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2023 Symposia, Young Investigator Symposia & Workshop Preview

February 11-15, 2023 | Orlando, FL


2023 Presidential Symposia: Auditory Processing, Pathology and Remediation

This symposium is meant to convey the basic wonder of the ear and of how the ear and brain together provide our sense of hearing. Understanding the operation of the healthy ear and auditory brain is key to understanding how sound sensing can fail.

The session begins with a talk on the historical development of ideas about cochlear sensitivity by physicist Christopher Shera. Karl Grosh, an expert in the dynamic processing of the cochlea, will then review cochlear mechanics. Laurel Carney will discuss how cochlear dynamics shape neural responses to sound, including speech. Raymond Goldsworthy will discuss how the history of cochlear implants has led to the modern device. Richard Einhorn, a composer with hearing loss, will discuss his experience with hearing loss, and share his knowledge of modern hearing aids and personal sound amplification systems. Finally, Debara Tucci will describe the global impact of hearing loss and efforts to improve accessibility.

Hearing is fundamental to communication. The impact of hearing loss, and therefore the impact of hearing remediation, is profound. This symposium is a whirlwind tour of that story -- from the history, through the basics, to what can and should and be done to address hearing health.


Auditory Expectations, Learning and Plasticity

The auditory system constantly generates predictions about the sensory world based on prior experience, which creates expectations about upcoming future events. Auditory expectations powerfully shape sensation, perception and cognition, and a theoretical ‘predictive coding’ framework has advanced in large part from studies in the auditory domain. The expectancy process is thought to be mediated by neural interactions between feedforward and feedback processes all along the auditory pathway, using corticofugal projections from auditory cortex to the periphery, and back. Click here to see the full abstract.


Brain Plasticity in Deafness

The symposium is aimed on the mechanisms of brain plasticity after hearing loss and their primordial role in the success of rehabilitation by neuroprosthesis. The symposium will address the mechanisms of intra- and crossmodal brain plasticity in a multidimensional approach, from animal models to the patient with a life-time perspective. The investigation will offer a multi-scale standpoint from single cell recording to functional connectivity with a specific aim to link adaptive behavior to brain reorganization. Click here to see the full abstract. 


Honoring Charles Steele

In this special symposium, we plan to honor the lifetime contributions by Prof. Charles Steele to the field of Cochlear and Middle Ear mechanics. Charles R. “Chuck” Steele, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University, contributed significantly to cochlear and middle ear mechanics, died Dec. 9, 2021 in Redwood City, CA. He was 88. Steele’s first paper on the cochlea was published in 1974 and many of his subsequent works on the topic are still cited today. In total, it is estimated Steele published some 100 journal articles, five review articles and numerous abstracts in conference proceedings, while delivering guest lectures around the world. As an editor, he was perhaps even more influential, becoming Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Solids and Structures. Click here to see the full abstract.


Hyperacusis: Diversity in Cause, Expression, and Advocacy

Hyperacusis is a complex hearing disorder that encompasses a wide-range of reactions to sound, including excessive loudness, increased aversion/fear of sound, or even pain. While often associated with hearing loss and tinnitus, sound tolerance disturbances are observed across a broad spectrum of neurological disorders, including autism, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Click here to see the full abstract.


Multiomics Approaches to Further the Understanding of Hearing Loss and Tinnitus: Integrating different omics data types to identify biomarkers, unravel causal pathways, and reveal treatment targets

High-throughput technologies that enable analyses of whole genomes, transcriptomes, proteomes, metabolomes and metagenomes have revolutionized investigative opportunities for research in otolaryngology. The “omics” suffix transforms a molecular term to describe a comprehensive global assessment of a set of molecules. Advances in technology enabling cost-efficient, high-throughput analysis of biologic molecules are driving exciting growth inomics research. Click here to see the full abstract. 


Music to Our ears: Does Musical Training Improve Auditory and Speech Processing and Perception?

