Regenerating Inner Ear Hair Cells

hair_cell_tipStudy on inner ear hair cells – Noted, and fairly close by, research institution Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has announced a research project aimed at regenerating inner ear hair cells. As we all know from reading the CDC article mentioned above, the inner ear has a series of nerve endings that float in the inner ear fluid. When sound energy strikes the inner ear fluid, the fluid sloshes around and forces the hair cells at the tips of these nerve endings to vibrate rhythmically. This hair cell motion then triggers nerve activity that eventually reaches the hearing centers in the brain and is interpreted as sound. In patients with hearing loss, either from noise damage, inherited factors, or other medical factors, these hair cells break and are rendered non-functional and cannot be replaced in humans. We are born with a set amount of these cells and our bodies are unable to spontaneously grow new ones.

Neuroscientists have been toiling for years in laboratories trying to re-grow these hair cells, and they feel they are getting close. Talk about exciting developments! If they can get this to work, then we may finally have the medical therapy for nerve related hearing loss that we have been hoping for.

Johns Hopkins is now looking for volunteers that meet certain criteria to undergo treatment with a single dose of a new nerve growth factor in an attempt to make inner ear hair cell regeneration a reality. Please visit the link below to see if you may be a candidate. No need to contact AOP. You can just contact Johns Hopkins directly. Believe me when I say that this could be BIG!


Current Newsworthy Items


Lately I have been bombarded with hearing and ear related news items. Weird.  While hearing issues make the news occasionally, it is rare to hear so many things to surface in such quick succession.  I feel overloaded and have to pass these items along to my patients and other readers.  These items are all from reputable sources, and remember, there is a lot of information circulating on the internet related to a whole host of issues.  Please be careful when evaluating the source of any internet information that you encounter.

CDC Vital Signs – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is an organization that looks out for the health of our nation. They produce regular online features that highlight medical issues that require more public attention. For February 2017, their online article was entitled “Too Loud! For Too Long.”  The article reviews noise exposure hearing loss among US adults.

Facts included are that about 40 million, (yes, million) US adults have some degree of noise induced hearing loss, and half of them do not work in a noisy environment. They can be as young as 20 years old, and 1 out of 4 are not aware of the loss and report excellent to good hearing when asked. This hearing loss is linked to a myriad of medical problems including stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Please visit the link below to the CDC for the complete article.

Bottom line – We need to be aware of the noise that is all around us. Our world is noisy, and we need to wear proper noise protection; especially when participating in noisy activities such as yard work, running power tools, and going to music concerts. Remember, when the inner ear is damaged due to loud noise, the hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing) most often become permanent and irreversible.

New York Times Health – February 3, 2017 – The NYT health section featured a short article on the topic of misophonia. This is an uncommon disorder, and the rate of misophonia remains unknown, as it was just recently recognized. Basically it refers to the anger, anxiety, or panic that can be triggered in some people when exposed to normal everyday sounds: for instance, chewing, soup slurping, or nose sniffling. These sounds become unbearable for those who suffer from this disorder.

Researchers in Britain used MRI studies to evaluate the brains of those suffering from misophonia and compared them to MRIs of normal brains. The brains of misophonia sufferers showed a much greater level of activity in the areas that process both emotions and memories. This had lead investigators to believe that these patients are experiencing emotional distress triggered by a distant and previously hidden association or memory. Interestingly, many misophonia sufferers begin noting symptoms in early adolescence.

With this new information in hand, researchers are beginning to investigate treatment options based upon well described techniques of bio-feedback. If this sounds like you or someone you know, it sounds like there is treatment coming. Stay hopeful, and visit the link for the full article.

Thank you for continuing to read our blog. I hope that you found the above information useful and interesting!  Check back with us periodically, and we will continue to post information that you will enjoy.

Happy hearing!

Jon Isaacson, MD

Suffering from vertigo?

Does Steve Buscemi make you dizzy?  If so, you might be suffering from vertigo…JUST KIDDING.  We just wanted to mess with you!


Have you or a loved one ever had any issues with dizziness, a spinning/floating sensation, feeling as if you were going to fall over while standing or walking, etc.? If you answered yes to any of the previously listed symptoms, then it could be indicative of a balance system issue. Our balance system is a complex system that is located within our inner ear. This system relies on different sensory inputs, the integration of these inputs and then the necessary motor outputs to successfully maintain our balance. At our practice, we have trained physicians and audiologists that specialize in the balance system and balance testing.

The test used to evaluate the balance system is called a Videonystagmography (VNG). This test is made up of a series of subtests that are all used to determine if there is a problem in the inner ear that may be causing balance issues. The entire test usually takes about an hour and the testing is performed in the dark. Infrared goggles are placed over the patient’s eyes and eye movements are monitored throughout testing. During the first part of testing, the patient is asked to follow a light that will be on a light bar in front of them. This information is used to evaluate how quickly, accurately and symmetrically the eyes work during each task. Next we will evaluate eye movements while the patient’s head and body are being placed or moved into different positions on a table. Depending on the movement, a specific area of the balance system is being evaluated. Lastly, we directly stimulate the inner ear through air stimulation. This is helpful in determining if the balance system is reacting to stimulation properly. It also allows us to evaluate the balance system unilaterally and bilaterally.

