The Department of Otolaryngology is based at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and this direct interface between lab-based or clinical research, and direct otolaryngology patient care leads to highly productive translational research outcomes.

The Department focuses on several key research themes, including:

  • Functional studies of the auditory nervous system leading to clinical strategies to treat hearing loss.
  • Investigations into stem cell transplantation therapy for auditory nerve rehabilitation and improved hearing with cochlear implants.
  • Investigations into the environment and signalling factors around auditory neurons, including therapeutic interventions involving such elements.
  • Functional studies of electrodes and electrical signals to excite cochlear neurons to improve hearing.
  • Investigations into the safety, efficiency and efficacy of electrical stimulation of the electrode-neural interface, particularly that of the auditory nerve.
  • Studies of Gene expression changes in the cochlea as a result of noise or chemical-induced deafness, to identify potential sites for therapeutic intervention.
  • Design and development of implantable acoustic sensors for the cochlear implant system.
  • Studies into the biomechanics of the auditory system, particularly the influence on intracochlear pressure dynamics due to surgical insertion of the cochlear electrode arrays.

Further information the various research themes in the Department can be found below.

Overview

The Department of Otolaryngology plays a prominent role in undertaking basic and translational research to improve the function of the cochlear implant, with a particular emphasis upon protection of residual hearing and balance function during implant surgery. The outcomes of the research have led to currently recruiting, and recently published clinical trials. This work benefits from our close collaboration with Cochlear Corporation.

We have a broader interest in drug delivery for therapeutic intervention of the inner ear, where our findings are redefining the preferred routes of administration for clinical application.

Research Highlights

Regenerative medicine

The Department is a world leader in regenerative medicine for the inner ear, with strong stem cell and gene therapy programs aiming to reverse the effects of deafness. We are also exploring a potential therapeutic role of neurotrophins in improving hearing when there is a partial deafness.

Virtual reality surgical simulation

The Department works in close collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering in the field of virtual reality surgical simulation. We have had considerable success in developing virtual reality simulations for ear surgery and cochlear implantation, initially with CSIRO, and then the medical start-up Medic Vision. Our current work has attracted the attention Cochlear, with whom we plan to develop a specific application to train cochlear implant surgeons.

Indigenous ear health

A new field of endeavor is in the field of Indigenous Ear Health. The Department is leading an NHMRC funded national, large-scale clinical trial on the efficacy of surgical interventional for treating otitis media in young indigenous children living in remote communities. We are also collaborating with the Department of Microbiology to explore whether probiotics may be a treatment option to reduce the burden of otitis media amongst Indigenous children.