Oliver F. Adunka, MD

Oliver F. Adunka, MD, is primarily involved in clinical research projects in the area of electric stimulation of the auditory system and inner ear hearing preservation. Dr. Adunka is the PI of the electric-acoustic stimulation (EAS) clinical trial; a multi-center North American trial in which UNC performed the first surgeries.

In collaboration with Drs. Fitzpatrick and Buchman, Dr. Adunka has embarked on a series of animal experiments using Mongolian gerbils focusing on the acute effects of intracochlear trauma and electrode insertion on early auditory potentials. Those potentials include cochlear microphonics from hair cells and compound action potentials from the spiral ganglion. First experiments revealed a peculiar configuration of electrophysiologic markers so that imminent intracochlear trauma can be predicted when still reversible. Also, these electrophysiologic markers have been correlated with morphological data from both histological evaluations as well as from microendoscopic imaging during the experiment. Future research in this area will focus on the effects of hearing loss on these early potentials and their significance for long-term hearing preservation. Also, in a close collaboration with an implant manufacturer, these data will be used to implement this technology into future cochlear implants.

Dr. Adunka is also heading the new histological temporal bone laboratory. A special sawing, grinding, polishing system allows sectioning of non-decalcified bone and hard materials such as electrode contacts but also prosthetic implants commonly used in dentistry or orthopedic surgery. Last year’s efforts have focused on the evaluation of cochleostomies furnished using new laser technology. Preliminary data demonstrate a sometimes positive effect of touch-less surgical methods such as the laser for a cochleostomy approach. Future research will focus on various alternative approaches to electrostimulation and hearing preserving techniques.

In collaboration with Dr. Craig Buchman, clinical research projects include various topics in pediatric and adult cochlear implantation such as ongoing research on cochlear nerve deficiency and auditory neuropathy. Of note, UNC has identified and enrolled more subjects with absent or small cochlear nerves than any other center in the world. Clinical research has been focusing mainly on diagnostic algorithms. Also, recent work has focused on collecting imaging and clinical data on several types of inner ear malformations.

During his research efforts, Dr. Adunka has mentored medical students including Adam Campbell, MS III, who will join or research team between his 3rd and 4th year of medical school to help with animal experiments centered around hearing preservation mentioned above. Also, Thomas Suberman, MS III, will join Dr. Fitzpatrick’s lab for one year and will also focus on our series of animal experiments focusing on electrophysiologic characteristics of early intracochlear trauma.

Over the past 2 years, Dr. Adunka has developed a multi-client pediatric hearing loss database. Data that has been collected from the CCCDP and the pediatric hearing aid group have been merged and the database in its current form contains information on about 2,400 pediatric patients with conventional hearing aids and/or cochlear implants. This database has been integrated into the clinical algorithm and data entry and analysis is ongoing.