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Dr. Donald Henderson, expert on hearing loss

Oct. 3, 1938 – Feb. 1, 2017

Donald Henderson, of Amherst, co-founder of the Center for Hearing and Deafness at the University at Buffalo, died Feb. 1 in Buffalo General Medical Center after a long illness. He was 78.

Recognized internationally as an expert in the field of noise-induced hearing loss, he published more than 200 articles and edited a dozen books. He organized conferences and delivered presentations worldwide. He also served as an adviser to many state and federal agencies and was influential as a mentor to scores of doctoral students.

Born in Hamilton, Ont., he attended Western Washington University, where he played football and helped others from his hometown get scholarships to the university. He then spent one season with the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League.

He went on to earn a doctorate in sensory psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, then was a post-doctoral fellow for two years at the Central Institute for the Deaf at Washington University in St. Louis.

In 1968, he was appointed an assistant professor at the SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, where he purchased the university’s first laboratory computer and pioneered in the study of neural discharge patterns. His studies of sound blast waves helped develop federal noise regulations.

He moved his research team in 1980 to University of Texas at Dallas, where he was director of the Callier Center for Communication Disorders and served briefly as acting dean of the School of Human Development.

Joining the UB faculty in 1987, Dr. Henderson was a professor and chairman of the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences. With colleague Richard Salvi, he established the Center for Hearing and Deafness in 1995.

He became a professor emeritus in 2012.

His research centered on how exposure to toxins and noise destroy the cells in the inner ear that transmit sound to the brain. His research group was the first to show that noise exposure increases the level of destructive oxygen-free radicals. As a result, several patents have been developed to prevent or reverse hearing loss.

“Don will be remembered as someone full of life and vigor. His glass of wine was always half fun, reflecting his enduring optimism for life,” Salvi said.

He served on committees for the National Institute of Occupation and Health (NIOSH), the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the Committee on Hearing and Bioacoustics.

In 2006, he received the National Research Award from Hofstra University for his contributions to research in hearing science and the Outstanding Hearing Conservationist Award from the National Hearing Conservation Association.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Terri, a retired audiologist; a daughter, Dana; two sons, Aaron and Lee; a sister, June Wilson; and a granddaughter.

A celebration of his life is planned at a later date.

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