Our hearing loss research

Electron microscope
Garvan’s hearing loss research is diverse. We focus on the anatomy and physiology of normal hearing, brain pathology caused by hearing loss, and the restorative neural effects of hearing aids.

Our genome sequencing technology gives us an unparalleled ability to research genetic risks for congenital deafness, hearing loss and tinnitus, vastly increasing our understanding of hearing loss and potential personalised therapies.

Key areas of investigation

Prof David Ryugo
Prof David Ryugo

Hearing loss and the brain

Difficulties in communicating when there’s competing noise is a major complaint of those with hearing loss.

Professor David Ryugo’s research focuses on the complex mechanisms that cause changes to the brain and lead to hearing impairment in noisy environments. Importantly, his research has also shown that sound stimulation can slow hearing loss and even help regain lost hearing in some cases.

“Early intervention demonstrates that the restoration of neural activity has an impressive benefit on brain function and language.”

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Cochlear implants & asymmetrical hearing loss

Cochlear implantation outcomes are difficult to predict with asymmetrical hearing, (one-sided hearing loss, or bilateral hearing loss with the use of a hearing aid on one ear). There are undoubted benefits for cochlear implantation in very young congenitally deaf children, and especially good results in adults with acquired asymmetric hearing loss.

In contrast, results are surprisingly poor in individuals with congenital asymmetrical hearing loss, even when the opposite ear has good hearing.

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Tinnitus is a hearing disorder characterised by the perception of a sound without acoustic causation. It affects up to 23% of the general population can be mild to debilitating. People with chronic tinnitus have few treatment options and these are generally palliative and are designed to draw attention away from, or mask the disturbing sound.

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National and International Collaborations

  • Bionic Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Hanover University, Hanover, Germany
  • Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, USA
  • Melbourne University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Albacete, Spain
  • Universidad de Chile in Santiago, Chile 
  • University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, USA
  • University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  • University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  • UNSW Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Washington State University, Vancouver, Washington, USA