Hearing Health Foundation

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Hearing Health Foundation
Founded 1958[1]
Founder Collette Ramsey-Baker
Type Public Charity- 501(c)(3)[2]
Focus Healthcare
Area served
United States
Method Private Donations
Key people
Shari Eberts(Chairman)
Doug Olson (Director of Development)
James DePaiva (Honorary Board Member)
Kassie DePaiva (Honorary Board Member)
Website Hearing Health Foundation
Formerly called
Deafness Research Foundation (1958-2011)[3]

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is an organization created to promote awareness in the prevention and cure of hearing loss through groundbreaking research, founded in 1958 by Collette Ramsey-Baker (1918–2010) as the Deafness Research Foundation. It is America’s leading source of private funding for research into the science of hearing and balance. The primary aims of the foundation are to promote the awareness in the prevention of noise induced hearing loss, provide seed money to fund research of hearing and balance science and to cure hearing loss through the Hearing Restoration Project. The foundation is based in New York City. Since 1958, HHF has awarded approximately 2,000 grants totaling over $27.8 million through the Emerging Research Grants program.[2] In 2011, the Deafness Research Foundation changed its name to Hearing Health Foundation and announced the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP).[4]

Since its inception, the work of HHF’s grantees has led to many of today’s standard treatments for hearing loss, such as cochlear implants, treatments for ear infections and surgical therapy for otosclerosis. HHF’s grantees have become leaders in hearing research, with many receiving important federal grants. Former grantees make up 20 percent of recipients of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology Award of Merit (1).

In 2011, HHF launched its most important research initiative yet. The Hearing Restoration Project promises to deliver a genuine, biologic cure for millions living with hearing loss. HRP is based on research funded by Hearing Health Foundation that birds and other non-mammals can regenerate the hair cells in the inner ear necessary for hearing. Humans can't regenerate these hair cells yet. But recent discoveries in stem cell research and gene mapping may make it possible to trigger regrowth of these cells in humans and develop a cure for hearing loss.


The Deafness Research Foundation was founded by Collette Ramsey-Baker in February 1, 1958 to help further research and improve treatments for Americans with hearing loss.[5] Born in Waverly, Tennessee, Collette lived with substantial hearing loss for many years before she had her hearing completely restored at age 35, with an early fenestration operation. In gratitude,she founded the Deafness Research Foundation (DRF). A recurrent model for the renowned painter, Howard Chandler Christy and an avid golfer, she received letters of commendation from many leaders and well-known people including US Presidents Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower, Helen Keller and Cardinal Francis Spellman.[6]

In 1960, the DRF and the American Academy of Otolaryngology created the National Temporal Bone Banks Program, to collect and study the human temporal bone, and to encourage temporal bone donation. In 1992 the NIDCD National Temporal Bone, Hearing and Balance Pathology Resource Registry (The Registry) is founded as a nonprofit organization. The Registry was established by the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) of the National Institutes of Health in order to continue and expand on the activities of the former National Temporal Bone Banks Program.[7]

In 1963, leading ear, nose and throat specialists came together in order to advance the research in their respective fields. This group became a professional organization called The Centurions and were supporters of the work and mission of the DRF.[8]

By 1972, the DRF was funding research on cochlear implants, with later grants in single channel to multi-channel implants, speech perception among cochlear implant users, and implants in children. Substantial research and significant contribution in the prevention and treatment of middle ear infection was made by researchers who were awarded grants. In 1977 the DRF funded research in outer ear hair cell motility that led to a new method for measuring the health of a newborn's ear, and began funding research to understand how sensory cells transmit sounds from the world to the brain.

The DRF funded research led, in 1987, to the discovery of spontaneous regeneration of hair cells in chickens, thus igniting the field of hair cell regeneration in humans. Research on the regrowth of cochlea cells may lead to medical treatments that restore hearing. Unlike birds and reptiles, humans and other mammals are normally unable to regrow the cells of the inner ear that convert sound into neural signals when those cells are damaged by age or disease.[9]

In 1989 the DRF funded Meniere's Disease Study Center for improved evaluation and better treatments of Meniere's Disease.

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary, the DRF rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in 2008.[10]

The organization decided to change its name from The Deafness Research Foundation to Hearing Health Foundation to better communicate the foundation’s mission of helping to prevent, research and cure hearing loss. In September 14, 2011 the Chair of the Board, Clifford P. Tallman, Jr., announced the name change of the DRF to Hearing Health Foundation and presented a new research consortium, the Hearing Restoration Project. "The name Deafness Research Foundation served us well," explained Tallman. "Our research, however, showed that 'deafness' is an outdated term and now has a different connotation from how we were initially using it. Over the last half-century, we have done important work. Our new name reflects our determination to change the social stigma tied to hearing loss and to fund new and promising research that may bring a cure for hearing loss to the public." [4]


The focus of HHF is hearing and balance research, through the Emerging Research Grants program and the Hearing Restoration Project(HRP). Bought in 2002, Hearing Health magazine is a publication of Hearing Health Foundation.

