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2020 MidWinter Meeting: Business Meeting Minutes

The minutes shown below were noted from the 2020 MidWinter Meeting Business Meeting that took place on Sunday, January 26, 2020. Please see the minutes below for your consideration. You may also find the minutes in a PDF format HERE.


Business Meeting Minutes Sunday, January 26, 2020

San Jose Convention Center

San Jose, California


President Dr. Keiko Hirose called the 43th Annual ARO Business Meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.

Dr. Hirose introduced the ARO Council President Elect Ruth Litovsky, Secretary-Treasurer Gabriel Corfas, Past President Karen Steel, Communication Chair Donna Fekete, Councilors Lisa Cunningham, Gwen Geleoc, and Mark Warchol.  Dr. Hirose also thanked all the ARO Committee Chairs and Committee members for their work on behalf of the Association.  Dr. Hirose introduced ARO Staff Executive Director Haley Brust, Meeting Manager Wendy Stevens, along with the rest of the staff.

Dr. Hirose awarded the following Presidential Citations to Donna Fekete, Communication Chair for being at the heart of ARO Communications, designing the website, and managing our historical archives.  Carolina Abdala and Chris Shera, MidWinter Meeting Scientific Program Co-Chairs for all their hard work on the program committee.

Dr. Hirose gave a brief memorial for the passing of Robert Dobie MD, Jay Goldberg, PhD, Shig Kuwada, PhD and Fred Linthicum, MD.   Dr. Hirose asked all for a moment of silence for the deceased ARO members.

Dr. Hirose encouraged meeting attendees to visit the exhibits as the exhibitors add to the programmatic and financial success of the meeting.  She thanked our 2020 exhibitors, Audioptics Medical, Inc. Charles River, CILcare, Cortech Solutions, ENT Clinical, Etymotic Research, Inc., Intelligent Hearing Systems, Interacoustics, IstoVisio, Inc., NIDCD, NeuroNexus, Shenzhen Ju'An Technologies Company, SutterLinstrument, Tucker Davis Technologies, Turner Scientific and ViewPoint Life Sciences.  President Hirose also thanked the NIDCD for continuing grant support of the MidWinter Meeting (now in its 36th year) as well as the other sponsors of the meeting: Action on Hearing Loss, Akouos, American Hearing Research, Charles River, Frequency Therapeutics, IOS Press, Karger Publishers, NeuroNexus.  Lastly, Dr Hirose thanks all the companies that supported our travel awards in 2020 - Cochlear Americas and Cochlear Limited, Corlas,  Grace Medical, Hearing Health Foundation, Hearing Research (Elsevier), Knowles Hearing Center, Med El , and Springer.

Dr Hirose also thanked the Mrs. Henderson for the continued support of the Henderson Fund. This fund helps provide additional travel awards for the meeting.

Prizes for those that participated in the Science Fair were distributed. First prize went to - Learn to be an Ear Surgeon Nicole Black, Stephen McInturff, Eva Cai, Jennifer Zhu, Marta Pawluczuk, Dhrumi Gandhi, Sam Barber from Harvard University, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and University of Arizona College of Medicine.  Second prize went to Seeing Sound: Real Time Spectrograms of Varying Sounds James, Foss, Alexandria Hudson, Coty Jasper from Washington State University.  Third prize went to Auditory and Visual Illusions Richard McWalter from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Prizes for those that participated in the Exhibitor Scavenger Hunt were distributed.

Dr. Hirose recognized Lynne Werner, PhD this year’s Award of Merit for her signification contributions made to the field. She mentioned that Dr. Werner is a professor at the University of Washington in the departments of Speech & Hearing Sciences.  Dr. Hirose invited everyone to attend the Award of Merit session and reception in honor of the 2020 Award of Merit Recipient, Lynne Werner, along with the Young Investigators award winner, Christopher Cederoth, PhD.  

Next, Dr. Hirose reminded everyone that the ERC will host “Musae on the Brain: Women in Voice and Science” starting at 7:30pm to 9:15 right after the business meeting and NIDCD update at the Montgomery Theater.

Dr. Hirose informed the group that the abstract deadline for the 2020 meeting is September 1, 2020.   She told all to look for more information coming soon.  She reminded everyone that the 2021 meeting will be hosted in Orlando, Florida at the Renaissance Hotel February 19 - 24, 2021.   This is a new location or ARO. 

Dr. Corfas presented the Secretary/Treasurer’s report. He first asked for approval of the February 2019, business meeting minutes.

Dr. Corfas then highlighted the Mid-Winter Meeting.  He stated that abstract submissions for 2020 were 1328, which was a slight decrease for 2019.  

Dr. Corfas shared the last 10 years of registration numbers.   As of 1/29/20 ARO has 1819 attendees registered, which is a slight decrease from 2019.  ARO will continue to accept registrations and hopes to see the numbers of registrations continue to increase.

Dr. Corfas reported that ARO has 1535 members for the year of 2020.  He reminded everyone that we are still early in the membership year and hopes to equal or beat 2019 number, which was 2013.    He reminded the group of the givebacks to membership that ARO provides - $10,000 towards childcare, each year; $10,000 towards the travel awards each year and $10,000 to the External Relations Committee for public outreach.

