Urgent Call to Action: Proposed Cuts to Hearing Research

By Nadine Dehgan, Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., and Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D.

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is deeply concerned to learn the Trump administration has proposed an 18% cut to the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Such a cut would be devastating for all medical research - including hearing research. As an advocate for the millions of Americans who have hearing loss we are especially troubled.

A drastic decrease to the funding of hearing research would disrupt the efforts of the many hearing researchers who dedicate their lives to finding cures and treatments for hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders.

HHF and the NIH are partners in funding research. HHF’s two research programs—the Emerging Research Grants and the Hearing Restoration Project—both rely on NIH support. HHF's funding alone cannot support these labs.

Private funding of hearing research is dwarfed by NIH support, and these proposed cuts could harm the research program of each and every hearing research lab, including those supported by the HHF.

As people with hearing loss, parents of those with hearing loss, children of those with hearing loss and as the leadership of the Hearing Health Foundation we ask your support. Financial support is always needed and welcome - but in this case we are specifically asking for you to contact your representatives to let them know that you oppose cuts to the NIH (and in fact support increases to the NIH’s budget).

If you are passionate about funding the research that will lead to cures for hearing loss and balance disorders, now is the time to act.

Please join us in contacting your Senators and House Representative's offices today.

With our sincere thanks,
Nadine Dehgan | CEO of HHF
Elizabeth Keithley | Chair of the Board
Peter Barr-Gillespie | HRP Scientific Director

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The HRP Shifts Gears for Greater Impact

By Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D.

It’s remarkable to me that the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) is five years old! While the past five years revealed that regeneration of sensory hair cells is more complex than anticipated, our scientists have nonetheless made significant progress. Several notable HRP research projects supported by Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) were published in 2016, and more are on the way.

Financial investment in the HRP is crucial for our success. Through the HRP, HHF supports promising innovative research areas that due to the lack of available funds are not adequately financed by other agencies. We continue to acquire large-scale genomics datasets, and the more we generate the more valuable they all are—comparing the results from different types of experiments is a key approach of the HRP.

In 2017 we will see a change in the way the HRP conducts its research. At our HRP meeting this past November, the consortium updated its research methods for the upcoming year, choosing to focus and devote more resources on two promising, major experimental strategies. This is a shift from the approach over the past five years, when the HRP followed various independent paths to understanding hair cell regeneration.

The first project will use “single-cell sequencing” experiments, which will reveal the molecular processes of hair cell regeneration in chicks and fish with unprecedented resolution. Single-cell methods allow us to examine thousands of genes in hundreds of individually isolated supporting cells, some of which are responding to hair cell damage.

With these voluminous datasets, we will then describe the succession of molecular changes needed to regenerate hair cells. Results from these experiments will be compared with similar experiments examining hair cell damage in mice, which like all mammals, including humans, do not regenerate hair cells.

The second project will examine whether epigenetic DNA modification (the inactivation of genes by chemical changes to the DNA) is why mice supporting cells are unable to transform into hair cells after damage to the ear. Our existing data suggests this is the case, and so a strategy for hearing restoration may involve the reversal of these epigenetic modifications.

The first project will allow us to identify the genes involved, and the second project will help us understand how to effectively manipulate those genes despite their DNA modifications—and to biologically restore hearing.

The consortium approach funded by HHF provides a unique opportunity; the collaboration of 15 outstanding hearing investigators will lead to results far more quickly than traditional projects that rely on a single investigator. All HRP investigators plan projects and interpret data arising from them, allowing us to collectively utilize our 200-plus years of experience we have studying the ear.

HHF has been able to increase HRP funding for 2017 compared with 2016—for this I am grateful. However, there are several research needs unmet. Increased funding levels would speed our deeper understanding of hair cell regeneration, which will ultimately lead us to find therapies to treat human hearing loss and tinnitus.

Most of all, we are looking to add additional scientists to HRP labs to increase productivity and significantly accelerate research progress. There is also an urgent need for more “bioinformatics” scientists to thoroughly examine our data and identify common threads buried deep within our results. In addition, the HRP has research projects that have been placed on hold until funding is found for them.

We are excited about the coming year’s planned research, and eagerly await the results. On behalf of myself and the other scientists who make up the HRP, I thank you for your investment and interest in our work. I look forward to giving you further updates.

HRP scientific director Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D., is the associate vice president for Basic Research and a professor of otolaryngology at the Oregon Hearing Research Center, and a senior scientist at the Vollum Institute, all at Oregon Health & Science University. 

