Otology & Neurotology

Led by one of the nation's leading experts on hearing loss, Columbia Otolaryngology is at the cutting edge of research and innovation on the medical and surgical treatment of ear, hearing, balance, and related skull base disorders. Our scientists and clinicians work side by side (and are sometimes one and the same person) to continually bring our patients the benefits of the latest research, treatments and technological advances.

Otology is the branch of medicine that focuses on diseases and disorders of the ear, including hearing and balance disorders and injuries or diseases of the skull base. A neurotologist provides surgical care to the nerves that connect the ear and brain, which includes treatment of hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness, infectious and inflammatory diseases of the ear, facial nerve disorders, congenital malformations of the ear, and tumors of the ear, hearing nerve, and skull base.

Conditions We Treat

Our specialists treat the full range of diseases of the ear and have pioneered new and better treatments for a variety of conditions. When surgery is necessary, the latest technologies are used, including lasers and minimally invasive endoscopes. Several conditions we treat include:

  • Acoustic Neuroma: The treatment of acoustic neuromas (tumors of the acoustic nerve) is complex and requires a sophisticated and well-coordinated team. Our surgeons are leaders in skull base microsurgery to remove these tumors. Some patients are candidates for radiosurgery, which we also offer.
  • Balance Disorders and Vertigo: Many different problems can result in poor balance, vertigo (the feeling of spinning), or dizziness. Our center can help determine and treat the underlying cause.
  • Cochlear Implants: A cochlear implant is an electronic device that can restore hearing when hearing loss is so great that hearing aids do not work well.
  • Cholesteatoma: A cholesteatoma is a cyst-like skin growth that occurs in an abnormal location, usually in the middle ear behind the eardrum, most commonly in response to repeated infection. Our surgeons are highly skilled in removing these growths and associated infections using sophisticated microsurgery techniques (mastoidectomy). Some patients need repeated surgeries and rebuilding of the bones of the middle ear.
  • Chronic Otitis Media: Our doctors offer treatment for these middle ear infections, including microsurgery when medical approaches are not sufficiently effective for eliminating the infection.
  • Ear Canal Disorders: External ear canal disorders including otitis externa (swimmer’s ear), narrowing of the ear canal (which can cause wax buildup and recurring infections), and tumors.
  • Facial Nerve Disorders: The facial nerve, or the nerve that moves the muscles of the face, travels through the temporal bone and the ear. Neurotologists specialize in the treatment of facial nerve disorders, including Bell’s palsy and nerve tumors.
  • Hearing Loss: Hearing loss can be divided into two types: conductive (a mechanical blockage of sound) and sensorineural (an inner ear or nerve problem). We offer a wide variety of treatments, from hearing aids to implantable devices such as cochlear implants.
  • Otosclerosis: Otosclerosis is characterized by abnormal bone deposits near one of the tiny bones in the middle ear, called the stapes. If a patient with otosclerosis begins experiencing hearing loss, our surgeons perform stapedectomy to remove all or part of the base of the stapes bone and replace it with a microprosthesis. Surgery on the base of the stapes is now performed with a laser, minimizing trauma to the delicate inner ear structures beneath.
  • Perforation of The Eardrum: When the eardrum (tympanic membrane) is perforated due to trauma or chronic infection, it can lead to middle ear infection and hearing loss if it does not heal on its own. Our surgeons perform tympanoplasty, a laser microsurgical technique that uses a patient's own tissues to reconstruct the eardrum.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus, often a high-pitched ringing in the ears, may be the result of hearing loss. The first step is to have a hearing test.

Same-Day Appointments

Columbia Otolaryngology offers same-day appointments with one of our skilled nurse practitioners or physicians assistants at our Harkness Pavilion location. Please call (212) 305-8555 and ask for a same-day appointment.

Endoscopic Ear Surgery

Columbia Otolaryngology is pioneering minimally invasive techniques including endoscopic ear surgery to fix middle ear problems, such as tympanic membrane perforations, conductive hearing loss, and small cholesteatomas. Because the structures of the ear are so small, surgeons traditionally need a microscope to see them better when operating. With a microscope, the lens is located about a foot away from the target. As a result, other structures sometimes get in the way and block the view. To remove the blockage, surgeons sometimes need to make larger incisions or remove blocking bone with a drill. An endoscope is a thin rod that contains a lens at the tip. Unlike the microscope, the lens can be placed under half an inch from the target (about 30 times closer). Instead of making larger incisions or removing bone, the endoscope can simply be slid past obstructions. In certain specific conditions, this may result in a less invasive surgery.

Learn more about endoscopic ear surgery at Columbia.