Why are these three systems grouped together? The answer is location. The facial (VII cranial) nerve extends from the base of the skull, courses through the temporal bone and comes in proximity to the inner ear and the vestibuloauditory (hearing and balance) nerve, or VIII cranial nerve. The facial nerve then passes through the salivary gland, and divides and connects to facial muscles, the tear gland, and the tongue.
The inner ear includes both the organ for hearing (auditory) and for balance (vestibular). Because a small bit of common ground in the temporal bone is shared by these three systems, when something happens to one the other two could be at risk.
Facial nerve disorders do not occur as frequently as hearing and balance disorders. In fact, vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus are common complaints of men and women of all ages. Often striking during the most productive years of life, the disorders typically worsen with age. Severity of symptoms may range from minor to catastrophic and incapacitating limitations in function. Despite their frequency and potential for severity, hearing and balance disorders are usually subjective in nature and not life-threatening.
While patients who suffer from hearing loss, tinnitus, or disequilibrium continue to present a challenge to the medical profession, new technological and medical advances permit many patients to be successfully evaluated and treated.
UT Southwestern physicians are highly respected for their skill in diagnosing and treating hearing, balance, and facial disorders. We use a team approach to address your specific conditions to get you back to good health.