Skip to Content

Eric Young, Johns Hopkins hearing research pioneer, dies

February 6, 2024
Eric Young headshot

Eric Young, professor emeritus of biomedical engineering, whose pioneering research in auditory neuroscience spanned decades, died Feb. 3 after a weeks-long illness. He was 78.

Dr. Young joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1975, where he spent the rest of his career and earned joint appointments in the departments of neuroscience and otolaryngology in the school of medicine. He also served as director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hearing and Balance before retiring from the faculty in 2015.

In research that spanned more than 40 years, Dr. Young’s main focus was in understanding the biological basis of common hearing impairments in the brain’s auditory system. In efforts to restore normal representations of sound in the auditory nerve, he led research to design algorithms that mimic sound signals. His research also investigated the wider impact of auditory damage on neural processing in the brain.

“Eric was a giant of auditory neurophysiology who set the stage for fundamental biological questions, groundbreaking discoveries and educational mentorship that deeply influenced many of the field’s current leaders,” says Michael Miller, the Bessie Darling Massey Professor and Director of Biomedical Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University. “Eric’s fundamental research contributions have been key to understanding the basis of hearing impairments caused by sound exposure, environmental toxins and genetic defects that affect millions of people. His absence will be profoundly felt by all of his colleagues, mentees and those who knew him.”

Dr. Young earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering at the California Institute of Technology and his doctorate in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins. He did his postdoctoral studies in auditory neurophysiology at the University of Chicago.

A fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the Acoustical Society of America, Dr. Young published 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and scores of book chapters. He received the Claude Pepper Award from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders and an Award of Merit from the Association for Research in Otolaryngology.

Dr. Young resided in Baltimore and is survived by his wife, Pamela, their sons Brian and Thayer and their spouses, a sister, Sidnie Miller, and several nephews and their families.

He mentored scores of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, including those with hearing loss. As a tribute to this legacy, Dr. Young’s family has asked for donations to a program led by biomedical engineering faculty member Tilak Ratnanather that supports students and postdoctoral fellows who have hearing loss. (Gift fund website; use the drop-down menu ‘Other- please specify,’ and type “IMO E. Young for T. Ratnanather.”)

A memorial service to include Johns Hopkins community members will be held March 2 at 11 a.m. This will be a hybrid meeting for those who cannot attend in person. More details are available here.

Category: Department, Faculty
Associated Faculty: Eric D. Young

Read the Johns Hopkins University privacy statement here.