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Department of Otolaryngology Research

The Department of Otolaryngology researchers are actively pursuing state-of-the-art research within their fields of interest. Drexel has become recognized as a world leader in diagnosis and treatment of voice and hearing disorders. The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery attracts patients (including celebrities) from throughout the world and has already generated a substantial number of publications, grants, new surgical procedures, and new instruments. Hence, Drexel now has exceptional clinical experience and clinical research expertise. Medical students are encouraged to participate in research activities.

One of our primary interests is the development of a complex, synthetic-biological interface. The absence of such technology represents the limiting factor in hearing restoration for deaf patients who receive cochlear implants (such as Rush Limbaugh). Robert Sataloff, MD, DMA, FACS, chair of the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, was one of the original 20 co-investigators in the cochlear implant project and has remained interested in cochlear implant surgery and research. He believes strongly not only that creating an appropriate synthetic-biological interface is necessary for much further improvement in hearing in patients with cochlear implants, but also that the same technology would have application for restoration of sensory function in patients with blindness, loss of taste and smell, and other sensory deficits.

Interdisciplinary research to improve voice diagnosis and treatment has extraordinary potential at Drexel. Numerous promising areas have been identified including, among others:

  • Development of improved technology for quantifying voice function, to permit accurate measurements of outcomes of various voice treatments. This will involve utilization of aerospace signal detection technology, applied through self-educating computer systems. A relationship has been established between the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and the Department of Engineering (Drs. Robert Sataloff and Youngmoo Kim) whose interests are similar, and whose skills are complementary. If successful, this research could revolutionize voice diagnosis, and could also produce new equipment that would be used in most otolaryngology offices.
  • Vocal fold scar is responsible for most prolonged voice impairment. Wound healing research for the vocal fold needs to concentrate on prevention (alteration of the wound healing environment through genetic regulation of microscopic components of the vocal fold, and other approaches), identification of at-risk patients (identification of a target gene and development of screening technology), and restoration of function in voice for patients who already have scarred vocal folds (development of new implant materials to improve upon surgery already invented and published by Dr. Sataloff, as well as development of techniques for genetically re-engineering the superficial layer of the vocal fold), and approaches to other problems. This research overlaps with wound healing research in other departments. The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery already has clinical research experience, as well as physicians experienced in conducting clinical trials. However, collaboration with basic science departments (such as the Department of Microbiology and Immunology) is necessary for the genetic research, as well as collaboration with the College of Engineering for development of suitable materials.
  • Geriatric medicine has great importance and growing interest. Vocal aging is particularly important since, even if people spend $15,000 for facelifts and other cosmetic procedures, they will be recognized as elderly if their voices still sound "old." Much of the original attention to this problem has come from Philadelphia, and clinical leaders are currently within Drexel's Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. An American Society of Geriatric Otolaryngology has been created and held its first meeting in San Diego in April 2007 (Dr. Sataloff is a founding board member and former president). Addressing issues of voice aging and its treatment has potential application for a rapidly growing segment of the American population.
  • Human performance research is of interest to researchers and clinicians in nearly all specialties, as well as to musicians, dancers, artists, and athletes. Voice medicine was developed primarily through interest in professional singers and actors. The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery attracts celebrities internationally who travel to Philadelphia for care. The College of Medicine is currently in the process of establishing an arts medicine center to care for problems of performers, visual artists, and others. It is anticipated that there will also be a tuition-based academic graduate program in arts medicine developed in the near future. The area of human performance also offers numerous possibilities for interdisciplinary research, and development of new technology.
  • The department is remarkably productive academically. During the 2021-2022 academic year, books, editorials, peer-reviewed journals and papers were published by Dr. Sataloff, the majority of which involved collaboration with medical students, residents, other faculty and fellows.

Affiliated Organizations

  • American Institute for Voice and Ear Research
  • The Voice Foundation
  • Lankenau Institute for Medical Research Division of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences Research

Current IRB Projects in the Department of Otolaryngology

  • Pattern of blood flow in the neovascularization of vocal fold masses
  • Gluten sensitivity and laryngopharyngeal reflux
  • Pixel value movement to assess vocal fold hypomobility
  • Acoustic-perceptual analysis of voice quality
  • Safety model of concurrent surgery
  • Central pathology in patients with spasmodic dysphonia
  • Laboratory evaluation of spasmodic dysphonia
  • Socioeconomic variables of patients with spasmodic dysphonia eulerian video magnification
  • Diagnosing laryngeal reflux: A comparison between 24-hour pH impedance testing and pharyngeal probe (Restech) testing
  • Detection of laryngopharyngeal reflux from laryngoscopic images using image analysis and a neural network-drive classification algorithm
  • Blue laser for treatment of laryngeal disorders
  • Use of postoperative antibiotics in patients undergoing type I thyroplasty with Gore-Tex implant
  • Role of Nissen fundoplication in the treatment of laryngopharyngeal reflux disease
  • The cost-effectiveness of preoperative staphylococcus aureus screening and decolonization in cochlear implantation
  • Hearing loss in singers under 40
  • Rates of radiographic superior semicircular canal dehiscence
  • HLA genotype and otosclerosis
  • Efficacy of a comprehensive neurotologic evaluation (closed)
  • Stapes mobilization versus stapedectomy

Research Priorities

  • Improved technology for voice quantification
  • Vocal fold scarring, wound healing, genetic engineering
  • Geriatric communication disorders (ear, voice)
  • Human performance
  • Normative voice quantification (stratified)
  • Occult abnormalities in "normal" singers and professional speakers
  • Endocrine effects on voice and their treatment
  • Innervation and function of the false vocal folds
  • Alternative and complimentary medication use in singers and actors
  • Voice therapy of nodules in children (NIH) (closed)
  • Genetics of vocal fold wound healing
  • Treatment of "incurable" skull base tumors
  • Cochlear implantation
  • Occupational hearing loss
  • Geriatric ORL disorders (taste and smell, hearing, balance, voice and other)
  • Otolaryngologic applications of cold plasma technology
  • Development of surgical instrumentation
  • Clinical trials
  • Center for Genomic Sciences (CGS) in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology in collaboration with the Department of Otolaryngology
    • State-of-the-art molecular laboratory
    • Whole body in situ imaging for infections
    • 454 Life Sciences DNA Sequencer (one of first five in the world)
    • Biofilms and chronic microbial pathogens
    • Scarless wound healing
    • Molecular basis of human performance
    • Human disease gene mapping

Research Resources (Philadelphia)

  • Audiology
  • Vestibulology
  • Auditory physiology
  • Speech-language pathology
  • Voice laboratory
  • Gene analysis
  • Biofilm
  • Cold Plasma
  • Additional resources available

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This clinical practice is independent of Drexel University.

Doctor performing a throat exam on a young female patient.