Divisions >> Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery >> Otolaryngology Surgery Update e-newsletter >> April 2014 Issue >> Research Spotlight
Innovation in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Research
The Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery Division resides within the UW Department of Surgery, which ranked No. 5 in 2013 in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to U.S. departments of surgery. Research funding within our division amounted to more than $5 million in 2013. Our researchers use those funds to better understand voice, swallow and hearing disorders while striving to develop and improve prevention and treatment methods.
Innovation was the theme of the recent Department of Surgery Research Summit, held on Jan. 21, 2014, on the UW-Madison campus. Playing off that theme, this issue and future issues will introduce you to the highly innovative research programs within our division.
Drs. Sam Gubbels and Ruth Litovsky lead research innovations in the area of hearing science. They are using novel research tools and findings with the goal of improving the future care and quality of life of people with hearing loss.
The Litovsky lab is focused on understanding how people who are deaf and who use cochlear implants understand speech in noise and localize sound if they are provided with cochlear implants in both ears. Because implants in the two ears are not coordinated, patients hear through two “independent” ears, which can make the sounds indistinct and can make it very difficult to separate speech from noise.
Dr. Litovsky said, “Our most exciting development is a tool that coordinates the two ears, creating a ‘bionic binaural system.’ We are testing this tool in collaboration with colleagues at UT-Dallas.”
In the Gubbels laboratory, the research emphasis is at the cellular level. His team is using stem cell-based approaches, whether transplanted or already present in the adult inner ear, to improve the understanding of hearing loss and to identify new methods for treating deafness.
In future issues, we will look at research aimed at treating voice and swallowing disorders and elucidating degenerative processes affecting voice and swallow.