News

Hearing Restoration Project Scientific Director to Lead University’s Research Enterprise

By Tamara Hargens-Bradley, OHSU News

OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D., will be Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) first chief research officer and executive vice president, effective Jan. 1, 2019. Barr-Gillespie has served as interim senior vice president for research at OHSU since 2017.

In his new role, Barr-Gillespie will be principal adviser to OHSU President Danny Jacobs, M.D., FACS, on research strategy and research resource allocation. He will lead and manage OHSU’s research enterprise—comprising dozens of internationally and nationally acclaimed basic, translational, clinical, and public health research programs—and serve on the president’s executive leadership team.

“Dr. Barr-Gillespie has done a tremendous job leading the OHSU research mission on an interim basis. I’m delighted to appoint him to a new, permanent position that reflects his contributions and capabilities as well as the vital role of research at OHSU,” Jacobs says.

Barr-Gillespie also will collaborate with external academic, industrial and community research partners, and the various funding, regulatory and accrediting bodies. Moreover, he will represent OHSU in research collaborations with other universities in Oregon and the northwest region.

“I am excited to support Dr. Jacobs in developing OHSU’s 2025 strategic plan for research,” Barr-Gillespie says. “To be among the top-ranked research universities for NIH funding in the country and maintain our national reputation for cutting-edge research, we need to empower our researchers to do their best science by smartly investing in people, core resources, and space, and enhancing our graduate programs.”

OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Barr-Gillespie is an internationally recognized scholar, biomedical researcher and visionary academic leader who has been on faculty at OHSU since 1999. He currently holds faculty appointments in the departments of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Cell and Developmental Biology in OHSU’s School of Medicine and Oregon Hearing Research Center. He also is a senior scientist in the OHSU Vollum Institute.

An NIH-funded investigator, Barr-Gillespie’s research focus, his passion, is understanding the molecular mechanisms that enable our sense of hearing. Specifically, the Barr-Gillespie lab endeavors to determine how sensory cells in the inner ear called hair cells allow humans to perceive sound. Barr-Gillespie will maintain his active research program while serving as chief research officer.

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Barr-Gillespie is also the scientific director of the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP), an international consortium of 14 investigators funded by Hearing Health Foundation. The HRP’s goal is to develop a biological therapy for hearing loss arising from destruction of hair cells, which are not regenerated after damage from noise, ototoxic drugs, or aging.

Barr-Gillespie earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Reed College in 1981, carrying out his senior undergraduate thesis at OHSU after a summer fellowship in OHSU’s biochemistry department. He received his doctorate in pharmacology at the University of Washington in 1988, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in physiology, cell biology and neuroscience with Jim Hudspeth, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of California San Francisco and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 1993.

Following his fellowship, he accepted a faculty position in physiology at Johns Hopkins and remained there until accepting the position of scientist at the OHSU Vollum Institute and associate professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine in 1999. In 2014, Barr-Gillespie was appointed associate vice president for basic research at OHSU.

As a young investigator, Barr-Gillespie was named a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences, a program that funds research “that shows outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health.” During his tenure at OHSU, he has been honored with the Faculty Excellence in Education Award and the John A. Resko Faculty Research Achievement and Mentoring Award.

Over his distinguished career, he has published more than 115 scholarly articles, chapters, and reviews, and has been an invited lecturer at dozens of research universities, academic conferences, and scientific events.

Barr-Gillespie and his wife, Ann Barr-Gillespie, D.P.T., Ph.D., live in Portland. She is the vice provost and executive dean of the College of Health Professions at the Pacific University Hillsboro campus. Their children are Aidan Gillespie, 17, and Katie Gillespie, 24, whom Peter and Ann share with their mother, Susan Gillespie. In their spare time, Peter and Ann enjoy cycling and hiking.

This is republished with permission from OHSU News.

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ChEARs to Our Hearing

By Lauren McGrath

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To extend our celebration of World Hearing Day (March 3), Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) has partnered with the innovative Class I hearing aid manufacturer Eargo to raise funds for hearing loss research and awareness.

Eargo launched the ChEARs to Our Hearing Facebook fundraising campaign Monday, March 4, and the company is generously matching all gifts made up to $1,000.

In alignment with HHF’s 2017 survey about barriers to hearing loss treatment, Eargo’s Audiologist, Steve Eagon, says, “Our consumers are most concerned about the price of hearing aids. User-centric innovations driven by HHF’s scientific research—specifically through its Emerging Research Grants (ERG) program—will ultimately advance more possibilities for hearing aid technology,  eventually driving down costs.”

