Meet a Specialist: Dunia Abdul-Aziz, MD

DuniaDr. Dunia Abdul-Aziz grew up in the Boston area and earned degrees in biochemistry and medicine at Harvard University, where her passion for both medicine and science led her to complete the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. She went on to residency and fellowship training at Mass. Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School, while conducting research on the regeneration of hair cells of the inner ear under the mentorship of Dr. Albert Edge in the Tillotson Cell Biology Unit. “I went into medicine to help people, to make them well again,” she says. “As doctors, we are humbled by how many medical conditions do not have a cure or proper treatment; that’s where research comes in, to help us understand and discover better solutions.”

In her office, you will find stacks of clinic charts alongside science articles, and sheets of paper with sketches of planned experiments. Dr. Abdul-Aziz finds fulfillment in wearing two hats as a clinician-scientist. “There are few institutions like Mass. Eye and Ear where one can help patients recover their hearing and treat ear disease, while also studying the science behind it,” she says. “I am honored to have trained here and to work here.”

Dr. Abdul-Aziz cites her family and mentors as instrumental in her career. As a child, her father, an engineer, was often reading the encyclopedia. He was curious about the world and wanted to understand how it worked. “I joined the lab at age 18, studying biochemistry, and have not left it since,” she says.

Offering Medical and Surgical Hearing Loss Treatment

Dr. Abdul-Aziz provides both medical and surgical treatments for her patients at Mass. Eye and Ear including the main campus (243 Charles Street, Boston) and Wellesley (65 Walnut Street, Wellesley) locations. “Some patients find it difficult to travel into Boston, so I am glad to be able to provide treatment closer to their homes.”

She specializes in diseases affecting the ear and lateral skull base, including hearing loss, chronic ear disease, perforated eardrums, cholesteatomas, and tumors and cancers involving the ear and skull base. These include repairing defects in the skull base that result in leakage of spinal fluid into the ear, and removal of both cancerous and benign growths, such as vestibular schwannomas.

Another focus of Dr. Abdul-Aziz is in caring for patients with disorders of the Eustachian tube, which links the middle ear to the back of the nose and is responsible for circulating air to the middle ear. Patients with tubes that are too closed suffer from Eustachian tube dysfunction, which can result in middle ear problems. On the other hand are patients with patulous Eustachian tubes, where the Eustachian tube is too open, causing an echoing sound of the person's own breathing and speech. “Patients with the most complex ear disorders come to Mass. Eye and Ear, and push us to think, collaborate and work together to provide the best care.”

Researching Hearing Regeneration

Dr. Abdul-Aziz’s research focuses on sensorineural hearing loss—the most common cause of hearing impairment—where there is a loss of sensory hair cells or nerve cells in the ear. She explains that hearing aids benefit many patients suffering from this condition, and when those become ineffective, cochlear implants can help. “These are powerful technologies that we can offer patients, but we also know, from animal studies, that it is possible for hair cells and hearing to recover naturally,” says Dr. Abdul-Aziz. “That motivates us to work to understand the process in other organisms so that one day we can induce safe hair cell regeneration to restore hearing in people.”

Contact Dr. Abdul-Aziz’s office at 617-807-7976.

View Dr. Abdul-Aziz’s online bio.

Request an appointment.