Otology & Neurotology

Dr. Lustig looking into a patient's ear

Otology & Neurotology

Columbia Otolaryngology is at the cutting edge of innovative research to improve medical and surgical treatments for ear, hearing, balance, and related skull base disorders. Our scientists and clinicians work side by side to 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 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 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. 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 blockage of sound) and sensorineural (an inner ear or nerve problem). We offer a wide variety of treatments, from hearing aids to cochlear implants.
  • Otosclerosis: Otosclerosis involves 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: This high-pitched ringing in the ears may be the result of hearing loss. The first step to treatment is have a hearing test.

Endoscopic Ear Surgery

Columbia Otolaryngology is pioneering minimally invasive techniques, including endoscopic ear surgery to fix middle ear problems. Because the structures of the ear are so small, surgeons traditionally need to view them with a microscope that is too large to place near the problem area. By contrast, an endoscope is a thin rod with a lens at the tip that can better access small areas, which may result in a less invasive surgery.