Hearing Institute

A center for fundamental and medical research into hearing, created by the Fondation Pour l'Audition and the Institut Pasteur


The Hearing Institute, an Institut Pasteur center, is an interdisciplinary fundamental and medical research center with the objective of promoting integrative approaches to auditory neuroscience and developing innovative diagnostic tools and preventive and curative treatments for hearing disabilities.
It was created with support and funding from the Fondation Pour l'Audition.

Hearing impairment, a major public health issue 

Hearing impairment is the most frequent sensorineural defect in humans. Its severity is highly variable and it may begin at any age. Hearing impairment deprives people of the social interactions afforded by speech perception, and this often leads to feelings of isolation and depression. World Health Organization (WHO) figures indicate that 500 million people worldwide suffer from disabling hearing impairment. Six million are affected in France alone. Based on WHO estimates, hearing loss will be ranked 7th among non-lethal diseases in the DALY (disability-adjusted life year) rankings by 2030. By 2050, 900 million people will have hearing loss. This increase can be explained by longer life expectancy and the damage to the auditory system caused by overexposure to noise, which is becoming much more frequent, due to greater urbanization and the poorly regulated acoustic environments to which young people expose themselves, especially in recreational settings.

Three Priority Objectives

1. To carry out high-quality fundamental research to elucidate the principles and mechanisms underlying:

  • The development and functioning of the auditory system.
  • Auditory perception and cognition.
  • Communication through sound.
  • Multisensory integration.
  • Interactions between the genome and the acoustic environment, etc.

2. To develop translational approaches facilitating:

  • An understanding of the pathogenesis of sensorineural hearing loss, whether occurring in isolation or as part of a syndrome or a general disease, particularly for neurodegenerative diseases.
  • The development of multiparametric tools for diagnosing hearing impairments affecting the auditory sensory organ, the cochlea, its innervation or its central region, for precision medicine.
  • The development of innovative therapeutic approaches (pharmacological and gene therapies, and probably also cell therapy in the near future) for children, young adults and older individuals. These approaches will also address balance problems (due to defects of the vestibule, a sensory organ that together with the cochlea, which it resembles, forms the inner ear).
  • The development of auditory rehabilitation based on advances in scientific knowledge, including an understanding of the mechanisms underlying auditory cortex plasticity, in particular.

3. To transmit the knowledge generated at the institute to the international medical, paramedical and scientific community, to inform those with hearing loss of the potential impact of any discoveries, and to raise awareness among the general public of the issues associated with hearing impairment.

L’Institut de l’Audition, centre de l'Institut Pasteur

An original project based on interdisciplinarity and knowledge transfer

The originality of this project stems from the following aspects:

  • Interdisciplinary research, extending from biophysics to computational neuroscience;
  • Investigations of the auditory system from the periphery to the cerebral cortex – from sound reception to the recognition of meaning and behavioral responses;
  • Continuous interplay between research studies on humans and animals;
  • A continuum between fundamental and medical research to optimize interactions between research and industry, driving the emergence of a national industry in the field of hearing and contributing to European industrial efforts;
  • Communicating knowledge to the scientific community, the community of healthcare professionals (doctors, hearing aid specialits, speech therapists, etc.), associations for the hearing impaired and the general public.

This is a pioneering, forward-looking project that bring together scientists, research officers, doctors, innovators, industrial partners, associations and patients, to improve the acoustic environment and the management of hearing impairment.

An "off-site" Institut Pasteur campus for all teams working in the field

The Hearing Institute will eventually houses 10 research teams, representing a total of up to 130 people, in a building close to the Institut de la Vision in Central Paris. This physical proximity of the two institutes will facilitate progress in research on multisensory integration and combined hearing and visual impairments, such as Usher syndrome.

The City of Paris is a partner in this project and was instrumental in the acquisition and refurbishment of the building, in particular.

The teams will move to the new site in late 2019 and early 2020

Façade de l'Institut de l'Audition - VIB architecture, Institut Pasteur


Organisation - Institut pour l'Audition - Institut Pasteur - (c) Adobe Stock

Research teams from several public research institutions 

The scientific teams will be affiliated with the Neuroscience Department of Institut Pasteur. The Hearing Institute is a joint Institut Pasteur-INSERM research unit.The teams consists of scientific staff from the Institut Pasteur, INSERM and the CNRS.

The Hearing Institute includes a Center for Research and Innovation in Human Audiology (CERIAH), which develops innovative diagnostic methods. This center collaborates with the ENT departments of AP-HP (the Parisian public hospital network, and with university hospitals elsewhere in France (including Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand in particular and also Bordeaux), and other hearing health professionals, especially hearing aid specialists.

Public-private partnerships with biotech companies are being developed with the aim of providing a new impetus to this industrial sector.

The Institut Pasteur, a non-profit foundation with recognized charitable status set up by Louis Pasteur in 1887, is today an internationally renowned center for biomedical research, at the heart of network of 32 institutes worldwide. In the pursuit of its mission to prevent and control diseases in France and throughout the world, the Institut Pasteur operates in four main areas: research, public health, education and training, and the development of research applications.

Since the 1960s, the Institut Pasteur has been home to internationally renowned neuroscience research teams, whose discoveries have had a major impact in the field of hearing. Over the last 25 years, the Institut Pasteur teams working specifically on hearing have been led by Professor Christine Petit, Head of the Genetics & Physiology of Hearing Unit and Professor at the Collège de France. Professor Petit is the first Director of the Hearing Institute.


The Fondation Pour l'Audition, a foundation with recognized charitable status established in 2015, was set up to pool talent with the aim of advancing research on hearing and improving the daily lives of those with hearing loss. The foundation has two main missions: to support research and innovation paving the way for novel approaches and progress in hearing health, and to engage the general public through prevention and awareness campaigns with the aim of protecting and preserving hearing.


Jeune garçon

See the disease fact sheet about hearing disabilities
(only in French for the moment)



Back to top