Dr Sherryl Wagstaff (MBBS, FRACS, MBA (MBS), GAICD) is an ear-nose-and-throat (ENT) specialist and Medical Director at Epworth Eastern Hospital who has been working with our hearing therapeutics team for the past two years.

As an otolaryngologist, Dr Wagstaff has seen thousands of patients experience hearing loss and from her clinical experience, she knows that everyone will acquire some degree of hearing loss as they get older, but to what extent depends on various factors.

Hearing loss is often first noticed when people struggle with hearing in crowded environments, known as ‘cocktail party syndrome’. This is generally characterised by people simply nodding in response to questions they are unable to hear. Her patients tell her that they find it easier to nod than to risk answering a question incorrectly and look silly. Over time hearing loss can make people feel unintelligent and overwhelmed and, as a result, many patients simply withdraw from society. As a clinician who wants to make a difference, this has made Dr Wagstaff feel quite helpless at times.

The Institute’s hearing therapeutics research team, led by A/Prof Andrew Wise and Dr Wagstaff, are working on the development of a novel technology that may be able to stop the progression of hearing loss, and even improve the hearing loss that has already occurred. The technology uses nano-engineering to create tiny particles that can slowly deliver therapeutic agents into the inner ear in a safe and effective way.  

In the past, Dr Wagstaff has told her patients that the idea of a drug that could assist with hearing loss would never happen in their lifetime. After collaborating with the Institute, she is now filled with a sense of confidence that one day soon she will have a hearing loss treatment to offer her patients that will provide life-changing benefits. This has provided Dr Wagstaff with a great deal of inspiration for both herself and her patients. She has a sense of satisfaction that the collaboration with the Institute has been instrumental in an incredible advancement in hearing impairment research.

Image: A/Prof Andrew Wise (L) and Dr Sherryl Wagstaff

“I have felt that my interactions with the Institute’s scientists are mutually beneficial. I don’t think that one can live without the other anymore. Australia has both world-class scientists and world-class clinicians. It is time that we recognize that the interaction between the two groups is the only way to progress science at a speed that makes it relevant to patients. Success is no longer about journal articles and citations; it is about touching patients to enhance their lives forever.”

- Dr Sherryl Wagstaff