We know there can be many reasons as to why an individual is having issues with their balance. Our job is to determine if the patient’s balance issues stem from an inner ear problem. If you have any further questions and/or wish to make an appointment regarding any balance issues, please give us a call today!


What is an Otologist?


Otology and neurotology are names for the medical and surgical specialty focusing on disorders of the ear, hearing, and balance.

My name is Dr. Jon Isaacson, that is what I do, and ears are what I specialize in. When I am in the office, I evaluate adult patients with problems like ear pain, ear infections, ear drum perforations, hearing loss, tinnitus, and dizziness. Some of these problems are straight forward and can be treated in one or two visits. Some are complex, and require further testing. Patients may require hearing testing, balance testing, and sometimes imaging like CT or MRI. This can be a lengthy process.

When I am in the operating room, I am trying to improve lives with surgery. I may be improving someone’s hearing, repairing a torn ear drum, or removing a tumor. One of the most rewarding procedures that I do is place a cochlear implant into the ear with severe to profound hearing loss. People receiving implants often regain a large portion of their hearing. This can be life changing, and it is one of the most special things that I do.  If you have issues with your ears, and want to see an expert, then you may want to see me.

Ears are all I do.


What is an Audiologist?


What is an Audiologist?

“What?” This is the usual response I get when I tell people that I am an audiologist.  I spend my days helping people who have difficulty hearing, and often they didn’t catch what I said.  Sometimes a joker will cup their hand around their ear and say, “What?’, and I hate to admit that I still fall for it.  For the most part, people do not know what audiologists do.

If you have any difficulty hearing, it would be appropriate to see an audiologist. Almost every hearing loss can be helped in some way, and seeing an audiologist is the first step you need to take to ensure proper treatment.

The profession of Audiology is dedicated to the diagnosis and non-medical management of hearing loss. We use specialized equipment to accurately measure hearing, as well as figure out which part of the ear is causing the problem.  We prescribe and fit the latest hearing aid technology and work with Cochlear Implants and other implantable devices.  Audiologists refer patients to physicians when a hearing problem needs medical or surgical evaluation.  We also try to prevent hearing loss with hearing protection.  We identify young babies early who need hearing aids and cochlear implants so they can grow up with speech and spoken language.

A doctoral degree or Au.D. is required to enter the field. Becoming a Doctor of Audiology requires four years of graduate study after college in an accredited university.  Some audiologists have Master’s degrees (M.S. or M.A.), which was the entry-level degree for the profession.  Audiologists must be licensed by their state and are required to keep up with new developments.

Audiology is a relatively new profession. It began after WWII through the VA system when many veterans returned home from the war with hearing loss.  Job-outlook statistics forecast “must faster than average” growth in demand for audiologists.  This means that there aren’t enough of us!  Recent rankings consistently list audiology in the top 5 careers for highest work satisfaction, job opportunities, and low stress. It is a great field for young people to consider with jobs in hospitals, medical offices, audiology practices, schools, universities, and industrial and military settings.

We work with people of all ages, from one day old to 100 years old. The oldest patient I have seen was 102 until last week when I saw a 103 year old.  Every day at work I know that I have made a difference in someone’s life.  I love being an audiologist!

Helen Keller was asked whether it was worse to be without sight or without hearing and famously replied, “Blindness separates me from things. Deafness separates me from people.”

Sara Barron, Au.D.




Welcome to our blog!  We would like to start off by introducing ourselves.  We are Associated Otolaryngologists of PA or AOP for short.  We started back in 1999 with three earnest doctors, highly regarded by their peers in their chosen sub-specialties of ENT medicine and surgery.  We now have grown to six physicians, two physician assistants, one speech pathologist, and six audiologists, with two offices in the Greater Harrisburg area.

The audiologists have decided to forge their own identity as the Audiologists and Hearing Aid Professionals of AOP, while remaining an integral part of the medical practice.  Our group is lead by the region’s premier ear specialist, Dr. Jon Isaacson, who completed two clinical fellowships in ear related medicine and surgery.  He works alongside with six accomplished and passionate Doctors of Audiology; Erica Colt, AuD, Kathryn McNamara, AuD, Cathy Swenson, AuD, Sara Barron, AuD, Sandy Rabin, AuD, and Michelle Tewell, AuD.   These professionals form the core of our group by providing extensive diagnostic testing, amplification fittings, and support for all of Dr. Isaacson’s surgical implant patients.  They also support the practices of all the other doctors and physician assistants as well, including the pediatric practice of Dr. Shapiro.

All of the information posted on this site is for anyone interested in learning more about their ears and their hearing.  We will periodically cover medical and surgical issues, as well as social issues, and occasional information that we just think is fun or interesting.

Be sure to stay tuned while we inform and educate the interested public.  Thank you for visiting, and remember that we are total hearing healthcare that you can trust!