Translational Research Office (TRO)


Linking Clinicians and Basic Scientists for Hearing and Balance Disorders

3 March 2021

On this World Hearing Day 2021, we highlight a TRO supported knowledge exchange activity between Dr Peter Keating (Ear Institute, Faculty of Brain Sciences), and the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, to help develop new treatments for hearing and balance disorders.

Peter keating

Unmet need

In the UK, 1 in 6 people have hearing loss. Despite the urgent need for new treatments, it is very common for scientists who work in hearing research, to have a relatively poor understanding of how clinical services are actually delivered. Bridging this gap would help to develop new treatments for hearing and balance disorders, as a better understanding of clinicians’ and patients’ lives is key to developing future translational research that will have broad support amongst clinicians and patients. 


The aim of a knowledge exchange project was to develop and run a 1-week UCL/UCLH course (miniMD) in Hearing and Balance Disorders, which would allow basic scientists to see first-hand how clinical services are delivered at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital (UCLH RNTNE). Additionally, the project looked promote knowledge exchange (in the area of tele-audiology and spatial hearing tests) between UCL/UCLH and the World Hearing Center in Poland via reciprocal visits between staff at the two institutions.

How we helped

Through a P2D opportunity facilitated by BIG, the team put together a successful secondment application for Peter Keating, UCL Ear Institute, to enhance the knowledge exchange between clinical teams and non-clinical researchers across UCL. Through BIG’s support and management of this project, the secondment was a great success where the developed course (miniMD) was well received amongst clinicians and researchers and is now embedded as an opportunity for researchers at the Ear Institute, where there are plans to return it on an annual basis from 2021 onwards (COVID-19 circumstances allowing). 

Where is the project now?

Alongside the research ideas that emerged from Dr Keating’s development of the miniMD which have been funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to support follow-on activities related to spatial hearing in patients, the project also produced a range of new collaborations between basic scientists and clinicians (some of which have already produced research outputs). Research collaborations have continued, with Dr Peter Keating still participating in multidisciplinary meetings at UCLH RNTNE as a valued member of the team long after the secondment took place.  At present, there is no impact on enterprise activities, although future iterations of the miniMD may be opened up to participants from relevant industries or external institutions, which could produce a new revenue stream for the hospital.

“The project worked very well. The basic scientists who participated were very interested in clinical work and seemed to get a lot out of their time observing clinics etc. Clinicians also found it very interesting to engage with scientists who sometimes have a very different perspective on hearing loss. The potential for collaboration during the project and beyond is also something that was especially appreciated by the broader team. Overall, the project has helped strengthen connections between clinicians and scientists at UCL/UCLH in the area of hearing problems.” – UCLH RNTNE, partner organisation of knowledge exchange secondment.