Clinician-investigator Dr. Matthew Carlson in the surgical suite

Otology, neurotology and lateral skull base surgery research drives improvements in interdisciplinary treatment of tumors that affect hearing.

Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery

Otology, neurotology and lateral skull base surgery research into hearing disorders in the Mayo Clinic Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery is centered on three concepts:

  • Hearing preservation
  • Hearing restoration
  • Auditory rehabilitation

Incremental advances in the understanding of the molecular and physiologic basis for hearing loss — gained through basic science research and clinical studies — have led to new and improved therapeutic options for patients. These advances are made possible through close collaboration with expert colleagues in areas including:

  • Audiology
  • Behavioral neurotology
  • Clinical genetics
  • Internal medicine
  • Neurology
  • Neurophysiology
  • Radiology

Primary focus areas include vestibular schwannoma, cochlear implantation and molecular genetics pertaining to sensorineural hearing loss.

Vestibular schwannoma

Mayo Clinic head and neck surgeons in the operating room

Researchers in the Mayo Clinic Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery's Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery are finding the best ways to treat vestibular schwannomas, which often negatively affect hearing, balance, facial nerve function and quality of life. Clinical studies are underway to discern which clinical presentations may be best suited to the current treatment options of observation, stereotactic radiotherapy or surgery.

Researchers are also developing systemic medical therapies for people with neurofibromatosis 2-associated vestibular schwannomas in whom standard therapies have failed. Identifying targeted therapies that stop the growth of vestibular schwannoma cells in the laboratory may help decide which therapies to advance into the clinical setting.

Related publications:

Hearing rehabilitation

Clinician viewing hearing data on computer monitor

If clinicians are unable to preserve or restore patients' hearing, then they must consider hearing rehabilitation options, including:

  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implants
  • Brainstem implants
  • Hybrid devices — a combination of a cochlear implant and conventional hearing aid

With regard to cochlear implantation, researchers have directed significant effort to hearing preservation. These efforts include using novel surgical techniques and methods to monitor residual hearing during cochlear implantation, evaluating implantation in very young patients to improve overall performance, and developing methods to streamline cochlear implant care.

Mayo's cochlear implant team is well established and — under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight — is investigating the most advanced devices available. This research is conducted in close collaboration with the Division of Audiology.

Related publications: