Peter S. Steyger, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, School of Medicine
  • Professor, Oregon Hearing Research Center, School of Medicine
  • Affiliate Investigator, National Center for Research in Auditory Rehabilitation, VA Portland Health Care System



Peter Steyger received an honors degree in zoology at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. In 1986, Peter entered the neuroscience PhD program at Keele University where he studied cochlear anatomy and ototoxicity under the mentorship of Carole Hackney and David Furness. After graduating in 1991, he did postdoctoral rotations with Michael Wiederhold (development of otoconia in the vestibular system) in San Antonio, Texas, and with Richard Baird (vestibular hair-cell functional anatomy and regeneration) in Portland, Oregon. In 1997, he joined the Oregon Hearing Research Center at OHSU as an assistant professor, rising through the ranks to Professor in 2013.

Summary of Current Research

The inner ear contains the cochlea which is responsible for transforming sound into electrical stimuli for interpretation by the brain (see the video below).  The inner ear is protected by a blood-labyrinth barrier to exclude from blood-borne cells, proteins and most cytotoxic compounds, akin to the blood-brain barrier.  However, drugs that are specifically toxic to the inner ear are trafficked across the blood-labyrinth barrier into the cochlea by one or more molecular mechanisms, particularly in the metabolically active stria vascularis.  These drugs include:a) aminoglycoside antibiotics, like gentamicin or tobramycin, are essential for treating life-threatening bacterial infections like meningitis, and respiratory infections associated with cystic fibrosis, respectively; andb) anti-cancer drugs, particularly platinum-based drugs like cisplatin.

We investigate the molecular mechanisms by which intra-vascular ototoxic drugs cross the blood-labyrinth barrier and into the cochlear fluids, and enter sensory hair cells to exert their cytotoxic effects to induce permanent hearing loss and deafness. 

Areas of interest

  • Ototoxicity
  • Aminoglycosides
  • Platinum-based drugs
  • Drug trafficking
  • Blood-labyrinth barrier
  • Cellular uptake
  • Clearance of drugs


Selected publications

  • Dai CF, Steyger PS (2008) A systemic gentamicin pathway across the stria vascularis. Hear Res 235, 114-124. PMID: 18082985 PMCID: PMC27035932.
  • Li H, Steyger PS (2011) Systemic aminoglycosides are trafficked via endolymph into hair cells. Sci Rep 1, 159. PMID: 22355674 PMCID: PMC32409913.
  • Brock P,…, Steyger PS, et al. (2012) Platinum-induced ototoxicity in children: a consensus review on mechanisms, predisposition and protection including a new SIOP Boston Ototoxicity Scale. J Clin Oncol 30(19) 2408-2417.


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