HHF also champions the importance of treating a hearing loss to maintain one’s quality of life, or, as Eargo’s mission statement reads, “hear life to the fullest.” An untreated hearing loss can increase one's risk of experiencing cognitive decline, dementia, falls, social isolation, and depression.

Eargo also shares HHF’s motivation to reduce the stigma of hearing loss. “There always has been, and still is, a lot of stigma around hearing aids. As a society, we're focused on looking and feeling young, and using hearing aids are often seen as a sign of submission to old age. Instead of investing in one of their senses, people often deny their hearing loss—by turning the volume up, asking people to repeat themselves, and unfortunately avoiding the situation rather than dealing with it head on,” Eagon says.

HHF is deeply grateful to Eargo for their decision to support hearing loss research and awareness. HHF kindly invites our readers to make a contribution to ChEARs to Our Hearing on Facebook. Thank you for your consideration and support of our work!

 
 

About Eargo:

Eargo is a direct-to-consumer health tech company that’s destigmatizing hearing loss through consumer-driven innovation. Eargo devices are available for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. The Eargo Max model was recognized as one of TIME’s best inventions of 2018.  For more, see eargo.com.

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In Memoriam: Noel Cohen, M.D.

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Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) shares with great sadness the passing of Board of Directors member Noel Cohen, M.D., who dedicated his career to helping people hear. Cohen was a world-renowned cochlear implant surgeon at New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center whose contributions as a clinician, scientist, and educator will forever enrich hearing health.

Cohen served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve before completing his ENT residency at NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital in 1962. Cohen held many leadership roles in the years to follow including professor of otolaryngology at NYU; chair of NYU’s department of otolaryngology–head & neck surgery; acting dean at the NYU School of Medicine; and president of the NYU Hospital Center.

Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., the chair of HHF’s board, spoke highly of Cohen’s passion for building the hearing research community by providing opportunities for its youngest members. “He was a strong advocate for funding young investigators through our Emerging Research Grants [ERG] program to help their establishment as academics and scientists,” Keithley says.

Cohen oversaw the ERG grantmaking process as a member of HHF’s Council of Scientific Trustees (CST) prior to joining the board in 2016. Additionally, Cohen and his late wife, Baukje, were committed financial supporters of HHF through their family foundation.

Anil Lalwani, M.D., also a member of HHF’s board and the head of the CST, was a colleague of Cohen’s at NYU He fondly remembers him as “a surgeon instrumental in providing the priceless gift of hearing to countless youngsters and adults who otherwise would still be living in a silent world.”

Cohen will be deeply missed by HHF and the otolaryngology community. We are grateful to Cohen for his immense service to those who study, treat, and live with hearing loss.

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HHF Welcomes Margo Amgott as Interim CEO

By Lauren McGrath

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is pleased to begin the New Year with the guidance of Margo Amgott as Interim Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Nadine Dehgan’s dedicated service to the foundation. Margo will lead HHF overseeing operations and working with the Board on a search for a permanent replacement.

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“I am excited to work with HHF’s committed Board of Directors and talented staff to foster support for groundbreaking hearing and balance research,” said Margo, who will champion the start of HHF’s seventh decade of advancing scientific knowledge of hearing loss. HHF has funded research leading to the development of cochlear implant technology and biological hearing restoration in mammals. She added that she is “thrilled to be a part of this vibrant organization supporting life-changing discoveries.”

Board Chair Elizabeth Keithley, Ph.D., remarks, “HHF is delighted to partner with Margo as we continue to nurture cutting-edge research. The Board and I are confident she will be an asset during this time of transition overseeing our operations and helping us to identify the next leader for our dynamic organization.”

With 30 years of nonprofit leadership experience, Ms. Amgott’s professional history includes service to academic medical centers, higher education institutions, government agencies, and healthcare and community nonprofits. Earlier in her career, she directed New York City’s Early Intervention Program and also served as Executive Director of the NYU Child Study Center. She holds a masters degree in health policy and management from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Administration and a BA in anthropology from Barnard College.

Margo also shares a deeply personal connection with HHF. In 2014, she was diagnosed with a mild unexplained hearing loss and tinnitus in her left ear.

“I welcome the opportunity to work with HHF because of its mission to improve the quality of life for nearly 50 million Americans,” Ms. Amgott says. “I am learning professionally―and personally―from the work HHF does every day. The partnership between our remarkable scientists and our generous supporters has made demonstrable progress towards prevention and cure, and like so many others, I look forward to these vital discoveries.”

