing aid fit to enhance usage.

Finally, we are fortunate to have Nadine Dehgan serving as our CEO. Ms. Dehgan plays a crucial role in our growth and programming efficiency, and her leadership experience and passion for how hearing science can better people’s lives has made her a strong fit to drive HHF forward.

HHF deeply values the work of all individuals who bring us closer to a world without hearing loss and tinnitus. For Women’s History Month, we’re honored to call special attention to the women who have been part of these life-changing efforts in the spirit of Mrs. Ramsey Baker, whose determination and selflessness still inspires us today.

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HHF Welcomes John Dillard, Retired U.S. Army Colonel, to Board of Directors

By Nadine Dehgan

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) recently welcomed COL John T. Dillard, USA (Ret) to its  Board of Directors. A Cold War Veteran, COL Dillard lives with tinnitus and hearing loss—the two most common war injuries—as a result of repeated exposure to gunfire and blasts.

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COL Dillard is currently a Senior Lecturer for Systems Acquisition Management at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California, where he has been employed since his retirement from the U.S. Army in 2000. His curricula focus on system developments to advance technology and warfighting capabilities. At the NPS, COL Dillard also counsels young military officers as they cope with the effects of tinnitus including sleep, concentration, and mood issues.

Previously, COL Dillard held positions as an instructor at the U.S. Army War College and an adjunct professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. In the latter, he educated Silicon Valley public and private industry professionals in Project Management. The full-text versions of his own many written works on managing technology efforts are available on ResearchGate.

In addition to his present role at the NPS, COL Dillard is a Defense Department Consumer Reviewer for the annual Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program for scientific proposals in the areas of tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss research. COL Dillard says that he "hopes to contribute in a tangible way to HHF’s drive to restore hearing for countless people affected by its loss."

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San Diego Tunes In to Hearing Health

By Jordan Conole

On February 11th, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), the nation’s largest nonprofit funder of hearing and balance research, hosted a public seminar on hearing health and hearing loss in at the Central Library in Downtown San Diego.

  Guests mingle before the start of presentations on hearing loss research and treatments in the Shiley Special Events Suite of the San Diego Central Library.

Guests mingle before the start of presentations on hearing loss research and treatments in the Shiley Special Events Suite of the San Diego Central Library.

Event attendees included members of the public, scientists and researchers, many of whom have devoted their careers to finding a cure for hearing loss.

Ronna Hertzano, M.D., Ph.D., a surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center, spoke about the need for change in the way we treat hearing loss, noting, “Just as a doctor would now take a patient with elevated or slightly higher blood pressure seriously, we must do just the same with hearing.” Dr. Hertzano claimed that those who experience hearing loss oftentimes can suffer from loneliness and feelings of isolation.

According to a recent study by the National Aging Committee, more than 11% of those with some form of hearing loss suffer from depression compared to only 5% of the general public.

Dr. Harrison Lin, a scientist funded by HHF’s Emerging Research Grants program, and colleagues discovered that of the 48 million Americans who report experiencing some form of hearing loss, only about one-third of those actually seek out treatment.

Ken Knoblett, a San Diego resident who counts himself as part of that third, noticed a drastic change in his interactions with friends and family once he began to use hearing aids. “I was immediately able to be more connected to my friends and family and enjoy gatherings again. The hearing aid and treatment really changed my life for the better!”

Based on the strong connection to hearing loss and its strong emotional side effects, testing for hearing loss and treating it is the best way to combat and prevent its underlying side effects.

Hearing loss is an isolating condition for hundreds of thousands of Americans, but the scientists working for HHF hope to someday end that isolation.

Jordan Conole is a freelance journalist who covers San Diego local nonprofits and charity events in the surrounding areas. 

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HHF Celebrates 60 Years

By Yishane Lee

The legacies of Collette Ramsey Baker and Wesley H. Bradley, M.D., underscore the shared mission of Hearing Health Foundation and the medical community to support and fund groundbreaking scientific research.

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Sixty years ago, Collette Ramsey Baker founded Deafness Research Foundation, now known
as Hearing Health Foundation (HHF). After living with a hearing loss for decades, she found relief through fenestration surgery, an early otosclerosis treatment. In gratitude, Ramsey Baker wanted to give back. Her daughter, Collette Wynn, says, “My mother made a promise that, if the operation worked, she would do something to support research to find the causes of deafness and develop better treatments.” HHF was launched in 1958.

Ramsey Baker introduced her surgeon, Julius Lempert, M.D., who pioneered the fenestration surgery, and Walter Petryshyn, M.D., her otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist), to finance and industry leaders, and from this talented group came HHF’s first Board of Directors, with Ramsey Baker becoming HHF’s president.

In 2006, this magazine ran a profile of Ramsey Baker featuring the recollections of HHF’s early years from Wesley H. Bradley, M.D., a skilled surgeon who went on to lead what became the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Bradley passed away in 2012, two years after Ramsey Baker.

In the article, Bradley recounts how HHF’s mission so impressed Lempert that he spoke about the organization to leading otologists. “These individuals quickly saw the advantage of supporting a group that was firmly established to promote otological research,” Bradley said.

