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Hearing and Balance Research

The Duke Vestibular Disorders Clinic conducts clinical research to discover new therapies for people with balance disorders. The department, working with the Duke Clinical Research Institute, is spearheading the formation of a practice-based clinical research network to enhance clinical research in hearing and balance disorders. We're conducting a project to evaluate the effects of cochlear implantation on the balance system. We're are currently enrolling subjects. We are evaluating new techniques for monitoring hearing during acoustic neuroma surgery. We're developing a strategic plan for building a pediatric cochlear implant program that offers a comprehensive network of services and support for deaf and hearing-impaired children across the state.

We are currently in the second phase of our NIDCD-funded research project on hearing health care access for older adults. The first phase evaluated the effectiveness of a screening protocol for hearing loss in primary care practices. The second phase will be examining the qualitative barriers to seeking hearing health care and evaluating the red flag conditions that potentially require medical or surgical management.

Howard Francis, MD, MBAHoward W. Francis, MD, MBA

Dr. Francis' research is focused on improving the results of skull base surgery and cochlear implantation in children and adults. Dr. Francis has published over 100 journal articles on these and other topics in collaboration with colleagues from other disciplines. Among other contributions, this work has reduced complications related to acoustic neuroma surgery and has improved the ability to identify older adults who require additional support with their cochlear implant.


Kristal RiskaKristal M. Riska, AuD, PhD, CCC-A

Dr. Riska’s research program’s overarching goals are to improve the diagnosis and management of dizziness, falls, and vestibular disorders. Her research focuses in three strategic areas: 1) improving the identification of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo in primary care settings to enable timely access to cost-effective treatment, 2) characterizing the role of vestibular function and rehabilitative strategies in post-concussive/mild traumatic brain injury related dizziness; and 3) identifying and understanding the mechanisms that mediate the association between falls and hearing loss in an effort to develop interventions that will modify falls risk in the hearing impaired population.

Sherri L. Smith, AuD, PhD, CCC-ASherri L. Smith, AuD, PhD, CCC-A

Dr. Smith’s research focuses on improving the assessment and treatment of hearing loss in older adults. Specifically, her work centers on comparing the effectiveness of current hearing interventions, developing new, innovative clinical tools, and examining alternative service-delivery approaches that help patients reach their individual hearing goals and improve their overall quality of life.



Debara TucciDebara L. Tucci, MD, MS, MBA, FACS

Dr. Tucci's research focuses on the identification and treatment of hearing loss in adults. Her research team works with primary care providers and a national network of otolaryngology providers to identify and address barriers to hearing health care, with the goal of facilitating treatment and improved overall mental and physical health.