2016 Recipient Profiles


Anderson Samira(Dr. Anderson (center) is flanked by Arielle Abrams (left), an undergraduate student,
and Calli Fodor (right), a graduate Doctor of Audiology student.)

Samira B. Anderson, AuD, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Hearing & Speech Sciences
University of Maryland

Grant: $20,000

Effects of Aging, Hearing Loss, and Hearing Aid Compression
Settings on Midbrain Processing of Temporal Speech Contrasts”

Learning outcomes include:

  1. The learner will describe the effects of aging on perpetual measures of auditory temporal processing; and,
  2. The learner will describe changes in the frequency following response associated with aging and hearing loss.

Dr. Anderson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Hearing & Speech Sciences at the University of Maryland. After practicing as a clinical audiologist for 26 years, she decided to pursue a PhD degree in Auditory Neuroscience at Northwestern University to better understand the hearing difficulties experienced by her patients. She obtained her PhD in December 2012 and joined the faculty at the University of Maryland in January 2013. Dr. Anderson’s research focuses on the effects of development, aging, and hearing loss on central auditory processing and neuroplasticity, using electrophysiology as her primary assessment tool.



Aronoff Justin

Justin E. Aronoff, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Speech & Hearing Science
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
*Principal Investigator

David M. Landsberger, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Otolaryngology
New York University School of Medicine

Grant: $40,000

The Importance of Coordination for Binaural Cochlear Implant Processors”

Despite the increase in bilateral cochlear implantation, clinically there is still little-to-no coordination between the left and right device. This can greatly reduce or eliminate many of the potential benefits of having two ears. The goal of this project is to lay the groundwork for developing processors that can maximize the benefits that cochlear implant users receive. Results from these experiments will determine how precisely the two processors need to be synchronized temporally and the degree to which the implant in the left and right ear needs to stimulate similar cochlear locations to maximize the use of binaural cues important for localizing sounds and understanding speech in noisy environments. This will provide a strong guide to the engineering specifications required for the next generation of cochlear implant processors.

Dr. Arnoff is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech & Hearing Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaigh. His research focuses on cochlear implants, with particular interest in bilateral implantation. His work examines how information is combined across the ears and how to divide information between two ears for optimal cochlear implant performance. He developed special software that enables him to create custom processors for cochlear implants, and co-developed a new test to assess whether the processors increase spectral resolution, a key requirement for improving the ability to understand speech in noisy environments. He earned his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Southern California in 2007.

Dr. Landsberger has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine since 2013. He received his PhD in Experimental Psychology from Brown University in 2001 for his work in color psychophysics. His training with cochlear implants (and the Auditory system) began working as a postdoctoral researcher with Colette McKay first at the University of Melbourne in Australia and then at Aston University in Birmingham, England. In 2007, moved to Los Angeles to work with Bob Shannon at the House Ear Institute. While at the House Ear Institute, he rose through the ranks to become an independent principal investigator running his own laboratory. At NYU Langone Medical Center’s Laboratory for Translational Auditory Research, his primary interest is to understand how reshaping the electric fields in the cochlea can provide better spectral resolution (and therefore better speech performance in noise) in cochlear implant patients.

 UofI  NYU


carey john

John P. Carey, MD
Chief, Division of Otology, Neurotology & Skull Base Surgery
Professor, Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
John Hopkins School of Medicine

Grant: $20,000

Investigation of Salivary Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide (CGRP) in Vestibular Migraine”

This research will focus on finding pathophysiological evidence – a biomarker – to the syndrome “vestibular migraine” to link migraine and labyrinthine vertigo. Specifically, Dr. Carey hypothesizes that activation of the trigeminovascular system, with release of inflammatory neuropeptides like CGRP, may be an important cause of vertigo in vestibular migraine.

Dr. Carey is a Professor and Director of the Division of Otology, Neurotology, and Skull Base Surgery in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine. He specializes in the health and diseases of the inner ear that affect both balance and hearing mechanisms. As a clinician, Dr. Carey is a national expert in superior canal dehiscence syndrome, Menière’s disease, vestibular migraine, and other causes of vertigo. As a researcher, his interests include the normal vestibular reflexes and how they change with age, the ototoxic effects of gentamicin, the use of intratympanic steroids for Menière’s disease, the diagnostic utility of vestibular evoked myogenic potential testing, and the mechanisms of vestibular migraine. He has authored or co-authored over 120 peer-reviewed publications, 10 book chapters, and three invited reviews.

johns hopkins



Lina A.J. Reiss, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Oregon Health & Science University

Grant: $20,000

“Role of Lateral Wall Changes in Hearing Loss After Cochlear Implantation”