One early effort was the creation, in 1960, of a program to encourage people to donate their temporal bones to hearing science upon death. The National Temporal Bone Registry, now
overseen by the NIDCD, has led to countless research breakthroughs.

In 1963, physician support of HHF was formalized with the creation of The Centurions, a group of doctors who covered HHF’s administrative costs so all funds raised went directly to hearing research. Physicians also joined the board and launched the Emerging Research Grants program, which remains HHF’s flagship along with the Hearing Restoration Project research consortium.

Bradley’s three-decade involvement with HHF, including as a founding Centurions member and medical director, was recognized with the Wesley H. Bradley, M.D., Memorial Grant, awarded to a promising ERG scientist in 2014. “I had the idea of honoring Wes’s work,” says Bradley’s wife, Barbara. “The many years he spent working at Deafness Research Foundation, it really was a labor of love. He believed very strongly in its mission.”

Says Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., the chair of HHF’s Board of Directors, “Planned giving is a major component of HHF’s success today and into the future. It is with these achievements and many more in mind that we celebrate 60 years and look toward more groundbreaking discoveries in hearing and balance science.”

Yishane Lee is the Editor of Hearing Health magazine, a quarterly publication of HHF. This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Hearing Health magazine. Read more about Bradley in “A Family Gift” in the Fall 2014 issue and “A Tribute to Wesley H. Bradley, M.D.” in the Winter 2013 issue.

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You’re Invited: Comprehensive Hearing Health Experience in February 2018

By Lauren McGrath

In honor of our 60th anniversary, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s Board Chair, Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., is hosting Hearing360—an educational and social forum at the San Diego Central Library—in early 2018. Hearing360 seeks to engage HHF’s San Diego area constituents with the latest updates in hearing research and everyday guidance for hearing health.

Featured event speakers include scientists Ronna Hertzano, M.D. and Andy Groves, Ph.D. from HHF’s Hearing Restoration Project (HRP), the world’s first international consortium dedicated to identifying a permanent biological cure for hearing loss. Their individual presentations on the regeneration of hair cells in the inner ear will be followed by a brief Q&A session.

  Ronna Hertzano, M.D.

Ronna Hertzano, M.D.

  Andy Groves, Ph.D.

Andy Groves, Ph.D.

Hearing360 will also honor the generosity of longtime HHF supporters Frank and Chris De Francesco, who shared their experiences raising a child with profound hearing loss in “Why We Believe in Hearing Health Foundation,” which appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Hearing Health magazine.

Scheduled for Sunday, February 11 from 3:00 - 5:00 PM in the San Diego Central Library’s Shiley Special Event Suite, Hearing360 will be fully accessible with a t-coil loop system and open captioning. Light refreshments and wine will be available.

Limited space is available and an RSVP is required for all guests. We look forward to meeting you in San Diego. Please contact HHF at events@hhf.org with any questions regarding Hearing360.

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HHF Attends Cantor Fitzgerald’s Charity Day, a Star-Spangled Effort to Build Hope on Tragic 9/11 Anniversary

By Yvonnie Phan

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) was among the dozens of charities selected to participate in yesterday’s Cantor Charity Day—an annual, celebrity-filled philanthropic event held around the anniversary of September 11—at Cantor Fitzgerald’s New York City headquarters.

  From left: HHF Board Vice Chair Paul Orlin, Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund President Edie Lutnick, Former Hockey Star Martin St. Louis, HHF CEO Nadine Dehgan

From left: HHF Board Vice Chair Paul Orlin, Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund President Edie Lutnick, Former Hockey Star Martin St. Louis, HHF CEO Nadine Dehgan

HHF’s attendance marked the organization’s fifth year of participation. HHF was represented by Hockey Legend Martin “Marty” St. Louis, HHF Board member Paul Orlin, and Nadine Dehgan, HHF’s CEO.

As Marty’s own foundation has supported HHF’s life-changing hearing and balance research in the past, HHF was especially thankful that he also dedicated his time to serve as an ambassador.

  Marty St. Louis and Robert De Niro

Marty St. Louis and Robert De Niro

The HHF trio had a particularly memorable encounter with Robert De Niro and another hockey star, Mike Richter, who were also among Charity Day’s celebrity roster. Marty told Mr. De Niro that in his days as a player (for Tampa Bay Lighting, Calgary Flames, and the New York Rangers), he impersonated De Niro’s film roles in the locker room to energize his teammates before big games—and the movie star found that amusing.

All proceeds from Cantor Charity Day will benefit the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, which aids the families of the firm’s 658 employees who perished in the World Trade Center attacks. Since its 2001 establishment, the Relief Fund has expanded its reach to also support victims of terrorism, natural disasters, and emergencies, wounded military personnel, and other charitable causes worldwide, including HHF.

  Marty making trades on the phone

Marty making trades on the phone

HHF CEO Nadine Dehgan reflects on the day: “Being part of this event where everyone gets together for the sole purpose of helping others is so inspiring. I am honored HHF was selected to participate again and grateful for the folks who make it happen, especially the Relief Fund’s President, Edie Lutnick, whose energy is unmatched. Marty was a superstar on the phone helping make trades!”