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HHF Maintains 4-Star Charity Navigator Rating and Consumer Reports “Best Charities” Distinction

By Gina Russo

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) concludes our 60th anniversary year of groundbreaking hearing and balance research with a third consecutive four-star rating from Charity Navigator and a third consecutive designation as a “Best Charity for Your Donation” by Consumer Reports.

HHF’s mission is to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure hearing loss through innovative research. The organization also promotes hearing health through education and awareness programs. HHF funded the discoveries that certain animals are capable of restoring their hearing once deafened, and now works toward replicating this phenomenon in people, while also investigating new treatments and cures for other hearing and balance conditions like tinnitus, Ménière's disease, and auditory processing disorder (APD).

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Consistent accolades from Charity Navigator and Consumer Reports affirm HHF’s life-changing work is carried out with financial efficiency, accountability, and transparency. HHF’s Board of Directors and the organization’s endowment cover all administrative expenses, so donations from generous supporters fully fund hearing loss research and awareness.

Charity Navigator’s 4-star rating, its highest possible, signifies that HHF executes our mission in the most responsible way. The score considers program, administrative, and fundraising expenses, fundraising efficiency, Board policies, and the disclosure of financial records. Fewer than 25% of the 9,000+ nonprofits evaluated by Charity Navigator have received three or more consecutive 4-star ratings.

Consumer Reports’ annual list of the “Best Charities for Your Donation” aggregates data from Charity Navigator along with CharityWatch and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance to identify organizations most worthy of donors’ support. This year, HHF is the only hearing loss focused charity to earn a placement on the Consumer Reports roster.

As HHF enters our seventh decade of funding critical hearing and balance research, we express our gratitude to those who have given their time and financial resources in pursuit of new treatments and cures. We’re thankful to have your support in our efforts to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans with hearing loss.

If you haven’t yet, and are able to give, please consider an end-of-year donation with confidence HHF will work diligently to ensure your contribution matters.

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Visit Our New Website Focused on Ménière's Disease

By Lauren McGrath

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) unveiled today a new microsite dedicated to Ménière's disease, a chronic vestibular (inner ear) condition with no known cure. The content is accessible at www.menieresdisease.org as an extension of the foundation’s primary website, www.hhf.org.

HHF’s www.menieresdisease.org seeks to build awareness of and bring clarity to the “mysterious” condition with simple, informative pages. The goals are to inspire hope among people who live with Ménière's disease and their loved ones, share updates about Ménière's disease from scientists funded by the foundation, and provide a channel through which individuals can donate to life-changing Ménière's disease research. HHF is fortunate to have all administrative expenses covered by its board of trustees and endowment, so 100% of gifts will directly support life-changing research programming.

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Ménière's disease affects approximately 600,000 people in the U.S. The most prominent symptoms include a sensation of ear fullness, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, fluctuating hearing loss, and tinnitus. Some patients benefit from treatments, but far too many remain completely debilitated, bedridden, and unable to work. Episodes of vertigo can strike at anytime without warning and this uncertainty offer triggers anxiety and depression.

Ménière's disease has long been an area of interest for the HHF’s long standing research programs. Inspired by supporters with personal interests in Ménière's disease and gravely concerned by the general lack of research on the subject, HHF declared a greater focus on the condition in 2017 through the establishment of the Ménière's Disease Grants (MDG) program. MDG is exclusively focused on the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of Ménière's disease. MDG awards scientists up to $125,000 for a two-year grant period is governed by the Ménière's Disease Advisory Board, comprised of senior researchers and physicians throughout the country who review each application for scientific merit and program relevance.

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The face of the new website is Nicolle Cure, a celebrated visual artist diagnosed this year with Ménière's disease and whose life has been devastated by sudden hearing loss and crippling vertigo. Nicolle describes her reactions to the onset of her symptoms: “These ‘invisible conditions’ affect patients an emotional level. I was completely isolated from the world and was frustrated because I couldn’t do anything or go anywhere.” Nicolle is grateful to have art as a most powerful coping mechanism when she feels well. “I wish to use my art to help people be open about their conditions and find treatments and relief and know that they are not alone in this journey.”

HHF encourages our supporters to visit www.menieresdisease.org to learn more about Ménière's disease and to share with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, or others who may benefit from the reminder that they are not alone and find inspiration in the groundbreaking research that will one day transform lives.




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Why So Many Can’t Afford to Hear Better

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Only about 14 percent of Americans with hearing loss use hearing aids. For many others, this vital, life-changing treatment that facilitates participation in meaningful conversations with friends and family is out of reach financially.

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s 2017 hearing loss survey, created to better understand our constituents’ opinions related to hearing loss, was cited by a WBUR-FM Here & Now radio segment highlighting the barriers to hearing loss treatment that Americans encounter.

