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Susan D Emmett, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Head and Neck Surgery and Communication Sciences
Assistant Research Professor of Global Health
Office: DUMC Box 3805, Durham, NC 27710
Campus Mail: DUMC Trent 333, Durham, NC 27710

My research focuses on reducing hearing health disparities globally. I work with colleagues around the world to define the global burden of hearing loss and deepen our understanding of its social, economic, and health impact. We apply a public health approach that spans prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Fundamental to prevention is evaluating why hearing loss is so much more common in low-resource settings and investigating risk factors that are potentially modifiable. I have focused my prevention efforts on undernutrition, evaluating the contribution of early life malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies to risk of hearing loss in Nepal. We are currently expanding this work to the Bolivian Amazon.

Diagnosis of hearing loss in remote settings brings unique challenges, including scarcity of audiologists and otolaryngologists, need for portable equipment, and lack of screening programs to identify affected children. I am currently leading a PCORI (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute)-funded community randomized trial with the Norton Sound Health Corporation in Nome, Alaska to evaluate a new protocol for school hearing screening in 15 villages on the Bering Sea.  This study utilizes mobile health technology and telemedicine referral to identify previously undiagnosed hearing loss and efficiently connect Alaska Native children to care. The intervention has applicability across the state of Alaska, as well as in other remote, low-resource settings with a high prevalence of hearing loss and ear disease.

My research on treatment of hearing loss is focused on expanding access to cochlear implantation, a treatment for severe-to-profound hearing loss traditionally limited to high-resource settings. I have worked with collaborators in 14 countries to demonstrate that cochlear implantation can be a cost-effective treatment option in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. We are expanding these studies to other regions of the world. 

Selected Grants

Addressing Childhood Hearing Loss Disparities in an Alaska Native Population: A Community Randomized Trial (AD-1602-34571), PCORI

Research Training in Otolaryngology (5T32DC000027-25), NIDCD/NIH

Global Control of Micronutrient Deficiency (OPPGH 614), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Nutrition (AID-OAA-L-1-00006), USAID

Education and Training

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Center For Human Nutrition, Johns Hopkins Unversity, Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2012 - 2016
  • Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Residency, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2010 - 2016
  • Research Training Fellowship, Duke Kilimanjaro Aids Program, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2008 - 2009
  • M.P.H., Johns Hopkins Unversity, Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2014
  • M.D., Duke University School of Medicine, 2010
  • A.B., Princeton University, 2005


Brabec, Marek, Jere R. Behrman, Susan D. Emmett, Edward Gibson, Celeste Kidd, William Leonard, Mary E. Penny, et al. “Birth seasons and heights among girls and boys below 12 years of age: lasting effects and catch-up growth among native Amazonians in Bolivia.” Ann Hum Biol 45, no. 4 (June 2018): 299–313.

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Emmett, Susan D., Jane Schmitz, Sureswor L. Karna, Subarna K. Khatry, Lee Wu, Steven C. LeClerq, Joseph Pillion, and Keith P. West. “Early childhood undernutrition increases risk of hearing loss in young adulthood in rural Nepal.” Am J Clin Nutr 107, no. 2 (February 1, 2018): 268–77.

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Undurraga, Eduardo A., Jere R. Behrman, Susan D. Emmett, Celeste Kidd, William R. Leonard, Steven T. Piantadosi, Victoria Reyes-García, Abhishek Sharma, Rebecca Zhang, and Ricardo A. Godoy. “Child stunting is associated with weaker human capital among native Amazonians.” Am J Hum Biol 30, no. 1 (January 2018).

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Singleton, Rosalyn, Sara Seeman, Margaret Grinnell, Lisa Bulkow, John Kokesh, Susan Emmett, Stephen Holve, Jeffrey McCollum, and Thomas Hennessy. “Trends in Otitis Media and Myringotomy With Tube Placement Among American Indian and Alaska Native Children and the US General Population of Children After Introduction of the 13-valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine.” Pediatr Infect Dis J 37, no. 1 (January 2018): e6–12.

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Emmett, S. D., D. Pinder, D. G. Bervinchak, S. Juman, and H. W. Francis. “Establishing Hearing Implant Programs in Low Resource Settings: Practical and Economic Considerations.” In Implantable Hearing Devices, edited by C. de Souza, P. Roland, and D. Tucci, 261–75, 2017.


Emmett, Susan D., Debara L. Tucci, Ricardo F. Bento, Juan M. Garcia, Solaiman Juman, Juan A. Chiossone-Kerdel, Ta J. Liu, et al. “Moving Beyond GDP: Cost Effectiveness of Cochlear Implantation and Deaf Education in Latin America.” Otol Neurotol 37, no. 8 (September 2016): 1040–48.

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Thomas Roland, J., Craig Buchman, Laurie Eisenberg, Lillian Henderson, Shuman He, Jill Firszt, Howard Francis, et al. “Proceedings of the Annual Symposium of the American Cochlear Implant Alliance.” Cochlear Implants Int 17, no. 5 (September 2016): 211–37.

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