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Why hearing?


Hearing loss is the most frequent sensory deficit and is constantly on the rise as a result of higher life expectancy and increasing over-exposure to noise – whether caused by ever denser urbanization or headphone use, especially in young people. WHO estimates that there are nearly 500 million people worldwide currently living with hearing loss, a figure that is likely to rise to 900 million by 2050, and hearing impairments will be the seventh leading cause of burden of disease by 2030. In France, there are currently 6 million people with hearing loss.

Regardless of the degree of severity and the age at which hearing loss occurs, it can have a significant negative impact on social interaction, leading to isolation often accompanied by depressive symptoms.

What are the missions of the Hearing Institute?


To advance basic research on the auditory system
The aim of the Hearing Institute is to improve understanding of the principles and mechanisms that underpin the development and workings of the auditory system. Its research fields particularly include auditory perception and cognition, audio communication, multisensory integration, and interactions between the genome and the acoustic environment.

To develop translational approaches
By drawing together wide-ranging methods and knowledge and facilitating collaboration between researchers from all scientific disciplines related to hearing, the Hearing Institute aims to shed light on the pathogenesis of sensorineural hearing loss, whether in isolation or linked to syndromes or broader health conditions (especially neurodegenerative diseases). It intends to develop multiparametric tools to diagnose hearing impairments affecting all parts of the auditory sensory organ, the cochlea (whether its innervation or its central region), with the aim of providing precision medicine.
This novel approach also paves the way for the development of innovative therapies for children and adults (currently gene and pharmacological therapy, and in the near future also cell therapy), including treatments for balance problems (caused by the vestibule, which together with the cochlea forms the inner ear), as well as aural rehabilitation based on advances in basic scientific knowledge, especially an understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the plasticity of the auditory cortex.

To actively disseminate knowledge about hearing loss
The results of the Hearing Institute's research are shared with the international scientific community and healthcare professionals, especially physicians, hearing aid specialists and speech therapists. People with hearing loss are kept informed of the implications of the Institute's discoveries, especially any potential new treatments for their symptoms or advances that may improve their daily lives. The Hearing Institute is also committed to raising awareness about the issue of hearing loss among the general public.

What makes the Hearing Institute different?


A focus on interdisciplinarity and knowledge transfer
The brain and sensory organs are so complex that it is vital to draw on knowledge from a wide range of disciplines, from biophysics to computational neuroscience. It is important to investigate the auditory system from the periphery to the center; in other words from the reception of sound to recognition of its meaning and identification of the behavior triggered as a result.
This is why the Hearing Institute intends to promote synergistic research on humans and animals, maintaining a continuum between basic and medical research to strengthen cooperation between research and industry and contribute to the emergence of a national industry sector in the field of hearing. The idea is to assemble scientists, engineers and doctors, together with innovation drivers, industry stakeholders, associations and patients, all of whom join forces to improve the acoustic environment and treatment available for those with hearing loss.

A single site for all research teams
To foster knowledge transfer and the exchange of ideas, the 10 Hearing Institute research teams, representing a total of up to 130 people, are be based in a single building in central Paris, near the Institut de la Vision. This proximity facilitates work to improve our understanding of sensory interactions and combined hearing and visual impairments such as Usher syndrome.
Following the conclusion of a partnership agreement with the City of Paris, which helped acquire and refurbish the building, the  teams moved to the new campus in 2020.

Cooperation between different institutions
The Hearing Institute is a joint research unit between the Institut Pasteur and Inserm, composed of scientific staff from both institutions and also from the CNRS.
It includes a Center for Research and Innovation in Human Audiology (CERIAH), whose task is to develop innovative diagnostic methods. It develops close cooperation with ENT departments in the Paris Public Hospital Network (AP-HP) and university hospitals elsewhere in France (including Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand and Bordeaux), and with other hearing health professionals, especially hearing aid specialists.
Public-private partnerships with companies in the Paris Biotech network are also set up, with the aim of giving new impetus to the industry sector related to hearing.