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Founding of HEI

Founder, Dr. Jack Hough

In the early 1980s, The Hough Ear Institute (HEI) was established under the Baptist Medical Center foundation to continue the pioneering work of an internationally respected otologist, Dr. Jack Hough. In 1963, Dr. Hough began his practice in the current building. Through the years, he assembled a team of outstanding otologic and neurotologic surgeons, audiologists, speech pathologists, neurophysiologists, biomedical engineers, physicists, mechanical and electrical engineers. This team represents a rare merger of medical, technological and engineering professionals who have skillfully discovered and developed new surgical procedures and medical devices now widely used throughout the world.

Early History

In 1997, HEI became an independent non-profit research organization. The Institute developed close working relationships and engaged in research projects with both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, including the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Among the most notable achievements created through the auspices of HEI has been the invention of micro-surgical procedures for the restoration of hearing to patients with otosclerosis, ossicular defects and injuries, tympanic membrane perforations, and congenital abnormalities. A large number of microsurgical instruments have also been invented for these procedures. Additionally, several electromagnetic devices for bone conduction and inner ear deafness have been either totally or partially created or developed at the Institute. As a result, even children and adults with total hearing loss can now experience the world of sound. HEI researchers collaborating with other Oklahoma scientists developed the use of laser Doppler interferometry as a method for laboratory measurement of sound transmission through the middle ear. INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center (IMBC) has played a crucial role in HEI’s founding. HEI is privileged to be a Center of Excellence of IBMC as the two institutions join effort in supporting the Hough Ear Hearing and Speech Center.

Modern Growth and Path Forward

Dr. Kopke headshot
CEO, Dr. Richard Kopke

Richard Kopke, MD, established a long term friendship with Dr. Hough early in his career as an otolaryngologist, participating in teaching with Dr. Hough in the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. In 2004, Dr. Kopke retired from the US Army and was recruited to be CEO of HEI. His experience both as a clinical otologist, ear surgeon and researcher in the US military made him uniquely qualified for the position. His clinical experience in the Army exposed him to the multifaceted problems of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), the leading cause of deafness in the military throughout the world. His research pursuits included discovering the cellular and molecular mechanisms, for NIHL, and prevention and treatment of NIHL using drug or nutraceutical approaches. He also studied aspects of drug delivery to the inner ear or cochlea and approaches to regenerate the sensory cells of the inner ear as a method to restore hearing. Dr. Kopke thus added to the expertise available at HEI for middle ear mechanics and devices by bringing vital understanding in the area of inner ear, and regenerative medicine as well as novel approaches for drug delivery to the inner ear. Dr. Hough and the HEI team pioneered work with the operating microscope, repairing the ear drum and ear bones associated with conductive deafness. A new era has dawned that involves the biology and treatment of disorders of the inner ear. Dr. Kopke has been leading the HEI team into that new frontier. A team of scientists from various disciplines are seeking to understand the molecular and cellular basis of hearing disorders and the development of strategies to defeat hearing loss. This research focuses on both the development of therapeutic approaches for preventing hearing loss and on molecular strategies to restore hearing loss once the cellular components have been lost due to aging or trauma.

HEI’s future is bright with your help. Find out how you can support our mission to cure deafness worldwide, one patient, one disease at a time.