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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