M. Charles Liberman, PhD, director of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Mass Eye and Ear, was recently awarded the James B. Snow Jr., MD, Tinnitus Research Award for his outstanding contributions to advancing tinnitus research.
Named in honor of James B. Snow, Jr., MD, the first director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the award is bestowed on a researcher who furthers the understanding of tinnitus and the development of its treatments. Dr. Liberman, who also serves as Vice Chair of Basic Research at Mass Eye and Ear, received the award from the Collegium Oto-Rhino-Laryngologicum Amicitiae Sacrum (CORLAS), an international organization of leading clinician-scientists and basic scientists researching disorders of hearing, balance, smell and taste.
More than 50 million Americans are affected by tinnitus, a persistent and painful “ringing in the ears” that has no known cure. In partnership with the Lauer family, Mass Eye and Ear launched the Lauer Tinnitus Research Center in 2015 with the goal of advancing research to better understand and treat the debilitating condition. The Lauer Center is led by several researchers, including Dr. Liberman, who implement a wide array of strategies for studying tinnitus in the ear and brain.
Dr. Liberman is a former member of the Tinnitus Research Consortium. In 2009, Dr. Liberman and his colleague Sharon Kujawa, PhD, uncovered a new type of inner ear damage called cochlear synaptopathy, or “hidden hearing loss.” The condition, which occurs when auditory-nerve fibers are permanently damaged from loud noise or aging, is believed to be a key risk factor in the generation of tinnitus.
As a founding member of the Lauer Center, Dr. Liberman currently leads research on the use of naturally occurring neurotrophic factors in slowing the death, or stimulating the regrowth, of auditory-nerve fibers in hopes of preventing, or alleviating, tinnitus.
“Through Drs. Liberman and Kujawa’s discovery of ‘hidden hearing loss,’ the way researchers and clinicians study hearing loss has been changed for the foreseeable future,” said Mark A. Varvares, MD, FACS, Chief of the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at Mass Eye and Ear. “The recognition Dr. Liberman has received with this award from world thought leaders is a testament to the outstanding work that he continues to produce at the Lauer Center.”