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Expanded Hearing and Balance Center Opens at Allegheny General Hospital Offers Advanced Care for Hearing and Balance Disorders
By Kevin Brown

Douglas A. Chen, MD, FACSIf you experience dizziness and balance problems, you are not alone. More than four out of ten Americans will, sometime in their lives, experience an episode of dizziness significant enough to send them to a doctor, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD).

Allegheny General Hospital recently opened an expanded Hearing and Balance Center on the fourth floor of the hospital's East Wing. Led by Pittsburgh Ear Associates physicians Douglas A. Chen, MD, FACS, and Todd Hillman, MD, the new center offers advanced diagnosis and treatment of dizziness and balance disorders, along with hearing loss.

The Hearing and Balance Center brings together a multi-disciplinary team to recognize the growing number of people suffering from these disorders. The team includes practitioners in otology, audiology, neurology, physical therapy, head and neck surgery, internal medicine, neurosurgery, neuroradiology and psychology.

Dr. Chen specializes in otolaryngology and is board-certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology in Neurotology. He is also a fellow of both the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Hillman also specializes in otolaryngology and is board-certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology in Otology and Neurotology.

"Dizziness and balance disorders are very common," said Dr. Chen. "With these newer technologies in diagnostic testing, we have the ability to comprehensively assess a greater number of patients in order to pinpoint what is contributing to their symptoms, and then create individualized treatment plans to help resolve the problem and improve their quality of life."

Todd Hillman, MDOne of those new technologies is a rotational chair diagnostic procedure that evaluates both the brain balance center and the inner ear. The advanced technology incorporates subjective visual vertical (SVV) and off-axis assessments that allow for more comprehensive evaluation of the inner ear than what is available with conventional techniques.

For patients who might become nauseated or feel claustrophobic during rotational chair testing, a combination of the active head rotation (AHR) test, otherwise known as the head shake vestibular test, and VHIT (video head impulse test) is used. The VHIT allows for a quick and comprehensive examination of all semi-circular ear canals, whereas only the horizontal canal could previously be assessed.

The Center also specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss, eardrum or middle ear bone problems, acoustic tumors, multiple sclerosis, central auditory processing abnormalities, and Ménière's disease, which is a relatively common, disabling ear disorder characterized by severe attacks of dizziness, ringing in the ears and hearing loss.

According to the NIDCD, approximately 15 percent of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Further, nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.

The Center offers a variety of hearing aids and makes recommendations based on patients' needs and overall health. They even have a new type of "invisible" hearing aid, the Lyric from Phonak, that is inserted deep inside the ear and is called the "contact lens for the ear."

"The bottom line is that you don't have to live with hearing loss," said Dr. Hillman. "There's something than can be done for nearly every patient out there."

For more information on the new Hearing and Balance Center at Allegheny General Hospital, visit www.ahn.org, or call 412-DOCTORS.

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