The news story opens with commentary from retiree Betty Hauck, 72, who was shocked when her first pair of hearing aids cost her $5,600—with no assistance from Medicare.

“A price tag like that is often a surprise to people buying hearing aids for the first time. Four states—Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island—require health plans to cover hearing aids for children and adults,” explains reporter Peter O’Dowd.

“But those benefits are rare. A 2017 survey by the Hearing Health Foundation, a group that funds research and advocates for treatments and cures for hearing loss, found that 40 percent of the people they asked had no hearing aid coverage through health insurance.”

Kevin Franck, director of audiology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, among other experts, are hopeful that the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 will reduce barriers—cost, stigma, and hassle—encouraging greater adoption.

You can access the full WBUR segment, here.

Note: The audio segment is not captioned but is summarized in print.

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Cochlear to Support Hearing Research By Reaching One Million Ears

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Today marks the start of Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM), a campaign to advance public knowledge of communication disorders. To celebrate, international hearing implant manufacturer Cochlear is launching the #MillionEar Challenge with the goal of informing one million people about the importance of hearing health and research.

Proceeds from the campaign will benefit Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s longstanding Emerging Research Grants (ERG) program. Cochlear has pledged to donate to ERG when the #MillionEar Challenge is met.

“Awareness is at the heart of Hearing Health Foundation's efforts to prevent, treat, and cure hearing loss," said Nadine Dehgan, HHF’s Chief Executive Officer. "I am deeply grateful Cochlear is committed to raising awareness of hearing loss, which will inspire more to pursue hearing tests and life-changing treatments."

HHF staff thanks Cochlear in their own #MillionEar Challenge shirts.

HHF staff thanks Cochlear in their own #MillionEar Challenge shirts.

Cochlear’s generous gift will allow HHF to continue funding up-and-coming scientists who investigate various hearing and balance conditions. Such funding has historically led to the development of many new treatments including cochlear implants which, today, benefit more than 300,000 people worldwide.

You can support the #MillionEar campaign with the purchase of a t-shirt, available in child and adult sizes. Read the full press from Cochlear release here.

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Ménière's Disease Grantee Featured in Reader's Digest

Credit: Agnieszka Marcinska, Shutterstock

Credit: Agnieszka Marcinska, Shutterstock

Ian Swinburne, Ph.D., a 2018 Ménière's Disease Grant (MDG) recipient, shared his expertise regarding vertigo with Reader's Digest in an article called "What Causes Vertigo? 15 Things Neurologists Wish You Knew" published in March 2018. 

"The spinning, dizzying loss of balance which earmarks vertigo can come without warning," the article opens. Various professionals provide information about its duration, how it feels, and different types.

HHF-funded Dr. Swinburne notes specifically that the inner ear and balance disorder Ménière's disease can cause vertigo. He explains that "[b]outs of vertigo likely arise in patients with Ménière's disease, because the inner ear's tissue tears from too much fluid pressure—causing the ear's internal environment to become abnormal.'" He is currently pursuing a research project to understand the inner ear stabilizes fluid composition, which he believes will help to identify ways to restore or elevate this function to mitigate or cure Ménière's disease.

View the full article from Reader's Digest, here.

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HHF’s Fiscal Practices Endorsed by Consumer Reports for Second Consecutive Year

By Nadine Dehgan

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Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), the largest nonprofit funder of hearing and balance research, is thrilled to be recognized by Consumer Reports as one of the “Best Charities for Your Donations” for the second consecutive year.

Consumer Reports’ prominent charity roster, released annually to facilitate informed giving, includes 11 categories ranging from Animal Welfare to Youth Development. HHF is acknowledged as a top-rated nonprofit in the Blind and Hearing-Impaired category, and the only organization listed whose mission is to better the lives of those with hearing loss.

The “Best Charities for Your Donations” are determined using metrics from three major charity watchdogs: BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch. These watchdogs independently research charities’ financial histories and moral standards to evaluate how donors’ contributions are used. Each of them have previously highlighted HHF for its excellence in fundraising, governance, effectiveness, and financial standards.

HHF’s superior charity ratings and our placement on the Consumer Reports list illustrate how we pursue our mission in a financially responsible way. These accolades differentiate HHF from its peers and assure donors we are worthy of their trust.

HHF exists to better the lives of those with hearing loss by funding life-changing research and through our awareness and education programs. Our endorsements from Consumer Reports and charity watchdogs show our commitment to our mission. We have achieved many scientific milestones in our 60 years, but more work is needed. We are grateful to those who give their time and financial resources in pursuit of better treatments and cures for hearing and balance conditions.

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