Next, Dr. Corfas continued with the financial report and reported on the finances year to date.  The current total revenue for the year is as of December $974,886.97 for 2019.  The current total expenses for the year were $872,129.55.  Net gain as of December is $102,757.42.  The investment account had a nice gain of $162,757.42 for an overall gain of $265,461.92.    Dr. Corfas reported that ARO has total assets of 1,505,289.98.

Dr. Paul Manis provided an update on JARO activities.

Dr. Hirose l thanked out going ARO Council members, Gabriel Corfas, Secretary Treasurer and Gwen Geleoc, Council Member for all their time and dedication to ARO.  Dr. Hirose then welcomed incoming President Elect – John Oghalai, Barb Shin-Cunningham, Secretary/Treasurer; Matt Kelley, Program Chair and John Brigand, Council Member, along with the 2020-2021 Committee Chairs.   Dr. Hirose then welcomed Ruth Litovsky, PhD, as the new President of ARO.  

Dr. Litovsky presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Dr. Hirose for dedicated service as the 45rd President of the ARO.

President Litovsky adjourned the meeting at 6:30 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

Haley J. Brust, Executive Director for

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, PhD

ARO Secretary/Treasurer



Hearing loss can significantly disrupt the ability of children to become mainstreamed in educational environments that emphasize spoken language as a primary means of communication. Similarly, adults who lose their hearing after communicating using spoken language have numerous challenges understanding speech and integrating into social situations. These challenges are particularly significant in noisy situations, where multiple sound sources often arrive at the ears from various directions. Intervention with hearing aids and/or cochlear implants (CIs) has proven to be highly successful for restoring some aspects of communication, including speech understanding and language acquisition. However, there is also typically a notable gap in outcomes relative to normal-hearing listeners. Importantly, auditory abilities operate in the context of how hearing integrates with other senses. Notably, the visual system is tightly couples to the auditory system. Vision is known to impact auditory perception and neural mechanisms in vision and audition are tightly coupled, thus, in order to understand how we hear and how CIs affect auditory perception we must consider the integrative effects across these senses.

We start with Rebecca Alexander, a compelling public speaker who has been living with Usher’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder found in tens of thousands of people, causing both deafness and blindness in humans. Ms. Alexander will be introduced by Dr. Jeffrey Holt, who studies gene therapy strategies for hearing restoration. The symposium then highlights the work of scientists working across these areas. Here we integrate psychophysics, clinical research, and biological approaches, aiming to gain a coherent understanding of how we might ultimately improve outcomes in patients. Drs. Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik are new to the ARO community, and will discuss neurobiology of the visual system as it relates to visual prostheses. Dr. Jennifer Groh’s work will then discuss multi-sensory processing and how it is that vision helps us hear. Having set the stage for thinking about the role of vision in a multisensory auditory world, we will hear from experts in the area of cochlear implants. Dr. René H Gifford will discuss recent work on electric-acoustic integration in children and adults, and Dr. Sharon Cushing will discuss her work as a clinician on 3-D auditory and vestibular effects. Dr. Matthew Winn will talk about cognitive load and listening effort using pupillometry, and we will end with Dr. Rob Shepherd’s discussion of current work and future possibilities involving biological treatments and neural prostheses. Together, these presentations are designed to provide a broad and interdisciplinary view of the impact of sensory restoration in hearing, vision and balance, and the potential for future approaches for improving the lives of patients.

Kirupa Suthakar, PhD - Dr Kirupa Suthakar is a postdoctoral fellow at NIH/NIDCD, having formerly trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School and doctoral student at Garvan Institute of Medical Research/UNSW Australia.  Kirupa's interest in the mind and particular fascination by how we are able to perceive the world around us led her to pursue a research career in auditory neuroscience.  To date, Kirupa's research has broadly focused on neurons within the auditory efferent circuit, which allow the brain to modulate incoming sound signals at the ear.  Kirupa is active member of the spARO community, serving as the Chair Elect for 2021.



I began studying the vestibular system during my dissertation research at the Università di Pavia with Professors Ivo Prigioni and GianCarlo Russo. I had two postdoctoral fellowships, first at the University of Rochester with Professor Christopher Holt and then at the University of Illinois at Chicago with Professors Jonathan Art and Jay Goldberg.

My research focuses on characterizing the biophysics of synaptic transmission between hair cells and primary afferents in the vestibular system. For many years an outstanding question in vestibular physiology was how the transduction current in the type I hair cell was sufficient, in the face of large conductances on at rest, to depolarize it to potentials necessary for conventional synaptic transmission with its unique afferent calyx.

