Along with our partner, the Hearing Health Foundation, we are excited to announce our Emerging Research Grant for this 2016. It goes to Xiying Guan, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School. He will be studying hyperacusis caused by abnormalities in auditory mechanics, or “conductive hyperacusis,” which involves the perception of sounds and vibrations transmitted through the body.  We have a particular interest in diagnostic tools like the intracochlear pressure measurement, which can give insight into whether or not changes have occurred in any type of hyperacusis.  We are extremely grateful for our donor support which made this grant possible. Below is a full description of this important research project:

X_GuanXiying Guan, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School
Hyperacusis caused by abnormalities in auditory mechanics.

Many hyperacusis patients have what is called “conductive hyperacusis,” due to mechanical abnormalities of the ear that result in a hypersensitivity to sounds and vibrations transmitted through their bodies. These include the sensation of one’s own voice (autophony), pulse, and body movements such as eye motion and footsteps, as well as sensing the vibrations of items such as vehicles. These symptoms are common among patients who have an opening in the bone encapsulating the inner ear (termed a superior canal dehiscence, a type of pathological third-window lesion – see top image).

Compared with hyperacusis stemming from neurosensory issues, conductive hyperacusis has the potential for treatment. Recently, surgical treatment for hyperacusis by changing the mechanics of surrounding structures of the inner ear show mixed results, with some patients experiencing worse symptoms after surgery.

Although these “experimental” surgical treatments in patients are increasing, the mechanisms of conductive hyperacusis are not well understood, and scientific research targeting this problem is lacking. This study aims to understand how mechanical changes in fresh cadaveric specimens with similar gross mechanics as the living can influence the cochlear input drive (an estimate of hearing), resulting in hyperacusis. Our novel intracochlear pressure measurement technique will allow the monitoring of the cochlear input drive as we manipulate the mechanics surrounding the inner ear.

Research areas: middle and inner ear mechanics, bone conduction, hearing loss, conductive hyperacusis
Long-term goal: To understand how hyperacusis can occur due to mechanical disturbances of the middle and inner ear, and to provide the necessary scientific understanding to enable treatment.


Guan received his Ph.D. in bioengineering from University of Oklahoma. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow of Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and in the Department of Otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School.

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