The goal of the current study is to understand mechanisms of hearing loss with hybrid or electro-acoustic stimulation (EAS) cochlear implants (CIs), a new type of CI designed to preserve low-frequency hearing and allow combined acoustic-electric stimulation in the same ear. EAS CI users perform significantly better than standard CI users on musical melody recognition, voice recognition, and speech recognition in the presence of background talkers. Unfortunately, 30-55% of EAS CI patients lose significant amounts of residual hearing after implantation. We hypothesize that damage to the lateral wall disrupts the maintenance of the endocochlear potential required for hearing. This project will determine the specific lateral wall changes associated with implantation-induced hearing loss, and how these changes lead to changes in the endocochlear potential. The findings will guide future research into new electrode designs, surgical techniques, and therapeutic drug treatments to protect against implantation-induced hearing loss and maximize the benefits of EAS CIs.

Dr. Reiss has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) since 2010. Previously, Reiss was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Iowa where she conducted research in the Hybrid cochlear implant clinical trials. Reiss earned her doctorate in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2005. Her current research focuses on improving cochlear implant outcomes using both animal models and studies of human auditory perception.

Oregon HealthScience Univ



Sarah E. Ross, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Neurobiology
University of Pittsburgh

Grant: $40,000

“Molecular Genetic Approaches to Understand the Ontogeny of the Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus”

Tinnitus — ringing in the ear due to the false perception of sound — is a prevalent condition that significantly reduces the quality of life. Recent studies suggest that tinnitus is caused, at least in part, by hyperactivity within the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) due to loss of inhibition. However, the cells in the DCN are poorly characterized. Here, we propose to use molecular genetic approaches to investigate the role of Bhlhb5 in the development of neurons of the DCN. Specifically, the research proposes to characterize Bhlhb5-expressing cells, label them genetically, and test their role in tinnitus. These studies will give insight into the ontogeny of the DCN and may lead to identification of therapeutic targets for the treatment of tinnitus.

Dr. Ross is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh. earned her PhD from the University of Michigan and completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School. She has a strong background in molecular genetic approaches to understand sensory integration and has recently become very interested in the integration of sound. The Ross Lab at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center uses electrophysiological, optogenetic and behavioral approaches to understand the neural circuits that underlie sensory integration and has made substantial progress investigating the role of Bhlhb5 in the development of the dorsal cochlear nucleus.

Univ Pittsburgh


skoe erica

(Dr. Skoe (right) is joined by her fellow investigators Christine Hare (left) and Jennifer Tufts (center))

Erika Skoe, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences
Psychology Department Affiliate
Cognitive Science Program Affiliate
University of Connecticut
*Principal Investigator

Grant: $20,000

“Neurophysiological Indices of Hidden Hearing Loss in Musician”

Drs. Skoe, Tufts, and Hare will examine the early warning signs of noise-induced hearing loss in college musicians, with the goal of identifying biological markers of hearing loss before the loss becomes clinically significant. A secondary goal is to understand whether subclinical hearing loss manifests differently in musicians compared to non-musicians, by comparing the severity of symptoms as a function of noise exposure in both groups. Multiday measurements of personal noise exposure will be taken using a noise dosimeter, a small sound level meter that will be worn by each participant. This noise exposure data will be part of a comprehensive assessment of the peripheral and central auditory system that includes auditory threshold estimation, optoacoustic emissions, perceptual abilities in noise, and auditory brainstem responses. This project unites research and clinical faculty in the department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences at the University of Connecticut (UConn) as part of a larger effort by the department and the UConn Speech and Hearing Clinic to provide hearing screenings as well as hearing conservation education and services to music students at UConn. The outcomes of this study will offer insights into improving hearing conservation policies in music students and professionals at both local and national levels.

Dr. Skoe is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences at the University of Connecticut. She is a faculty affiliate of the Department of Psychological Sciences, the Cognitive Science Program, and the newly formed Connecticut Institute for Brain and Cognitive Science. She received a BA in German and linguistics from the University of Wisconsin, an MA in linguistics from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Northwestern University. Dr. Skoe’s research examines how the brain encodes sound and how this encoding process evolves throughout the lifespan in response to sensory deprivation and enrichment. She has been studying the benefits of music instruction on central auditory function for nearly a decade and her research in this area has been published in Nature Neuroscience, the Journal of Neuroscience, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, among others.

