Deafness Fact Sheet

CIRM funds many projects seeking to better understand deafness and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.


According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) approximately 36 million American adults have some form of hearing loss.

One of the most common causes of deafness occurs when the cells that detect sound in the inner ear, or cochlea, lose their function. These cells contain highly sensitive hair-like structures that turn sound into electrical signals. The signals are then transmitted to the brain where they are interpreted as sound. If the hairs are damaged by injury, exposure to loud noises, toxins or genetic conditions they are no longer able to transmit sounds to the brain.

Researchers in California and elsewhere have developed ways of coaxing stem cells to form these hair-like structures in the lab. Their discovery raises the hope that hair cells derived from stem cells could ultimately replace the damaged cells and restore hearing.

Other researchers are investigating whether stem cells can protect remaining hair cells or be used to replace the nerve that transmits sound signals from the ear to the brain.

CIRM Grants Targeting Deafness

Researcher NameInstitutionGrant TitleGrant TypeAward Amount
Alan G ChengStanford UniversityModulation of the Wnt pathway to restore inner ear functionQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$1,389,416
Dr. Neil SegilUniversity of Southern CaliforniaA screen for drugs to protect against chemotherapy-induced hearing loss, using sensory hair cells derived by direct lineage reprogramming from hiPSCsQuest – Discovery Stage Research Projects$741,574
Dr Robert HayesImmusoft CorporationA Phase I Open Label Study to Evaluate the Safety and Tolerability of ISP-001 in Patients with Mucopolysaccharidosis Type 1Clinical Trial Stage Projects$8,000,000
Alan G ChengStanford UniversityEnhancing hair cell regeneration in mouse and human inner earNew Faculty Physician Scientist$3,088,525
Dr. Stefan HellerStanford UniversityGeneration of inner ear sensory cells from human ES cells toward a cure for deafnessComprehensive Grant$2,330,371
Dr. Ebenezer N YamoahUniversity of California, DavisHair Cells and Spiral Ganglion Neuron Differentiation from Human Embryonic Stem CellsSEED Grant$458,071

CIRM Deafness Videos

Spotlight on Deafness: Welcoming Remarks

Spotlight on Deafness: Seminar by Karen Doyle, M.D.

Spotlight on Deafness: Seminar by Ebenezer Yamoah, Ph.D.

Spotlight on Deafness: Seminar by Diana Kaljian

News and Information


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Stem Cell FAQ | Stem Cell Videos | What We Fund