Hearing and Balance Center

The Allegheny General Hospital Hearing and Balance Center

Very few facilities in the country concentrate on the comprehensive treatment of hearing, balance, and other ear disorders. Because hearing and balance disorders are common at all ages, often striking during the most productive years of life, we recognize the need for collaborative treatment under one roof. For those affected we have good news: advanced medical treatment is available and in most cases a patient’s function can be fully restored.

The center is committed to providing patients with an academically based, cost-effective, thorough level of care. Because we are part of an academic health center, patients have access to a broad spectrum of specialty medical and surgical services, as well as physicians who are skilled and experienced in their respective fields.

Our team

The Hearing and Balance Center unites the efforts of several specialists to recognize the growing number of people suffering from these disorders. Our team consists of a specialized group of practitioners in the fields of otology, audiology, neurology, physical therapy, head and neck surgery, internal medicine, neurosurgery, neuroradiology and psychology.

The team is led by Douglas A. Chen, MD, FACS, and Todd Hillman, MD, co-directors of the Hearing and Balance Center.

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.

Diagnostic testing at the Hearing and Balance Center

Modern technological advancements at the Hearing and Balance Center include a broad array of diagnostic testing equipment. Among the many tests offered are audiograms for determining basic hearing ability and word recognition; middle ear analysis for evaluating the mechanical functioning of the eardrum and bones of the middle ear; and special tests to identify abnormalities in the hearing pathway.

These tests are most helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of neural hearing loss; eardrum or middle ear bone problems; acoustic tumors; multiple sclerosis; central auditory processing abnormalities and Meniere’s disease, which is a relatively common, disabling ear disorder characterized by severe attacks of dizziness, ringing in the ears and hearing loss.

The center also provides comprehensive evaluation of patients with dizziness, loss of equilibrium, and other balance or vestibular disorders. These tests include:

  • Ocular motor screening and positional testing:  We use visual stimuli and computer analysis to evaluate the patient’s eye movement and control system. Responses indicate imbalances that may point to balance problems.
  • Caloric testing:  The patient’s inner ear is stimulated with warm and cold water while recording their eye movement.
  • Rotational testing:  The patient sits in a rotating chair while their eye movements are recorded by a computer. Because rotation naturally stimulates the inner ear, the results help physicians determine how the central nervous system processes information.
  • Posturography testing:  The patient stands on a computer-controlled moving platform to evaluate the effects on their sight, body movement and balance.
  • Vestibular autorotation test (VAT):  The patient wears a lightweight apparatus on their head, which is connected to a physician’s computer. The patient focuses on a target and moves their head from side to side, comparing eye movement to head motion. In just 18 seconds, the physician has enough information about the patient’s balance reflex system to make a thorough diagnosis of their condition. The VAT is also portable and may be taken directly to the patient for convenient, cost-effective screening.