Ronald Pennings
Ronald Pennings

Ronald Pennings appointed as professor of Otorhinolaryngology

ENT specialist Ronald Pennings has been appointed as professor of Otorhinolaryngology at Radboudumc / Radboud University. His appointment follows his designation as head of the ENT department at Radboudumc. Pennings improves the diagnostics of hearing loss and, together with his team, develops and evaluates new pharmacological treatments for this condition.

It sometimes happens that someone all of a sudden cannot hear well anymore. This is called sudden deafness. The current treatment consists of steroids, but according to ENT specialist Ronald Pennings, there is little evidence for their effectiveness. New drugs are in development, and Pennings is currently testing an innovative medication in a clinical study. This drug aims to tackle damage to the hair cells in the cochlea of the ear by protecting and restoring these cells and the synaptic connections to the auditory nerve. The medication has already been proven safe in a study that was conducted at Radboudumc. Such studies provide valuable experience to also evaluate new genetic therapies for hereditary hearing loss at Radboudumc in the near future, which is the major goal of the Radboudumc expertise center Hearing & Genes.


It is difficult to predict in advance whether such a drug will work. ‘This is because we actually do not yet know the causes of sudden deafness well’, Pennings explains. ‘It is not clear yet what exactly happens in the cochlea with hearing loss, which processes play a role. If we can map this out more clearly, we can better select patients for treatment.’

With his research, Pennings tries to also provide more insight into the functioning of the cochlea in hearing loss. Pennings: ‘On the one hand, we conduct various hearing tests in hearing-impaired individuals, and on the other hand, through genetic research, we try to unravel the biological processes at the molecular level that take place in the cochlea in hearing loss.’


Genetic factors often play a role in deafness. Pennings has already mapped various genes that cause hearing loss. He studies the natural course of hearing loss in people with a specific DNA mutation so that he can better inform new patients with the same mutation about what they can expect. He also evaluates the effects of hearing aids or cochlear implants in these individuals. Genetic therapy is in development for genetic hearing loss. Internationally, the first results of clinical studies are promising. Pennings will set up similar studies at Radboudumc.

Finally, Pennings looks at neonatal hearing screening. This nationally implemented hearing test for babies is already very efficient in identifying children with hearing loss. However, it happens that children who score well on the test develop hearing loss only a few years later. Pennings investigates how often this occurs and how the screening can be further improved.

Network and Career

Ronald Pennings collaborates intensively with various patient associations: Stichting Ushersyndroom, De negende van, and DFNA21 Nederland. For neonatal hearing screening, he is on the national program committee NGS. Additionally, Pennings is chairman of the DOOFNL consortium, a national academic network for the coordination of both patient care and scientific research for the diagnosis of hearing loss.

Pennings studied Medicine at RU and obtained his PhD there in 2004 with his dissertation titled: ‘Hereditary Deaf-Blindness, clinical and genetic aspects.’ Both with honors. Subsequently, he worked as an ENT resident at Radboudumc, CWZ, and Rijnstate. After a fellowship in Otology-Neurotology & Lateral Skull Base Surgery at Dalhousie University in Canada, Pennings started as an ENT specialist at Radboudumc in 2009. Additionally, he is a visiting professor at the Free University in Brussels and has been head of the ENT department at Radboudumc since June 2023. His appointment as professor will commence on July 1, 2024, for a period of five years.

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Prof. R.J.E. Pennings (Ronald)
Health & Healthcare