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Mass. Eye and Ear gets record $20m donation to research hearing loss

Massachusetts Eye and Ear just got a big boost to expand its research into hearing loss: a $20 million gift from an anonymous donor. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary just got a big boost to expand its research into hearing loss: a $20 million gift, the largest in the hospital’s history, from an anonymous donor.

“It’s a truly wonderful gift that allows us to bring in bright, innovative new researchers and do great work,” said Dr. Bradley Welling, the hospital’s chief of otolaryngology.

The donation is the second-largest gift for hearing research in the United States, the hospital said, after a $25 million gift to the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine in 2015.

At Mass. Eye and Ear, the money will go to the hospital’s Eaton-Peabody Laboratories. Researchers there were the first to use stem cells to restore the hearing of mammals, and to discover a previously unknown type of hearing impairment known as “hidden hearing loss.”


The money will also go to hiring new researchers as others begin to retire.

“We are going to be focusing on bringing in new researchers and supporting our core labs to research things such as tinnitus and hearing loss,” Welling said.

Hearing loss affects one-third of the world’s population over 65, and research shows that that number is likely to rise.

“We’ve got an aging population. More of the baby boomers are hitting the age where some form of hearing loss starts. Our research is going to be more important than ever,” Welling said.

This donation comes at an important time for the hospital, as the President Trump’s budget proposes large cuts to scientific and medical research.

“It’s a real concern, not just for us, but for researchers across New England. Luckily, this donation should shore us up while we see what happens’’ with the National Institutes of Health, Welling said.

Andrew Grant can be reached at andrew.grant@globe.com.