In collaboration with Dr. Art, I overcame the technical challenges of simultaneously recording from type I hair cells and their enveloping calyx afferent to investigate this question. I was able to show that with depolarization of either hair cell or afferent, potassium ions accumulating in the cleft depolarize the synaptic partner. Conclusions from these studies are that due to the extended apposition between type I hair cell and its afferent, there are three modes of communication across the synapse. The slowest mode of transmission reflects the dynamic changes in potassium ion concentration in the cleft which follow the integral of the ongoing hair cell transduction current. The intermediate mode of transmission is indirectly a result of this potassium elevation which serves as the mechanism by which the hair cell potential is depolarized to levels necessary for calcium influx and the vesicle fusion typical of glutamatergic quanta. This increase in potassium concentration also depolarizes the afferent to potentials that allow the quantal EPSPs to trigger action potentials. The third and most rapid mode of transmission like the slow mode of transmission is bidirectional, and a current flowing out of either hair cell or afferent into the synaptic cleft will divide between a fraction flowing out into the bath, and a fraction flowing across the cleft into its synaptic partner.

The technical achievement of the dual electrode approach has enabled us to identify new facets of vestibular end organ synaptic physiology that in turn raise new questions and challenges for our field. I look forward with great excitement to the next chapter in my scientific story.


Charles C. Della Santina, PhD MD is a Professor of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery and Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he directs the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Implant Center and the Johns Hopkins Vestibular NeuroEngineering Laboratory.

As a practicing neurotologic surgeon, Dr. Della Santina specializes in treatment of middle ear, inner ear and auditory/vestibular nerve disorders. His clinical interests include restoration of hearing via cochlear implantation and management of patients who suffer from vestibular disorders, with a particular focus on helping individuals disabled by chronic postural instability and unsteady vision after bilateral loss of vestibular sensation. His laboratory’s research centers on basic and applied research supporting development of vestibular implants, which are medical devices intended to partially restore inner ear sensation of head movement. In addition to that work, his >90 publications include studies characterizing inner ear physiology and anatomy; describing novel clinical tests of vestibular function; and clarifying the effects of cochlear implantation, vestibular implantation, superior canal dehiscence syndrome and intratympanic gentamicin therapy on the inner ear and central nervous system.  Dr. Della Santina is also the founder and CEO/Chief Scientific Officer of Labyrinth Devices LLC, a company dedicated to bringing novel vestibular testing and implant technology into routine clinical care.

Andrew Griffith received his MD and PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 1992. He completed his general surgery internship and a residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Michigan in 1998. He also completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in the Department of Human Genetics as part of his training at the University of Michigan. In 1998, he joined the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) in the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). He served as a senior investigator, the chief of the Molecular Biology and Genetics Section, the chief of the Otolaryngology Branch, and the director of the DIR, as well as the deputy director for Intramural Clinical Research across the NIH Intramural Research Program. His research program identifies and characterizes molecular and cellular mechanisms of normal and disordered hearing and balance in humans and mouse models. Two primary interests of his program have been hearing loss associated with enlargement of the vestibular aqueduct, and the function of TMC genes and proteins. The latter work lead to the discovery that the deafness gene product TMC1 is a component of the hair cell sensory transduction channel. Since July of 2020, he has served as the Senior Associate Dean of Research and a Professor of Otolaryngology and Physiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Gwenaëlle S. G. Géléoc obtained a PhD in Sensory Neurobiology from the University of Sciences in Montpellier (France) in 1996. She performed part of her PhD training at the University of Sussex, UK where she characterized sensory transduction in vestibular hair cells and a performed a comparative study between vestibular and cochlear hair cells. Gwenaelle continued her training as an electrophysiologist at University College London studying outer hair cell motility and at Harvard Medical School studying modulation of mechanotransduction in vestibular hair cells. As an independent investigator at the University of Virginia, she expanded this work and characterized the developmental acquisition of sensory transduction in mouse vestibular hair cells, the developmental acquisition of voltage-sensitive conductances in vestibular hair cells and the tonotopic gradient in the acquisition of sensory transduction in the mouse cochlea. This work along with quantitative spatio-temporal studies performed on several hair cell mechanotransduction candidates lead her to TMC1 and 2 and long-term collaborations with Andrew Griffith and Jeff Holt. Dr. Géléoc is currently Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, at Boston Children’s Hospital where she continues to study molecular players involved in the development and function of hair cells of the inner ear and develops new therapies for the treatment of deafness and balance, with a particular focus on Usher syndrome.

Jeff Holt earned a doctorate from the Department of Physiology at the University of Rochester in 1995 for his studies of inward rectifier potassium channels in saccular hair cells.  He went on to a post-doctoral position in the Neurobiology Department at Harvard Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he characterized sensory transduction and adaptation in hair cells and developed a viral vector system to transfect cultured hair cells.  Dr. Holt’s first faculty position was in the Neuroscience Department at the University of Virginia.  In 2011 the lab moved to Boston Children’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Holt is currently a Professor in the Departments of Otolaryngology and Neurology in the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center.  Dr. Holt and his team have been studying sensory transduction in auditory and vestibular hair cells over the past 20 years, with particular focus on TMC1 and TMC2 over the past 12 years.  This work lead to the discovery that TMC1 forms the hair cell transduction channel.  His work also focuses on development gene therapy strategies for genetic hearing loss.