Hearing Restoration Project: HHF provides financial assistance and administrative management for The Hearing Restoration Project (HRP). The HRP initiative brings together notable researchers, from institutions across the US including Harvard University, Stanford University, and University of Washington, with the goal of researching and developing a genuine cure for most forms of acquired hearing loss by regenerating the inner ear hair cells that enable hearing. HRP aims to raise $50 million ($5 million per year over 10 years) in funding for scientific research towards inner ear hair cell regeneration and accelerate the timeframe for developing a cure for hearing loss.

The Science of Hair Cell Regeneration: Tiny hair cells located in the inner ear in birds and mammals are required for normal hearing. These cells resemble hairs on one's head and convert sound information into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. Once these cells are damaged or die in mammals, including humans, hearing loss is permanent. Many types of commonly acquired hearing loss are the result of damage or death to these delicate hair cells, including noise-induced hearing loss, presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), and ototoxic hearing loss (hearing loss that occurs after a patient is exposed to certain life-saving but toxic medications). In the late 1980s, both Dr. Edwin Rubel (then at the University of Virginia and now at the University of Washington) and Dr. Douglas Cotanche (then at the University of Pennsylvania and now at the Harvard School of Public Policy) discovered that even after chickens hair cells had been deliberately destroyed in their labs, the cells grew back. Dr. Cotanche's work was funded by HHF. With advances in modern technology, the main goal of the HRP is to take what happens in birds and chickens and translate that to humans in an accelerated timeframe. By bringing researchers together in a consortium model, collaboration and sharing of resources will reduce the timeframe for a cure for hearing loss from 50 years to 10 years.

HRP consortium members developed a Strategic Research Plan that guides all of the work of the consortium. There are two parts including Discovery Research and Translational Research, both 5 years in length with a combined 10 year timeframe for developing a cure for hearing loss in humans.

In 2012, the first four HRP consortium research projects commenced. These projects all focus on collaborative research with multiple investigators from multiple institutions working together. The research is focused upon studying the comparative genomics of non-mammals, such as birds, that can regenerate their hair cells. By studying the genomics of these animals, the researchers can identify what genetic mechanisms allow for this regeneration and how that can be translated to humans.[11]

Emerging Research Grants Program: HHF has awarded over $27.8 million through more than 2,000 scientific research grants to researchers who are dedicated to exploring new avenues of hearing and balance science. This seed money has led to dramatic innovations that increase options for those living with hearing loss, as well as protecting those at risk. Hearing Health Foundation supports research in the following areas:

Hearing Health Magazine[edit]

Hearing Health Magazine is the ultimate consumer resource on hearing loss and related products. It earned this position over the past 28 years through steadfast dedication from staff, quality contributions, and collaborative support from advertisers. Hearing Health magazine is published quarterly and has a readership of 215,000. The magazine educates individuals about the effects of hearing loss on health and quality of life, and aims to provide real-world solutions based on the latest research and technology. The award winning magazine is the largest on hearing loss.[12]

The Promise of Cell Regeneration Summit[edit]

In 2011, Hearing Health Foundation hosted the first public-focused health conference bringing together some of the nation’s top leaders in the field of cell regeneration research in the ear to discuss current research and potential therapies to restore hearing as part of the HRP.[13]

Safe and Sound Prevention Program[edit]

Hearing Health Foundation has partnered with the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to provide noise-induced hearing loss prevention information and resources to the public. In 2011 Hearing Health Foundation demonstrated how sound travels and educated approximately 18,000 children at Nickelodeon’s “Day of Play” at the Mall in Washington, DC.[14]


  1. ^ "Hearing Health Foundation Timeline". Hearing Health Foundation. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Hearing Health Foundation". Foundation Center. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  3. ^ "Deafness Research Foundation Announces New Name and Reaffirms its Unwavering Dedication to...". New York: Prnewswire.com. 2011-09-14. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  4. ^ a b "Deafness Research Foundation Announces New Name". PRNewswire. 14 September 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Hearing Health Foundation Timeline". Hearinghealthfoundation.org. 1958-02-01. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  6. ^ "Collette Ramsey Baker". TC Palm. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "What is the Registry?". National Temporal Bone Registry. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "DRF Centurions - At the Forefront of Our Cause". Hearing Health Foundation (U.S.). 1 January 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Edge AS, Chen ZY (2008). "Hair cell regeneration". Current Opinion in Neurobiology 18 (4): 377–82. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2008.10.001. PMID 18929656. 
  10. ^ "Hearing Health Foundation Timeline". Hearinghealthfoundation.org. 1958-02-01. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  11. ^ "Curing Hearing Loss". Hearinghealthfoundation.org. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  12. ^ "Hearing Health Magazine". Hearinghealthfoundation.org. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  13. ^ "The Promise of Cell Regeneration: 2011 Summit". Hearinghealthfoundation.org. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  14. ^ "Safe and Sound Prevention Program". Hearinghealthfoundation.org. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 

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