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Ear, Nose and Throat

The NIHR is the nation's largest funder of health and care research and provides the people, facilities and technology that enable research to thrive. We work in partnership with the NHS, universities, local government, other research funders (including industry and charities), patients and the public to improve the health and wealth of the nation.    
The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) supported 76 ear, nose and throat studies, 37 of which were new studies and recruited 2,642 patients to studies last year (2019/20).

Hearing Aids for Music

One in six of the UK adult population is affected by hearing loss, and an estimated two million people wear hearing aids.  Listening to music using a hearing aid can sometimes be difficult for users. The Hearing Aids for Music project comprised a number of studies exploring the music listening behaviour of people with hearing impairments in the UK, and has provided a range of resources for audiologists and users to improve their experience.

Read the full case study


Otitis media with effusion, also known as glue ear, is a very common condition, especially in young children. Glue ear usually gets better by itself, but in thousands of children each year it can cause hearing loss, which can lead to further problems such as difficulty with learning and speech development. If hearing loss lasts longer than three months, children are often offered a grommet operation and sometimes a hearing aid.

Some research studies have found that taking a prescribed steroid medication for a short period seems to result in glue ear getting better in some children. However, the studies that have been done so far have been small, have mostly not measured the effect on hearing and learning, and have not measured how long any effects last. If treatment with an oral steroid does improve hearing then it is likely that some children can avoid having an operation or needing to wear a hearing aid. 

The Oral STeroids for Resolution of otitis media with effusion In CHildren (OSTRICH) study aims to provide more definite measurements, recruiting 380 children aged between two to eight years who have glue ear for at least three months.

Applying new technologies to infant audiometry

Finding out whether an adult can hear something can often be as straightforward as simply asking them. Getting the same information from an infant is considerably less straightforward. However, obtaining information about an infant’s ability to detect and discriminate between sounds is crucial when making treatment management decisions. 

Researchers at the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre are combining automatic facial recognition, head tracking, and eye tracking, along with state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms, to detect when an infant hears a sound. 

If differences can be reliably detected between responses that occur when infants do or don’t hear sounds, or when they hear differences between sounds, then this approach could be used to predict a wide range of clinically-relevant responses in individual infants. Such a system would provide hugely valuable insights into infants’ hearing very efficiently, cheaply, and quickly. 

Cochlear implants in single-sided deafness

Researchers at the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre are examining the benefits of cochlear implantation in individuals who have acquired a profound deafness in one ear but still have access to some residual hearing in the other ear.

Residual hearing can provide cues that are important for the perception of pitch, for spatial hearing, and for listening to speech in noisy environments. There is a need to evaluate the extent to which acoustic information from the ear with residual hearing can be combined with information from a cochlear implant.

The researchers are leading the first UK clinical trial examining the effectiveness of cochlear implantation in individuals with a single-sided deafness. The trial will study the changes in their listening abilities and in their quality of life to determine whether cochlear implantation may be a potential treatment for these patients who have very well-preserved hearing in their non-impaired ear.

Find an ear, nose and throat study in your area 

You can find out more about Ear, Nose and Throat studies in your area through Be Part of Research website.

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) provides researchers with the practical support they need to make clinical studies happen in the NHS. We provide world-class health service infrastructure - research support staff such as clinical research nurses, and research support services such as pharmacy, pathology and radiology - to support organisations seeking to conduct clinical research in the NHS in England. Some of this research is funded by the NIHR, but most of it is funded by NHS non-commercial partners and industry.

We support the set up and delivery of clinical research in the NHS through our Study Support Service and our Research Design Service helps researchers develop proposals to secure funding from our research programmes.

The CRN Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialty is one of 30 specialties that bring together communities of clinical practice to provide national networks of research expertise. Our membership is made up of research-interested clinicians and practitioners at both national and local levels. Our role is to ensure that the ENT studies included in our national portfolio of research receive the right support to ensure they are delivered successfully in the NHS - to time and target.

The ENT Specialty supports a UK portfolio of research into the diagnosis, treatment, management and therapy of ENT disorders. Its remit includes the normal development, function and diseases of the ear, nose and throat and related aspects of hearing, balance, smell and speech.

National Ear, Nose and Throat Clinical Specialty Leads

Each of our 15 Local Clinical Research Networks has at least one nominated local Clinical Specialty Research Lead for ENT. These clinicians lead research groups to promote and support ENT research within the NHS trusts in their area.

At a national level the local leads come together to manage the national ENT clinical research portfolio. This involves regularly reviewing the progress of studies, identifying barriers to recruitment, and coming up with solutions and strategies to help overcome those barriers. Our National Specialty Group of clinical experts offer advice and support to commercial and non-commercial customers looking to conduct research in the NHS.