We need your help in funding the exciting work of hearing and balance scientists.

To donate today to support HHF's groundbreaking research,

please visit

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HHF's Field Trip to NIDCD's New Research Center

By Nadine Dehgan

Nadine Dehgan, HHF's CEO

Nadine Dehgan, HHF's CEO

This August, I had the pleasure of visiting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and attended a laboratory tour hosted by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), which is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers that makes up the NIH. Organized by the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus (FCHHC) and in the company of a select group of individuals including Congressional staff members, other hearing organizations, and NIH staff, we first met in the Porter Neuroscience Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The research center’s name honors former U.S. House of Representative member John Edward Porter, a huge supporter of biomedical research. He was largely responsible for leading the charge to double the NIH budget from 2003-2011. Rep. Porter was also the vice chairman of the Foundation for the NIH, and still holds many other public service roles.

James Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., the NIDCD Director, reviewed NIDCD operations and showed how the research funding supports seven mission areas in hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language.  He also mentioned the recently released National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Hearing Health Care Consensus Report (whose recommendations HHF supports). Dr. Battey was warm and approachable and accompanied the visitors throughout the tour answering questions.

Andrew Griffith, M.D., Ph.D., the NIDCD Scientific Director and Chief of the Molecular Biology and Genetics Section, provided us with a detailed explanation of the NIDCD’s intramural research program.  “Intramural” refers to the internal research conducted on the NIH campus and usually is only 10% of an Institute’s entire budget.  Dr. Griffith underscored the benefits of this unique funding environment that allows the investigators to conduct both long-term and high-risk, high-reward science that would otherwise be difficult to undertake in academia and private industry.

The NIDCD is one of ten neuroscience Institutes with labs housed in the newly constructed Porter Neuroscience Building.  Prior to the building’s construction, these labs were spread across eight separate locations. Now, the labs are organized by scientific research topic to allow researchers to share resources and allow for easy collaboration.  Research includes basic and clinical neuroscience research, including investigating Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. (See the detailed listof topic areas that comprise more than 800 scientists in 85 labs.)

The facilities are bright, state-of-the-art, and energy efficient. It is the most energy-efficient science lab in the entire world! It uses solar panels, geothermal wells, and has a special chilled beam air-conditioning system that requires a fraction of energy regular systems use.  At 50,000 sq. ft, it is also one of the largest research buildings in the world dedicated to studying the brain.

Doris Wu, Ph.D.(Slide images from Bissonnette & Fekete, 1996; Morsli et al, 1998)

Doris Wu, Ph.D.(Slide images from Bissonnette & Fekete, 1996; Morsli et al, 1998)

The tour took us to the labs of Doris Wu, Ph.D., Chief of the Sensory Cell Regeneration and Development Section, who discussed her studies of the development of the inner ear in mice and chickens, in particular her work to identify the molecular processes involved. Dr. Wu is also a member of HHF’s Scientific Advisory Board, which provides oversight and guidance to our Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) consortium of researchers.

She paint-filled an embryonic mouse inner ear and let us view it. I put on a pair of gloves and saw how tiny it was in the petri dish (less than 2mm in length) and then what it looked like magnified. As the day went on, I grew more and more impressed with the technical aspects of scientific hearing research.

In Dr. Griffith's lab, he discussed how his team helps those with genetic hearing loss. By identifying specific genes that are mutated in families, in certain cases, he can develop personalized therapies to address the cause of the hearing loss and prevent it.  Dr. Griffith also discussed exciting research from another NIDCD lab that is using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology to create and test therapies. This amazing editing tool has been touted as being faster, cheaper, and more accurate than previous gene editing technologies; HRP researcher John Brigande, Ph.D., is also using it in his current HRP project. 

It was a super impressive tour—the scientists and administration are all friendly, smart, and most importantly dedicated to advancing hearing science. It’s so refreshing to meet so many people who are committed to the advancement of humankind and to uncovering discoveries that will lead to improvements in the quality of life and health of so many.
HHF is very happy to partner with the NIDCD and its research goals, which Dr. Battey wrote about in the Summer 2016 issue of Hearing Health magazine. We are also very proud the majority of early-career scientists we support through our Emerging Research Grants program go on to earn additional funding from the NIH, underscoring the importance of the innovative research both our institutions believe is worthy.

