In late June, Stanford is scheduled to open the Stanford Ear Institute (SEI) on Watson Court in Palo Alto, sharing a building with the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford. The new center brings together all the physicians, audiologists, hearing device and rehabilitation specialists who have been widely dispersed all over campus into one integrative place.
"The SEI is a joint effort on the part of the adult and children's hospitals to bring together all hearing and balance health care into a single setting," says Robert Jackler, MD, the Edward C. and Amy H. Sewall Professor and Chair of Otorhinolaryngology. "The idea is to create a smoothly integrated pathway for patients to receive all services in one location."
The Stanford Ear Institute will manage the full spectrum of medical and surgical disorders of the ear and its related structures—from ear infections and tinnitus to vertigo/balance problems and profound hearing loss. Stanford has always been very strong at caring for complex issues such as tumors of the ear and the hearing part of the brain, as well as facial nerve disorders and implantable auditory devices such as cochlear implants for people who are totally deaf. But the department is looking to provide a more population-based approach at its new center. "We want to take care of grandparents with hearing loss and babies with ear infections, not only those people with very complicated problems," says Jackler. "We want to provide specialty services to our surrounding community."
The new setting includes six exam rooms and six audiology booths dedicated to adult patients, and an additional six exam and six audiology booths for children. The convenience for patients will be greatly improved, says Jackler, who is also chair, department of otolaryngology-head & neck surgery, and a professor, by courtesy, of neurosurgery and surgery. "It's a soup to nuts integrated center," he says, "where patients can come and get all of their many needs from audiological and medical diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation through the dispensing of devices all in one place." The site will also include a multidisciplinary balance program that offers sophisticated balance testing, along with physical therapy and rehabilitation; and a cochlear implant center for evaluation, device placement and training for patients with hearing loss.
By moving the ear and balance specialties to Watson Court, the department frees up space in its main building at 801 Welch Road to expand its programs in sinus surgery and voice and swallowing and to build a dedicated facial plastics esthetic center.
"The SEI is part of an overall strategy for enabling additional growth in our already very successful otolaryngology clinical programs," says Jackler. "The space released by movement to the Watson court site enables important enhancements here on campus."
It also provides more space to take on long-term clinical research to better understand highly prevalent diseases such as age and noise-related hearing loss, childhood ear infections, congenital deafness and the deterioration of balance that comes with aging, says Jackler. And it will become a key component of the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss, Stanford's large-scale research effort to find biological cures for hearing loss.
"We have world-class research in overcoming hearing loss and deafness through regenerative means," says Jackler. "The importance of building an integrative setting for clinical trials is that there will be a time that the discoveries coming out of our laboratories will be put into place and implemented in humans within our new environment at the Stanford Ear Institute."
By Grace Hammerstrom