The Hearing and Balance Center at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles offers every aspect of care from diagnosis and treatment to assistive training and physical therapy for a variety of ear conditions. From ear infections to dizziness and complete hearing loss, our specialists develop customized treatments, both nonsurgical and surgical, to help improve communication and restore equilibrium to our patients’ lives.
With access to some of the latest semi-implantable and implantable technologies, such as the cochlear implant and the osseointegrated implant (The Baha System), we are able to help patients who do not benefit from traditional hearing aids because these specialized systems are able to access the hearing pathway and provide sound in a way that a hearing aid cannot. The ability to fit and tune a listening device for a patient’s particular need calls for advanced technology, but, more importantly, a high level of experience. Our leading audiologists optimally fit and tune devices to address a wide spectrum of types of hearing loss.
The center also has one of the most advanced balance rehabilitation programs in the world. When neurological or inner ear problems give rise to balance disorders, such as dizziness or disequilibrium, our physical therapists are skilled in diagnosing the source of the balance problem and can prescribe exercises that strengthen the core balance of patients, often reducing the need for surgery or heavy medication.
Our experts also offer a unique and comprehensive approach to treating children with hearing loss at the USC Caruso Family Center for Childhood Communication.
Offering a complete range of treatment options, we provide a tailored approach for our patients. We work closely with our neurosurgery, neurology, internal medicine and physical therapy departments to find the best options for each patient we see. Providing this truly personalized care begins with an accurate diagnosis. We use the results of a physical examination to inform the right combination of genetic and sophisticated electro-physiologic tests. This personalization allows us to design an approach specific to our patients’ needs and lifestyle.
We are driven by our respect for the power of human connection. As all stages of human development are highly reliant on social connections, the team strives to ensure that patients are able to communicate effectively with their families, friends and coworkers by offering them the latest in technological advancements generally unavailable elsewhere. This respect informs our philosophy of care; we stress open lines of communication across specialties to deliver the best patient experience possible.
How sound is heard
- Sound waves that enter the external ear are amplified by the eardrum (tympanic membrane). Three small bones (incus, malleus, and stapes) transmit the sound vibrations to fluid in three tubes (cochlear duct, scala tympani, and scala vestibuli). Fluid motion is converted to the nerve impulses that travel along the cochlear nerve to the brain. Hair cells in the cochlea convert the motion of fluid in the inner ear into impulses.
The Basics: The Eardrum, Middle Ear, and Mastoid
The eardrum is a cone-shaped, thin membrane located at the end of the external canal. The middle-ear chamber, an air space that lies behind the eardrum, contains the ossicles, three tiny bones involved in hearing: the hammer, also called the malleus; the stirrup, also called the stapes; and the anvil, also called the incus. The hammer is connected to the eardrum; the stirrup-shaped bone is connected to the inner ear; and the anvil connects the hammer to the stirrup. They form a bony chain that conducts sound waves from the eardrum to the hearing portion of the inner ear, amplifying the sound by a factor of almost 30. The lining of the middle-ear chamber is similar to the tissue lining the nose and produces a mucus-like fluid; normally, the fluid drains from the middle ear down the eustachin tube into the back of the throat. Blockage of the eustachian tube can cause fluid to build up and become infected. This tube also provides a means to equalize the pressure in the middle-ear chamber with that of the external environment. For example, ear popping, which often happens when flying in an airplane, is due to pressure changes mediated by the eustachian tube. The chamber also communicates with the mastoids, a bony cavity behind the ear perforated throughout with air chambers.
To examine the eardrum, the doctor uses an otoscope.
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