Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute Receives $20M Anonymous Gift for Hearing Research

Last month MASCO member Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) received its largest donation ever, in the form of a $20 million anonymous gift to study hearing loss.

Hearing Impairments Affect 1/3 of Adults Over Age 65

The gift will accelerate the work at MEEI’s 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.

Researchers at MEEI 

“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.”

Continued Research Uses Stem Cells from Inner Ear

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.”