Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center

Mission & History

Mission Statement

The Center’s missions are the discovery of new fundamental knowledge about hearing and balance and disorders of hearing and balance, and the application of these findings toward improved diagnostic methods and therapies. The Center envisions the University of Washington as a premiere institution in the quest to conquer deafness and disequilibrium by prevention and by restoring hearing and balance through repair and regeneration. This vision is based on past performance, work in progress, and long range planning for research in the molecular and genetic mechanisms that control the development, function, and regeneration of the audiovestibular systems as well as behavioral, clinical and rehabilitative studies of those systems. The Center values the innovative pursuit of knowledge, rigorous scientific integrity, and classical scholarship in a collegial environment characterized by teamwork, information sharing, and mutual respect. The Center’s mission is carried out through multidisciplinary fundamental and clinical research, research training, information dissemination to the professions, and public education.

  • Virginia Merrill Bloedel



In 1988 a multi-million dollar competitive award from the National Institutes of Health was awarded to the University of Washington specifically to fund hearing and auditory research. One of the eight senior investigators whose work was propelled by this grant, Dr. Edwin Rubel, had made the astonishing discovery that chickens regenerate the hair cells that are essential to hearing. As humans are not able to do this, hope for the regeneration of hearing was sparked. When a newspaper article about Dr. Rubel’s hair cell regeneration work appeared, local philanthropist Prentice Bloedel was intrigued. Virginia Merrill Bloedel, Mr. Bloedel’s wife, had been the victim of progressive hearing loss until her death in 1989. The Bloedels, while not hopeful of a cure for Mrs. Bloedel, wanted to advance research for the sake of other hearing-impaired people. The endowment that they were inspired to make created what is now the Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center. They knew that the University of Washington would provide fertile ground for the research center that they so generously and unselfishly funded.

From the Center’s inception in 1989 until 1995, it existed in name only. In 1995, the Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center found a physical home along the shore of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, next to the University of Washington Medical Center.

Today, our researchers are able to work together and share ideas, not only with each other but also with research partners around the world. Much more than a physical workspace, the Bloedel Center has evolved as a source of information for those coping with hearing loss, disequilibrium and communication problems. The Center also fosters scientific research exchanges and continuing education for scientists and students through such programs as the Traveling Scientist exchange, the SHACS (Seminars in Hearing and Communication Science) lecture series, and more.