UCSF professor honored for helping deaf hear

A University of California at San Francisco professor won bioengineering’s highest honor Wednesday, university officials have announced.

Professor emeritus of otolaryngology Michael Merzenich did work that formed the basis for ear implants that have enabled the deaf to hear. More than 320,000 people with a hearing impairment have received cochlear implants based on Merzenich’s work, according to UCSF officials.

The National Academy of Engineering gives out the biennial Russ Prize award. Merzenich did the work in the 1970s and the work led to the production of implants in the 1980s.

NAE President C.D. Mote Jr. said:

“This year’s Russ Prize recipients personify how engineering transforms the health and happiness of people across the globe.”

The $500,000 award is split among the recipients, which include four other scientists from around the world.

The other winners include Duke University adjunct professor and co-director of the Duke Hearing Center Blake Wilson, Australia’s University of Melbourne professor of otolaryngology Graeme Clark, doctor of technical sciences and University of Innsbruck professor emeritus Erwin Hochmair, and Technical University of Vienna professor Ingeborg Hochmair-Desoyer.

Mote said:

“The creators of the cochlear implant have improved remarkably the lives of people everywhere who are hearing impaired.”