Congressional staff and hearing advocates at FCHHC’s 2016 NIDCD tour

Congressional staff and hearing advocates at FCHHC’s 2016 NIDCD tour

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Hearing Health Foundation Launches Public Service Campaign

For Immediate Release
Contact: Libby Schnee

Hearing Health Foundation Launches Public Service Campaign Featuring Iraq Veteran and Others on the Prevalence of Hearing Loss
-- Research Underway to Find a Biologic Cure --

NEW YORKMay 15, 2012 -- Today Hearing Health Foundation announced its long term initiative to raise awareness and funds for hearing and balance research through a national public service advertising campaign featuring real people who suffer a hearing loss.  Johns Hopkins reports that nearly 50 million Americans suffer a hearing loss.  That number is expected to double in 20 years.  Hearing loss affects a growing number of teens and 60 percent of returning military from Iraq and Afghanistan, who acquire hearing loss or tinnitus due to noise exposure during service.

The campaign launches at a time when the nation’s attention is focused on the service of military veterans (May 19 Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day Weekend) whose lives are forever altered by the visible and invisible wounds of war.  “I suffered hearing loss serving my country as an army specialist in Iraq. The damage I suffered in combat is making it even harder to fit back in as a civilian,” said Specialist Rebecca Nava.

Other personal stories featured in the campaign include Katherine Simpson, “I started to lose my hearing in college.  Social situations became awkward.  And even though I had no reason to be embarrassed, it was hard for me to tell my friends.” Sean and Samantha Brownlie, who are 9 and 7 respectively, noted, “Hearing aids have helped me and my sister for most of our lives, but they’re not a solution for everyone with hearing loss.”

The public service advertising campaign includes television and radio spots of real people sharing their experience living with this unwanted change in their lives and their hope for a cure.  Hearing Health Foundation funds a research consortium, The Hearing Restoration Project, with the goal of finding a biologic cure for hearing loss within the next decide through cell regeneration therapies.  The campaign calls for people to learn more about the issue and the search for a cure by visiting

“Hearing Health Foundation has long been at the forefront of hearing and balance research, and we understand that it is important to invest in the next wave of hearing treatments,” said Andrea Boidman, Executive Director of Hearing Health Foundation.  “Hearing research is important to the future of a growing number of people, and they need to know that there are new treatments on the horizon that could really impact their lives.”  


Lt. Col. Mark Packer, MD., Executive Director for US Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence (HCE) understands what new treatments could mean for returning combat veterans. “In the military, hearing is critical for the instruction, teamwork and reporting that are necessary for mission accomplishment.  Hearing loss is truly a hidden disability and our aim is to address significant gaps in the military’s ability to prevent or mitigate and then treat this type of injury.”  The HCE is partnering with the Veterans Health Administration, Hearing Health Foundation and others to address this issue.

The campaign is timed with May’s Better Hearing and Speech Month and includes a new website community for consumers who are living with hearing loss to access helpful resources and information.  Hearing Health Foundation publishes Hearing Health Magazine, and award-winning publication that is free to those who subscribe.

About Hearing Health Foundation

Hearing Health Foundation is the largest private funder of hearing research, with a mission to prevent and cure hearing loss through groundbreaking research.  Since 1958 Hearing Health Foundation has given over $26.6 million to hearing and balance research, including work that led to cochlear implant technology.  In 2011 Hearing Health Foundation launched the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP), a consortium of scientists working on cell regeneration in the ear.  HRP's goal is a biologic cure for most types of acquired hearing loss. Hearing Health Foundation also publishes Hearing Health magazine, a free consumer resource on hearing loss and related technology, research, and products.  To learn more or support this work, visit

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The NIH Faces Budget Cuts - and Needs Your Help!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled votes that will take place this week on two competing measures to provide funding for the rest of FY11.

One is the House-passed bill (H.R. 1), which cuts the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding by $1.6 billion.

The other is an alternative offered by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI), which maintains the NIH budget at the FY10 level.

Congress still needs to hear from you! Contact your senators immediately and ask them to support the NIH as an urgent national priority by voting "yes" on the continuing resolution proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee and "no" on H.R. 1. A sample letter for your use is located at should you choose to email your elected official.

To take action on the CLS CapWiz page, simply type your zip code in the box to your right. You will be automatically directed to a sample letter. You can edit the letter and send it to your elected officials right from this site. We also encourage you to forward this alert to your friends and colleagues.

Thank you in advance for your participation!

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