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Gift exceeding $20M to Mass. Eye and Ear among world’s largest for hearing research

June 07, 2017
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Suzanne Day
Media Relations Manager, Mass. Eye and Ear
617-573-3897

The largest gift in the hospital’s history will advance efforts to find cures for hearing loss

Boston, Mass. — Massachusetts Eye and Ear has received an anonymous gift totaling more than $20M to accelerate research at its Eaton-Peabody Laboratories, the world’s largest and most preeminent hearing research center.  This gift represents one of the country’s largest philanthropic investments ever to advance research on hearing and hearing loss,  a significant public health problem impacting one-third of the world’s population over age 65.  The Eaton-Peabody Laboratories are based within the Mass. Eye and Ear Department of Otolaryngology, ranked #1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

“Hearing loss robs millions of people of the ability to easily communicate with loved ones, colleagues and friends, and often results in devastating social isolation,” said D. Bradley Welling, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, the Walter Augustus LeCompte Professor and Chair of Otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. “This historic donation to our research program comes at an exciting time, when advances are happening every day, and we are closer than ever before to developing new treatments to restore hearing.”

The gift will allow Mass. Eye and Ear to provide long-term sustained research support in the areas of hearing and balance, seed new Chairs for faculty and enable recruitment of additional world-leading hearing researchers. Scientists at the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories are focused on understanding hearing from the outer ear to the brain, with the goal of  pursuing new treatment strategies for hearing loss and other hearing impairments such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hyperacusis (painful hearing sensitivity), as well as balance disorders.

Mass. Eye and Ear researchers have made substantial progress in understanding hearing and hearing loss and in developing treatments to restore hearing. Scientists at Mass. Eye and Ear were the first to discover stem cells in the inner ear that could be converted to hair cells (sensory cells needed for hearing). They were also the first to restore hearing in mammals by regenerating hair cells and neural connections in the inner ear.

This gift is a significant boost to the hospital’s Bold Science, Life-Changing Cures campaign, an effort to raise $200M to accelerate Mass. Eye and Ear research programs by the year 2020.  The campaign’s total now tops $151M.

“Generosity at this level is a game-changer. It means breakthroughs will happen faster, and that translates to better hearing for millions of people sooner than later,” said Wyc Grousbeck, Mass. Eye and Ear Board Chair. “That’s what Mass. Eye and Ear is all about.”

Photo: Albert Edge, Ph.D. (center), hearing researcher at Mass. Eye and Ear, meets with research fellows working in his lab aimed at restoring hearing through regenerating sensory cells in the ear. Credit: John Earle.

About Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck. Now united with Schepens Eye Research Institute, Mass. Eye and Ear is the world's largest vision and hearing research center, developing new treatments and cures through discovery and innovation. Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships. Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex. In the 2016–2017 “Best Hospitals Survey,” U.S. News & World Report ranked Mass. Eye and Ear #1 in the nation for ear, nose and throat care and #1 in New England for eye care. For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit MassEyeAndEar.org.