Hearing Research

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Hearing Research

If you suffer from hearing loss, you are likely to wonder what  hearing research is being done by medical science.   And how is hearing research being conducted?

The hearing organ and complex nerves that allow one to hear are located deep inside the brain.  While imaging techniques such as MRI’s and CT scans are helpful to view structures for abnormalities, they are less helpful to study the  “process” of hearing.  The only way to really explore and investigate causes behind hearing loss are to dissect the hearing organ from the brain. This cannot be performed on a living person.

National Temporal Bone Registry

Research into the causes of these disorders is the only pathway to cures and improved quality of life for those millions of men, women and children who must now live with hearing loss and constant dizziness.

Fortunately, the National Temporal Bone Registry is a group of dedicated hearing and balance researchers who spend their time studying hearing loss through donations of hearing structures from deceased individuals.     Using  donation paperwork completed while one is still living, a donor card or bracelet is provided to wear that identifies one has agreed to donate hearing organs in cases of accidental or natural death.    registry

What Part of The Anatomy Is Removed?

You can see in this simple diagram the part of the anatomy that is removed from the deceased donor. From this illustration, one can understand  why research on living patients is so difficult.

temporal bone


The mechanisms used to enable hearing and maintain balanced coordination are located deep within the skull, protected by the temporal bones of the skull. These body parts are an important component in the on-going research into the causes of hearing loss and balance disorders.

Only a small portion of the temporal bone, along with the hearing mechanism are removed at death. Their removal does not, in any way, affect the appearance of the donor’s face, outer ear or head..

How Is The Hearing Research Used?

Millions of people experience hearing loss brought on by a number of factors.

One type of hearing loss is called conductive hearing loss that’s caused by problems in the middle or outer ear. CHL can be caused by anything from an accident to otosclerosis, a condition that affects the tiny middle ear bones.

Many times, thanks to on-going research, conductive hearing loss can be helped with medical intervention or through the use of a hearing aid. Though common, conductive hearing loss is still not completely understood or treatable. So, research continues and improvements in individual hearing are measured.

A second type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss, more commonly called nerve deafness. Nerve deafness is most commonly associated with aging, excessive noise exposure and unlucky genetics.

How do I enroll in the National Temporal Bone Donor Program?

Visit the National Temporal Bone Registry (www.tbregistry.org) and download the simple submission form consenting to become a donor. You can also contact the National Temporal Bone Registry using the contact information below.

Forms to register will be sent to you for completion and you’ve done your good deed for the day.

For more information:

24-hour hotline (800) 822-1327 (voice)
TTY line: (800) 439-0183
Fax: (617) 573-3838
Email: [email protected]

Write to them at:

The NIDCD National Temporal Bone Registry
Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary
243 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114-3096

Source: edited from the article The National Temporal Bone Registry: Give the Gift of Hearing (March 2009), www.healthhearing.com