Mass. Eye and Ear Just Got the Largest Gift in Its History

An anonymous donor gave $20 million to advance hearing loss research.

Mass. Eye and Ear

Mass. Eye and Ear/Photo provided

Massachusetts Eye and Ear, the country’s top-ranked ear, nose, and throat hospital, just received by far the largest philanthropic gift in its history.

An anonymous donor gave more than $20 million to advance hearing loss research in the hospital’s Eaton-Peabody Laboratories. The donation will allow Mass. Eye and Ear to strengthen its hearing and balance research efforts, seed new faculty chairs, and attract top-notch new researchers.

“This historic donation to our research program comes at an exciting time, when advances are happening every day, and we are closer than ever before to developing new treatments to restore hearing,” D. Bradley Welling, chief of otolaryngology at Mass. Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital, says in a statement.

As it happens, Mass. Eye and Ear is already behind many of those advances. Eaton-Peabody researchers were the first to discover that stem cells in the inner ear could be converted to sensory cells needed for hearing, a technique that they tested successfully in mammals. They also found a type of “hidden hearing loss” and are developing new tests to identify it in patients.

The hospital, which is in acquisition negotiations with Partners HealthCare, is trying to raise $200 million by 2020. The $20 million donation—believed to be the second-largest gift ever directed toward hearing loss research in the United States—brings the hospital considerably closer to its goal.

Earlier this year, Boston Medical Center also received the largest donation in its history. A $25 million gift from billionaire John Grayken established a new addiction medicine center.