Ohlemiller lab partners with startup to help patients with hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss in humans, caused by degeneration of the sensory hair cells of the inner ear, is not a recoverable injury. Mammalian hair cells do not regenerate like many other cell types. A collaboration between Kevin Ohlemiller, PhD, and a private biotech company hopes to change that. In 2015, a new start-up, Frequency Therapeutics, […]

Otolaryngology researchers present latest science at ARO meeting

Faculty, research staff, and one resident presented their latest science at the 2020 Midwinter Meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO). This annual meeting is the largest assembly of hearing scientists in the world and features primarily basic and applied science related to hearing, deafness and balance. Overall, 1,328 abstracts were submitted. The […]

The surgeon-scientist who works to remove scalpels

photo of alums at recent AAO meeting

Crafting furniture in his garage, Clint T. Allen, MD, carves away at oak and walnut, one day creating cabinets or, on another, maybe a countertop for his new bar. An otolaryngologist who trained at Washington University School of Medicine, Allen is like many of his fellow surgeons: he enjoys using sharp tools. Yet when it […]

Medical students present, earn recognition at national conference

Med students pose with Triologic poster

Medical students working in research labs in the Department of Otolaryngology recently presented and earned recognition at the Triological Society’s Combined Sections Meeting, a national conference that features all otolaryngology specialties. Erik Nakken (Washington University School of Medicine) and Smrithi Chidambaram (St. Louis University School of Medicine) scored first place for their poster presentation, Sociodemographic […]

Noise-induced hearing loss blocked with drug compound

photo of fluorescent sensory hair cells and nerve fibers

The laboratory of Mark Rutherford, PhD, contributed to studies that show noise-induced hearing loss can be blocked while allowing hearing to continue. The work was published in the Feb. 3, 2020 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Popular YouTube science news channel SciShow has also reported on the story. Read more […]

Stem cell implants offer hope for vocal cord paralysis

Vocal cord paralysis occurs when nerve impulses to the larynx are disrupted, causing problems with speech and breathing. Vocal cord closure is crucial for the production of sound, or phonation, and to protect the airway from food and liquids that might enter. The nerve to the vocal cords can be injured in a variety of […]

Understanding individual cells to overcome treatment challenges in head and neck cancer

Sid Puram, MD, PhD, thinks that optimizing personalized cancer treatment requires better knowledge about tumor heterogeneity.  Understanding individual tumor cells will promote better and discrete treatment options for head and neck cancer patients. Head and neck tumors are composed of a variety of cells that have different functions, much like bees in a hive. Some […]

New animal model offers insights into CMV-induced hearing loss

Ten percent of newborns infected with cytomegalovirus suffer from hearing loss. Keiko Hirose, MD, in the Department of Otolaryngology at Washington University is trying to figure out why. CMV or cytomegalovirus is a common viral infection in humans. It typically goes unnoticed and is only likely to cause problems when it occurs in infants or […]

Clinical trial hopes to restore hearing for patients with vestibular schwannomas

Patients deafened from a vestibular schwannoma have very limited options to restore hearing in their affected ear. Researchers at Washington University hope to change that paradigm. In a new FDA-approved clinical trial, the lateral skull base team will evaluate  a new Auditory Nerve Testing System that may allow tumor removal with simultaneous cochlear implantation. Currently, […]

Mindfulness-based stress reduction a promising treatment for tinnitus

Headshot of Dr. Piccirillo with WashU shield

As many as 20% of people may experience tinnitus, the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. While it’s usually not a sign of something serious, the phantom noise created by tinnitus can interfere with the ability to concentrate, hear external sound, sleep, and sometimes even enjoy life. Common causes for tinnitus include age-related […]

Studying the impact of reward on speech processing

Neuroscientist Jonathan Peelle, PhD, was awarded a one-year $479,000 grant from the National Institute on Aging to look at the influence of reward and motivation in speech processing. The project, called, “Age-related changes in language processing,” will study whether offering listeners explicit rewards result in greater speech intelligibility among older adults. The study is a […]

Studies may lead to improved fine motor control and balance

headshots of Pablo Blazquez and Tatyana Yakusheva

Diseases associated with motor control and balance represent the most common neurological disorders affecting the world today. To help fight this trend, Pablo Blazquez, PhD, and Tatyana Yakusheva, PhD, study the role of the cerebellum in motor control, balance and spatial navigation. They use a diverse array of experimental techniques, including measures of individual neuron […]

Exploring the tiny world of auditory neuroscience

Mark Rutherford and student Heather Chung review TEM photos

Washington University undergraduate Heather Chung works with Mark Rutherford, PhD, to test synapse loss.  The Rutherford lab studies the smallest parts of the ear called synapses. Synapses are the sites of communication between two neurons or between a neuron and a sensory receptor cell. New biological imaging techniques have made these structures much easier to […]

Using zebrafish as a model for human hearing and deafness

Hair cells are the exquisitely sensitive and inexhaustible sensory receptors of the auditory and vestibular systems. They function by transducing mechanical stimuli, such as sound, into nerve impulses that transmit sensory information to the brain. Features of hair cells that make them incredibly effective detectors of sound also make them vulnerable to damage from noise […]

$10 million to study noise-induced hearing loss

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have received $10.5 million from the Department of the Army to investigate whether an anti-seizure drug can prevent noise-induced hearing loss when given several hours before exposure to extremely loud noise.   Read more

Revealing the intricacies of inner ear drug delivery

If you wake up one morning with sudden deafness, experience dizziness as a result of Meniere’s disease, or if you have cochlear implant surgery, your doctor may choose to treat your ear with a locally applied drug. One limitation of this new approach is that most of the drugs in use have been repurposed from […]

Lip reading and brain training studies to improve cognition

The Tye-Murray laboratory studies hearing loss and speech recognition. Half of the lab’s projects center upon understanding the fundamental processes that allow for successful lipreading because being able to read lips greatly enhances a patient’s ability to engage successfully in conversation. The second half centers upon developing rehabilitation strategies that develop listening abilities in both […]

Throat cancers: unraveling the links between HPV and smoking

Headshot of Jose Zevallos, MD with banner

Over the last two decades, there has been a rapidly rising proportion of cancers of the throat linked to human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. Cancers of the throat, or oropharyngeal cancer, caused by HPV have increased by an alarming 225% over the last 20 years.  Why smokers’ outcomes […]

Learning how brains process speech

Although our ears are important for hearing, it is our brain that makes sense of what we hear. How our brains process speech is a central theme in the research of Jonathan Peelle, PhD. In research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Peelle Lab uses behavioral testing and brain imaging to study […]