The Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss (SICHL) is at the forefront of curing hearing loss. The goal of SICHL is to devise treatments that repair the damaged inner ear and restore lost hearing, quiet tinnitus, and improve balance.
SICHL is building a new paradigm of progress through partnerships and collaboration, coupled with breakthrough science and brilliant problem-solving. It will reinforce the back- and-forth dynamic of translational medicine with one concentrated focus: to find a way to cure—and prevent—hearing loss.
Private philanthropy is essential to realize this mission. Recent reductions in federal funding opportunities means that private support plays a more critical role than ever before. Visionary donors can help create a world where hearing loss will no longer place limits on the lives of countless individuals and families who are effected each year. Gifts at every level enhance Stanford’s ability to advance hearing research and move towards the ultimate goal of curing most major forms of hearing loss, via regenerative efforts.
Every gift helps SICHL recruit and retain the best and the brightest scientists and clinicians, and enables them to conduct the most innovative research in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment. In this way, donors join with Stanford to fight against one of the largest causes of disability in the world today.
Seed grant funds provided by donors are an important part of moving new research forward. These internal grants fuel pilot projects that can prove our innovative approaches. Gifts for seed grants can be leveraged to garner long-term federal grant support.
Recent SICHL seed grant donor and hearing health advocate Shari Eberts shares her story with us. Below, Shari tells how she became an advocate for hearing health and why she was drawn to support hearing research at Stanford by becoming involved with the Grillet laboratory:
My father had hearing loss, as did his mother. It was genetic and got passed on to me in my mid-20s. I was reluctant to accept it. I had watched hearing loss tear apart my father’s life – leading to problems at work, social isolation and sadness. I was terrified that my life would be the same. So I hid it, ignoring my hearing loss and hoping it would go away. It did not. In fact, it got worse, and I was forced to get hearing aids. But I hated to wear them. I was scared and ashamed. I hid them as best I could and never mentioned them.
But then I had children and everything changed. My hearing loss is genetic so I worry that I may have passed it onto them. Since it is adult-onset, we won’t know for 15 years or so. I saw them watching me hide my hearing loss and knew I was passing on a legacy of stigma and shame. This was not something I wanted to do. I needed to accept my hearing loss. So I did.
I have not looked back and am now active as a hearing health advocate. I serve on the board of two leading hearing loss organizations – Hearing Health Foundation and Hearing Loss Association of America. I also write a weekly blog at www.LivingWithHearingLoss.com, where I share the ups and downs of my life with hearing loss and provide tips for living better. I hope that by sharing my story, I will inspire others to live more comfortably with their own hearing loss.
Supporting scientific research about hearing loss is very important to me. Only through research, will scientists discover new ways to prevent, treat and cure hearing loss for the more than 50 million Americans that suffer from it. Most of this research is focused on regenerating the delicate hair cells of the inner ear that are damaged through noise induced hearing loss or aging. So when I came across Nico’s work (on Facebook of all places!) on the genetic predispositions and causes of hearing loss, I was intrigued.
I reached out to Stanford and last summer, I had the chance to meet Nico and tour his lab. I was very impressed. Not only was Nico smart, creative and organized, he was also incredibly passionate about his work. I knew that he would work tirelessly to tackle the very complex research problems involved in the study of genetic hearing loss, and that he would partner with others in the field to accelerate the timetable to solutions.
My husband and I were incredibly pleased to offer Nico the financial backing to jump-start his lab and his important hearing research at Stanford. We will be watching proudly as he continues to make progress in his work and in his career. I encourage anyone who is touched by hearing loss to consider supporting this important work, in whatever way is most meaningful to you.
The Eberts’ gift will allow the Grillet lab to begin research on new projects before they are far enough along to apply for and receive federal funding. The freedom gained from seed grant funding is crucial to the innovative approach taken at SICHL.
Below Nicolas Grillet, Ph.D., shares his thoughts on the important relationship that is built between a donor and an investigator and how this relationship not only provides monetary support, but also inspiration and motivation to the research team.
I started my laboratory at the Otolaryngology Department of Stanford recently with two goals in mind: the first one is to understand better the function of each cell type of the inner ear, and in particular the sensory cells able to detect forces induced by sound. The second one is to identify the genes involved in the hearing loss.
Of course when you start a lab you cannot afford to start too many projects right away, and you need to focus and get a first grant from the National Institute of Health, in order to expand your research breadth.
I am lucky that Shari Eberts heard about my research directions, and actually wanted to learn more about it! She decided to help my research with a generous philanthropic investment that is providing us freedom to start new projects that otherwise would not have been initiated before at least three to five years from now. I am extremely thankful to Shari for her support, and honored that she choose to help my laboratory.
I like very much that Shari and I communicate frequently: Shari is not an anonymous donor; she is a believer in my ideas and my ability to succeed. I feel I am accountable for her trust, which provides me with additional motivation to overcome any obstacle in my way to complete the scientific projects. Having someone like Shari behind you is a chance I wish every researcher could have. Together we will make a difference.
We here at SICHL are extremely grateful to the Eberts family for this generous gift and for Shari’s willingness to share her story. We look forward to seeing the results of this ongoing relationship between donor and investigator and of course to the outcomes of the research itself.
To learn more about how you can make an impact on hearing loss research or to discuss a gift, please contact:
Clifford I. Harris, MD
Clinician Liaison for Development
Stanford Medical Center Development
3172 Porter Drive, suite 210
Palo Alto, CA 94304
or visit our giving page.