Music is found in every human culture. Performing involves fine-grained motor, cognitive, multimodal-integration, and aesthetic skills; listening critically involves almost as many. Perhaps most importantly, music is fun. The enjoyable and social aspects of music could make it a powerful and motivating vehicle for auditory training, particularly in a clinical setting among those with hearing loss and cochlear implants. Click here to see the full abstract. 


Novel Approaches to Ototoxicity Management across the Life Course

Drug-induced ototoxicity is an adverse event to life-saving therapeutic drugs that results in irreversible damage to the inner ear and auditory nerve, presenting as hearing loss and/or balance/vestibular dysfunction. Research has shown that early detection of toxicity through
prospective ototoxicity monitoring provides the opportunity to consider modifications to treatment that may minimize or prevent permanent hearing loss or balance impairment. Click here to see the full abstract.


Online Experimentation in Audition: Recent Advances and Future Directions

During COVID-19 lockdowns, many auditory scientists were forced to begin or expand their use of online data collection platforms. Three years later, what have we learned? How can psychoacoustics, and rigorous experimentation more broadly, be conducted online? What are the upsides and downsides of web-based data collection? Moving forward, what kinds of new opportunities are enabled by online experimentation? The goal of this symposium is to disseminate recent advances using online data collection, share methods for online research, and review potential pitfalls of online experimentation. Click here to see the full abstract. 


The Eyes as a Window to Auditory Processing and Perception

Over the last decade, Pupillometry (the measurement of pupil responsiveness and size) has attracted considerable attention in hearing research - both in the context of basic investigation into hearing function, and as a non-invasive, cheap and portable means for assessing listening challenges in patient populations. Click here to see the full abstract. 


Women, Gender Minorities, and Allies in Science

Women are categorically underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers. Underrepresentation is particularly problematic for early career women scientists who must navigate career advancement while facing gender-related stereotypes, unconscious biases, and social pressures that their male counterparts do not experience. The Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) community currently lacks resources for women and gender minority members to form a united group. This symposium aims to provide a safe space for women, gender minorities, and male allies to come together to learn about systemic gender-related barriers in science and academia. The symposium will also serve as a platform for early career women in the otolaryngology field to showcase their research programs. As such, the goal of this event will be two-fold: (1) to inform the ARO community about gender-based biases in the sciences and (2) to elevate the work of a few inspiring early-career. Click here to see the full abstract. 



Microaggressions, Allyship and Equitable Mentoring

The Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) is committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in science by fostering a welcoming community that removes barriers and embraces diverse people, approaches, and ideas. Despite ongoing efforts, the ARO community is still largely non-diverse and overrepresented by Caucasian/white and male-identifying members. Thus, the first objective of this workshop is to provide participants with an overview of the demographics of the ARO community with the goal of identifying areas that could be targeted for action towards increasing diversity. Click here to see the full abstract. 


Networking as a Tool for Resilience

The COVID-19 pandemic severely limited the ability of students and trainees to network. While networking is often recognized for its effectiveness in career advancement, it also plays a key role in building resilience to navigate challenging times in the field, particularly as much work remains to create an inclusive and equitable environment. This workshop will consist of six break-out groups themed after networking and resilience. Click here to see the full abstract.


Young Investigator Symposia

New Frontiers in Genetic Testing for Hearing Loss

In this session we will focus on the future of genetic testing for hearing loss. The common theme is the importance of accurate genetic diagnosis in the face of the extreme genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity of hearing loss. Comprehensive genetic testing for hearing loss has become integral in the evaluation of individuals with hearing loss since widespread implementation more than 10 years ago, Accumulated data have shown, in general, a diagnostic rate of about 40-60% depending on clinical characteristics of the population studied. Click here to see the full abstract. 


Putting Tinnitus Theories to the Test

Auditory phantom perception, tinnitus, is extremely common. A highest estimate puts the prevalence between 10–30% in the US, and likely with similar numbers worldwide. Yet, not all tinnitus is equal; etiological heterogeneity and absence of objective diagnostics add to the challenge of reaching a consensus for a unified tinnitus theory. Click here to see the full abstract.


Looking to Exhibit or Sponsor?

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.