Sharon G. Kujawa, PhD
Principal Investigator, Eaton-Peabody Laboratories, Mass Eye and Ear
Sheldon and Dorothea Buckler Chair in Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Mass Eye and Ear
Director of Audiology Research at Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Sharon Kujawa's research is focused on noise-induced and age-related hearing losses, the most common forms of hearing loss seen in adult patients. Her work seeks to clarify how normal inner ear structures and functions are altered by aging and by noise exposure, how vulnerability to these changes is shaped by an individual’s genetic background, and how these processes can be manipulated pharmacologically to reveal underlying mechanisms for treatment or prevention.
An area of current focus in Dr. Kujawa’s laboratory is the aging of noise-exposed ears. She has discovered an insidious process that begins acutely after noise, as a loss of communications (synapses) between sensory inner hair cells and cochlear neurons. Loss of the neurons themselves follows slowly, but ultimately reaches the same magnitude. These effects of noise immediately and permanently change the way the ear processes sound information and they occur even when the exposure produces only temporary changes in hearing thresholds.
Ultimately, noise exposure should be regulated, and its consequences diagnosed and treated, in ways consistent with improved understanding of underlying processes and pathology. Thus, this work informs efforts to develop better clinical tests and to identify effective pharmacologic therapies for these common forms of hearing loss.
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