An interview with Dr. Charles Liberman

Photo credit: Ecm85 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Hearing Review’s Kathryn Sutherland interviewed last year’s winner of the French La Foundation Pour l’Audition Scientific Grand Prize, Dr. M. Charles Liberman. Dr. Liberman was the Director of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratory at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, affiliated with Harvard Medical School. He stepped down from that role in February 2022, but remains a full-time investigator at Eaton-Peabody and a full-time faculty member at Harvard.

Dr. Liberman’s main contribution to auditory science, with his longtime collaborator Sharon Kujawa PhD, is the 2009 discovery that noise damages nerve connections between cochlear hair cells and the auditory nerve. This cochlear synaptopathy is thought to be the cause of “hidden hearing loss, so-called because patients complain that they can’t understand speech in noisy environments, but their audiometry tests are within the normal range.

Dr. Liberman’s research has led to efforts to regrow the nerves by increasing levels of neurotrophins to stimulate growth of auditory nerve fibers. I hope these efforts will be successful.

In the meantime, though, I would suggest focusing on prevention of noise-induced hearing loss, the only type of hearing loss that according to CDC is 100% preventable.

Avoid loud noise, turn down the volume, leave the noisy environment, or use hearing protection.

Because if something sounds loud, it’s too loud and your auditory health is at risk.

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