Research Projects

Inner Ear Pharmacokinetics.

Management of disorders of the ear, such as Meniere's disease and sudden hearing loss, commonly involves the application of drugs to the inner ear. This is typically accomplished by intratympanic injections of drugs. Quantifying the amount of drug entering the inner ear and where the drugs reach is difficult to measure in humans, so our understanding of these procedures is mostly based on work in animals, in conjunction with computer modeling to scale measures from animals to the human ear. Our research involves development of drug application procedures, cochlear fluids sampling procedures and computer models so that the data can be interpreted quantitatively. We have established how the drugs enter the ear, where they spread to and how long they stay there.

Responses of the Ear to Low Frequency Sounds.

Although hearing is insensitive to very low frequency sounds and infrasound, the inner ear is detecting it and converting it to electrical signals. This may be used to help cancel this noise from hearing, in an analogous manner to a noise-canceling headphone in which the noise is first detected and then used to eliminate it from heard sounds. Because the ear is responding to low frequency sounds, it is possible that such noises could affect you in ways that do not involve conscious hearing. Under some conditions, commercial wind turbines generate high levels of very low frequency sound. Some people living near these machines report otologic symptoms (dizziness, nausea, tinnitus), an annoying amplitude modulation of sounds and sleep disturbance. Our projects are investigation the possible mechanisms that underlie such symptoms.

Objective Measures of Cochlear Function.

There a many fairly standardized ways to assess how the ear is working using electrical (CAP, ABR, etc) or acoustical (DPOAE, SFOAE, etc) measurements. There are also a wide range of measurements that are less studied but which may be very valuable. In conjunction with our manipulations of the ear, we make a variety of measurements which we correlate with the induced changes. Some of these measures (such as Jeff Lichtenhan's new ANOW method) give new insights into how the ear is working. We are also developing a number of other measures which may be useful to diagnose pathologies of the ear.