The Fund’s prioritization of wounded veterans is especially compatible with HHF’s work; tinnitus and hearing loss are the most common disabilities that afflict returning American military members.

“HHF will use the funds received from this event to continue to be a resource for veterans with hearing loss and to further research for treatments and cures for the 360 million people around the world who have hearing loss,” Nadine pledges.

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Meet HHF's Small But Mighty Team

By Nadine Dehgan

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is working around the clock to help find cures and treatments and also to better the lives of those with hearing loss. And we are doing it with a small and incredible team.

Recently I attended a bowling outing with HHF's full-time staff and our mighty army of interns. (Please see the photo.) Missing are Yishane Lee and Robin Wisser Kidder whose wonderful talent is used to edit and design Hearing Health magazine; Caroline Oberweger who aids with foundation grants; and Frankie Huang who helped as a marketing intern.

  From left to right: Stephanie Jacovina, Breana King, Shawaza Majeed, Laura Friedman, Nadine Dehgan, Hai Zhou and Kelly Barahona

From left to right: Stephanie Jacovina, Breana King, Shawaza Majeed, Laura Friedman, Nadine Dehgan, Hai Zhou and Kelly Barahona


Thanks to these talented people, HHF has been able to: 

  • Increase awareness of preventable noise-induced hearing loss by developing.  partnerships with peer organizations and corporations.
  • Register to fundraise in every state—a necessary and time-consuming process.
  • Write blog posts and magazine articles on various hearing loss topics as well as hearing research.
  • Secure media placement in the following outlets: The New Yorker, The Guardian, Men’s Journal, and others.
  • Rewrite our internal policies and procedures to streamline activities and reduce costs.
  • Send supporters and constituents countless communications including magazines, letters, and appeals to raise funds so we can continue our important work.
  • Communicate with the Federal Drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission, and various elected officials regarding the critical need for affordable hearing health care (e.g.,. over-the-counter hearing aids) and significance of funding hearing research.
  • Advocate for the reversal of the 2018 federal budget’s proposed elimination of all federalUniversal Newborn Hearing Screening funding, $18 million in total.
  • Announce our newly formed partnership with Hearing Charity of America’s Hearing Aid Donation Project to collect used hearing aids to give to those who need.
  • Increase Hearing Health magazine ad sales revenue enabling HHF to invest in growing its readership.
  • Continue to receive top ratings from charity watchdogs with HHF named twice in two categories in Consumer Reports’ top five best charities.
  • And most importantly increase funding to our critical hearing and balance research programs promoting innovative approaches by both early-stage scientists and established experts in their fields!

At HHF we all live and breathe our mission. I would like to recognize and express my gratitude to those the who give of their time and talent to our cause.

There is much to do and many unmet research needs—but together we will get there.

From the bottom of my heart I am grateful and hope you wil join me in thanking these folks. They help make it all possible.

Nadine Dehgan is the chief executive officer of Hearing Health Foundation.

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HHF Welcomes New Board Members in April 2017

By Nadine Dehgan

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is delighted to welcome Bob Shannon, Ph.D., and Ruth Anne Eatock, Ph.D., to our Board of Directors. Their unwavering commitment toward advancing research to better understand hearing loss and its associated disorders make Drs. Shannon and Eatock perfect additions to our leadership team.

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Dr. Robert Shannon is a research professor of otolaryngology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine with over four decades of experience in researching auditory perception and psychoacoustics. He also serves as an editor and reviewer for several prominent scientific journals and funding agencies and has published more than 100 scientific articles on his research. Most recently Dr. Shannon has been a primary investigator on research studies that advance the technology and effectiveness of the auditory brainstem implant (ABI), an auditory prosthesis for people who have a non-functioning auditory nerve. The ABI is the first device approved by the Food and Drug Administration for prosthetic electrical stimulation of the human brainstem.

“I initially got involved with HHF (then DRF) by joining the Science Review Committee, to ensure the high quality of the research proposals, and later joined the Council of Scientific Trustees,” said Dr. Shannon. “Now I look forward to continued service on the HHF Board of Directors to have an integral role in pushing the Foundation’s research efforts forward.”

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Dr. Ruth Anne Eatock is a professor of neurobiology and the dean of Faculty Affairs for the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. She trained at McGill, Caltech, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and MIT, and has held academic positions in otolaryngology and neuroscience departments at University of Rochester, Baylor College of Medicine, and Harvard. She has experience mentoring students, fellows and clinical scientists in sensory processing by the inner ear, reviewing federal and private grant applications, editing and reviewing research papers, and organizing hearing research meetings.  These experiences have given her a broad appreciation of the progress and goals driving our diverse hearing research community.

Dr. Eatock notes: “My first independent grant was a Deafness Research Grant (now known as Emerging Research Grants), so I am well aware of the importance of such seed funding in helping new investigators establish themselves and advance hearing research.”

HHF is excited to have Drs. Bob Shannon and Ruth Anne Eatock as new members of our Board of Directors and we look forward to their contributions toward HHF’s mission. Please join us in giving them both a warm welcome!

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