Dr. Jennifer Tufts is an Associate Professor in the Department of Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences at the University of Connecticut. She holds a BA in music and mathematics from Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA, and an MS and PhD in audiology from Penn State University. Before joining the UConn faculty, she did postdoctoral research and clinical training at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC and served on the noise control board for the City of Takoma Park, MD. She holds the Clinical Certificate of Competence in audiology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), is a CAOHC-certified Professional Supervisor, and is currently licensed to practice audiology in Connecticut. Dr. Tufts is a past president of the National Hearing Conservation (NHCA) and is a past recipient of NHCA’s Outstanding Lecture Award (2014) and Outstanding Poster Award (2010).

Dr. Christine Hare has been working at the University of Connecticut Speech & Hearing Clinic as a clinical audiologist for 18 years and a clinical supervisor for five years. Hare has a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She has a particular interest in noise-induced hearing loss and hearing conservation in college-aged music students and has been instrumental in establishing a partnership with UConn’s Department of Music.

Univ Connecticut



Virginia A. Smith-Bronstein, MD
3rd Year Resident
Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Grant: $1,000

“Protective Benefits of Fluvastatin on Noise Induced Hearing Loss in Guinea Pigs and Mice”

Dr. Smith-Bronstein Virginia grew up in Seattle, WA taking advantage of the mountains to go hiking, skiing and camping as a young kid with her brother and sister. She was inspired at a young age to consider going into the field of medicine given her father’s love of being an emergency medicine physician. Given her independent spirit, she decided to make the jump to the East Coast for college and attended Swarthmore College. With a major in Biology and a minor in French Language, she was able to spend four months of her junior year attending the Universite de Grenoble while living with a French family. Following graduation from college, she moved to Boston to work as a research assistant in a lab in Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. After several years of studying murine pulmonary development and tracheal epithelial regeneration she began medical school at University of Southern California’s (USC) Keck School of Medicine. She excelled in her studies at medical school and matched into one of her top programs for Otolaryngology at Northwestern University-McGaw Medical Center. During her third year of residency she joined an ongoing research project in a Northwestern University otolaryngology lab working with Donna Whilon, PD and Claus-Peter Richter, MD/PhD. It was there that she started working on noise induced hearing loss in guinea pigs and mice and specific medications to protect against the damage. She will continue to develop and refine her project with Drs. Whitlon and Richter with the grant supported by the American Hearing Research Foundation.



zheng jing

Jing Zheng, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Grant: $40,000

“The Impact of Outer Hair Cells on Efferent Synaptogenesis”

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is a type of deafness that occurs when inner ear (cochlea) or nerve connection to the brain from the cochlea is damaged. It is a debilitating, life-altering disorder: more than 30 million Americans suffer from some degree of SNHL, and once affected it is not easily corrected by medications or surgical methods. One of the main causes for SNHL is the loss of specialized sensory cells, called outer hair cells (OHCs), within cochlea. The function of OHCs is to enhance the sound signals, which allow us to have very sensitive hearing. This essential function of OHCs is executed by an unique protein called prestin, which is only found in OHCs.

In order to perceive sound, cochlear hair cells must be properly connected to the brain by nerve cells. Despite great efforts from the hearing research community, we still do not fully understand how these connections are established during development and maturation. We have found that the nerve endings that make a connection to OHCs, called synapses, appear abnormal when prestin protein is lacking. This observation led us to suspect that OHCs might play an important role in establishing their own connections. To test this hypothesis, we will investigate prestin’s role in the establishment of synapses using transgenic mouse models that carry modified prestin proteins. We will examine how connections between nerves and OHCs are affected when properties of OHCs are changed by the presence of different prestin proteins. We will also investigate whether there are any changes in OHCs with modified prestin when genetic information is processed into functional products. Results from our study will provide deeper understanding of prestin/OHCs’ role in establishing proper auditory nerve connections, which will be essential in understanding SNHL further and help tackle this problem in the future.

Dr. Zheng is an Associate Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery and a Fellow of the Hugh Knowles Hearing Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She has many years of experience in conducting research in molecular biology and proteomics especially research pertained to prestin. Her lab discovered prestin (Zheng et al., Nature, 2000) and have been studying it since then as evident by peer-reviewed papers published under projects I administered. The proposed works are based on preliminary data collected in the lab. In the proposal, the lab will focus on investigating prestin’s active roles in nerve innervation. Furthermore, she and her colleagues are part of a larger research institution that is devoted to biomedical research. The core facilities in Northwestern University provide essential services including new generation RNA sequencing, proteomics service, biological imaging, structural biology, and transgenic and targeted mutagenesis services. In summary, the research environment is highly conducive to the successful completion of this investigation because of complementary experience and expertise of the team. Dr. Zheng earned her PhD in Physiology from Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI in 1992.