Key achievements of the CRN Ear, Nose and Throat Specialty include:

  • World leading in trials of novel drug therapies for hearing loss
  • Continual increase in the recruitment of ENT patients to all studies and specifically to Randomised Controlled Trials and intervention studies
  • Growth in the portfolio of ENT studies year on year covering the full spectrum of ENT diseases
  • NHS patients now have more opportunities to access treatment advances because studies are available nationally

The ENT specialty supports a wide range of research studies, including studies involving Otology, Neurotology/Skull Base Surgery, Rhinology, Head and Neck including Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery, and Laryngology. Research interests also cover a broad spectrum of conditions, including otitis media, auditory neuroscience, head and neck cancer, rhinology, paediatric ENT and skull base surgery. We provide help and guidance for portfolio inclusion, encourage patient and public involvement, provide links into other ENT Networks, work with the life sciences industry and raise the profile of ENT research.

Our portfolio includes studies on:

  • Genetic factors involved in ENT diseases
  • Treatment and management of voice problems
  • Head and neck cancer research (in close liaison with the NIHR National Cancer Research Network)
  • Multisensory pathologies and sensory interactions
  • Brain plasticity, particularly with cochlear implants and hearing aids
  • Management and treatment of olfactory problems
  • ENT procedures and behaviour and the use of cognitive behavioural therapies
  • Diseases of the throat and other oral problems
  • The use of evoked responses in diagnosis and in threshold estimation
  • The nature of tinnitus and its management

Ear, Nose and Throat specialty profile

The Ear, Nose and Throat specialty profile gives an overview of our offer to the Life Science industry.

The NIHR Clinical Research Network Ear, Nose and Throat National Specialty Group works closely with these organisations in integrating clinical research into NHS clinical service provision, in supporting the aims of GENERATE, and in driving priority setting that encourages research that will have the greatest impact on patients. 


ENT UK is the professional membership body that represents Ear, Nose and Throat and its related specialities. ENT UK represents over 1,300 medical practitioners including surgeons, trainees and audiologists.

Its objectives are "The advancement for the public benefit of education, training and research in the fields of otorhinolaryngology - head and neck surgery; the relief of patients suffering from diseases in the ear, nose and throat and related areas."

Find out more about ENT UK.


Everyone suffers from ear, nose and throat (ENT) conditions at some stage in their life; all young children have coughs and colds and may suffer from ear infections; when we get older we all lose some of our hearing and balance.

To ensure that patients benefit from the very best treatments in the field, it is important that research is conducted to improve our understanding of ENT conditions and how best to treat them. Doctors and researchers in ENT, Hearing and Balance have therefore worked closely with patients and families to develop an agenda that will guide research in the field for the next 10 years.

Click here to download the Generate Research Agenda

British Academy of Audiology

The BAA are the largest association of professionals in hearing and balance in the UK. Their membership extends internationally and provides services in both the public and private sector.

The BAA aims to help its members to develop in their professional skills, provide a benchmark for quality and professional standards and promote audiology as an autonomous profession.

Find out more about the British Academy of Audiology.

British Society of Audiology

BSA’s main aim is to increase knowledge of hearing and balance and to enhance audiological practice by dissemination and education through its multi-disciplinary approach, with members from all areas of audiology.

Find out more about the British Society of Audiology.

Action on Hearing Loss

Action on Hearing Loss is the new name for RNID. It is working for a world where hearing loss doesn’t limit or label people, where tinnitus is silenced and where people value and look after their hearing.

Find out more about the Action on Hearing Loss.

Otorhinolaryngological Research Society

The Otorhinolaryngological Research Society was formed in 1979 to promote research in ENT. Its membership is open to doctors of all grades in otorhinolaryngology in the UK, and meetings are also open to those from overseas and those in related disciplines.

UCL Ear Institute

The University College London Ear Institute aims to lead the world in understanding hearing and fighting deafness. From human genetics to cognition, biophysics to cell biology and bench to clinic, our interdisciplinary approach ensures that research at the Ear Institute remains at the cutting edge.

Find out more about UCL Ear Institute.

The NIHR provides the support and facilities the NHS needs for first-class research by funding a range of infrastructure.

NIHR Biomedical Research Centres

NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs), partnerships between England’s leading NHS organisations and universities, conduct translational research to transform scientific breakthroughs into life-saving treatments for patients. The following BRCs undertake research in ear, nose and throat conditions:

Work with our infrastructure

All of the NIHR facilities and centres are opening to working with the public, charities, industry and other partners. If you are interested in collaborating with the NIHR please contact the NIHR Office for Clinical Research infrastructure: 

Our experts in the NIHR Clinical Research Network National Specialty Group can give advice on delivering your ear, nose and throat study across health and care settings.

National Specialty Lead

Professor Anne GM Schilder

Professor Anne GM Schilder is an ENT surgeon and trialist. She is based at University College London's Ear Institute and practices Paediatric ENT at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital. She is Joint Coordinating Editor of Cochrane ENT and National Lead of the NIHR Clinical Research Network ENT Specialty. As director of evidENT and the NIHR UCLH Biomedical Research Centre Deafness and Hearing Problems Theme, she leads a programme of translational  research, including an EU Horizon 2020 supported first-in-man trial of a novel drug aimed at restoring hearing in adults with sensorineural hearing loss and an NIHR supported programme of research to establish best management of adults with chronic rhinosinusitis.


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