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Banakis Hartl received her doctorate degree in audiology and her medical degree from Northwestern University, Illinois, and is a resident in the department of otolaryngology at the University of Colorado Denver. Her 2017 Emerging Research Grant is generously supported by HHF’s Board of Directors as well as supporters who designated their gifts to fund the most promising hearing research.

There is a growing clinical interest in the use of cochlear implants (CIs) to treat single-sided deafness, in which patients have typical hearing in one ear and a profound hearing loss in the other. Historically, it was thought that implants should only be used in patients with profound hearing loss in both ears due to the concern that the brain would have difficulty simultaneously interpreting electrical stimulation from a CI and from normal acoustic input. This project looks at how using a single CI alters hearing pathways in the auditory brainstem, with the long-term goal of determining who may be more likely to benefit from implantation.

As a teen, I volunteered for 10 years at a summer camp where I worked with children who were deaf on their speech and language therapy goals. I thought I would be a teacher of the deaf or a speech therapist, but I was drawn to audiology and eventually medicine. I am the first medical doctor and researcher in my family.

I never thought that I was smart enough to pursue a career in science. Even through college into graduate school, I believed that people who went into medicine or research were brilliant and I didn’t have the mental capacity. But I persistently pursued my interests and have found that hard work and determination can be more important.

While in training, my interest in the otologic management of hearing loss was solidified when I helped my 91-year-old grandmother get a cochlear implant. The intervention changed her life and I have no doubt that it dramatically improved the quality of the last years of her life.

In the past year, I have had the fortunate opportunity to travel to many national and international scientific and clinical meetings to present across a variety of research interests, even winning an award from the American Otologic Society. This has reinforced my interest in the otologic management of hearing loss.

I am an avid runner. I try my best to get some running in every day, and on the weekends you can usually find me with my family or running a half marathon. I also hope to get back into swing dancing, a passion I had in college.

Renee Banakis Hartl, M.D., Au.D.’s grant was supported by HHF’s Board of Directors as well as supporters who designated their gifts to fund the most promising hearing research.

Click to download a PDF of Dr. Banakis Hartl's Meet the Researcher profile.