A New Horizon for Hearing Care

lab space

S+S, Fall 2023

The Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh is creating a premier Pittsburgh Hearing Institute, to be housed on the sixth floor of the new UPMC Mercy Pavilion.

The Institute will advance the boundaries of science and treatments to include new discoveries, breakthrough therapies, clinical trials, and new devices. This new endeavor will accelerate discoveries through synergy and co-location of ophthalmology, rehabilitation sciences, and hearing sciences.

Along with Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD, Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences John and Gertrude Petersen Dean School of Medicine, José P. Zevallos, MD, Eugene N. Myer, MD Chair of Otolaryngology, outlined the Institute’s vision: Establish the world’s leading institute for treating and finding cures for hearing loss. The co-location of neurotology, audiology, vestibular, and translational and basic science research programs will facilitate a true bench-to-bedside approach toward our goal of curing hearing loss, tinnitus, and related diseases. The vision includes world-class clinical and research training programs focused on otology, audiology, and the basic science of hearing and a hub for collaborations across the globe to cure hearing loss.

The Institute will provide a new standard for clinical care and research in hearing disorders. Patients will have easy access to participate in research and clinical trials, and there will be greater opportunities for precision/personalized medicine. Partnerships with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University bioengineering programs on new prototypes and proof of concept studies will expand reach. As a central hub for otology and audiology, the Institute will support peripheral outreach in communities in Pennsylvania and beyond (including globally), which means utilizing telemedicine, remote care, and monitoring.

In terms of research, the new standard will result in deeper clinical engagement in research and clinical touch points for basic researchers, educational and training opportunities for local and international scientists and clinicians aimed at bridging the bench-to-bedside gap, biobanking of patient samples for research, and fostering direct multidisciplinary collaboration for solving problems in hearing disorders.

The Pittsburgh Hearing Institute will build on a legacy of clinical and research excellence at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh. In the coming months, the Department of Otolaryngology will announce a new Division Chief of Otology and Neurotology who has been recruited to help lead this effort and brings significant translational research and an entrepreneurship experience.  He will work with Thanos Tzounopoulos, PhD, director of The Pittsburgh Hearing Research Center (PHRC) in the Department of Otolaryngology, to make this new center a reality.  The PHRC is already one of the nation’s leading hearing research programs and receives approximately $4 million per year in federal grant support. Additionally, a joint PhD certificate program in Hearing and Visual Sciences is launching in 2024 that is designed to attract the best and brightest graduate students to Pittsburgh.

Creating the Pittsburgh Hearing Institute will require funds for the recruitment of additional top scientists, construction, equipment, staff, and other investments.

“Together, we can create the premier hearing institute in Pittsburgh that is unparalleled in the world, advancing our research, academic, and clinical missions by targeting a $50 million commitment through the fundraising efforts of the Eye & Ear Foundation and the in-kind and matching support of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine,” Dr. Zevallos said.