Are you an organ donor? Many of us are. A small imprint on your driver’s license, a card you carry or bracelet you wear identifies you as a giving, caring being who has agreed to donate organs in case of accidental or natural death.
In most instances, donors can detail precisely which organs they wish to donate. Or, in some cases, the donor leaves these decisions up to the professionals who best understand how to use these precious gifts.
One such organization is the National Temporal Bone, Hearing and Balance Pathology Resource Registry, or the National Temporal Bone Registry for short.
This organization is tasked with maintaining a database of temporal bone donations and donors. Why the temporal bone? What’s so important about this particular part of the human anatomy? Well, it all comes down to hearing and balance – two processes of the body that take place deep inside the ear and the temporal bones that protect the hearing mechanism.
Why Do People Lose Their Hearing?
The hearing mechanism is complex and extremely sensitive. It’s susceptible to injury, disease and advancing age – all of which can take their toll on your ability to hear. But uncovering the reasons why hearing loss occurs is difficult.
Research on living subjects is not always a viable option because of the location of hearing parts and the temporal bone. And because research is difficult if not impossible with living test subjects, research on hearing loss and balance disorders is conducted on temporal bones that have been generously and selflessly donated by individuals who recognized the importance of this vital research.
This is not some obscure medical problem. Hearing loss and balance disorders affect millions of people of all ages. And 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.
Finding cures for hearing loss and balance discorders is difficult but any caring person can help by becoming a registered donor with the National Temporal Bone Registry. You can improve lives tomorrow through your generosity today.
What Part of The Anatomy Is Removed?
|Photo Courtesy:The Registry|
You can see in this simple diagram the part of the anatomy that is removed from the deceased donor. You can also see, from this illustration, why research on living patients is so difficult.
The mechanisms used to enable hearing and maintain balanced coordination are located deep within the skull, protected by the temporal bones of the skull. During life, these temporal bones and hearing mechanism are needed to hear and to protect the inner workings of the ear.
However, after death, when the hearing mechanism and temporal bones are no longer needed, 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. The surgery does not, in any way, affect the appearance of the donor’s face, outer ear or head. In fact, the surgery is invisible to viewers, but the contribution is one that will be felt by many in the years to come.
How Is The 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 intervetion 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, in which case parts of the hearing mechanism simply wear out with age. Nerve hearing loss can also occur due to exposure to loud noise over a long period of time.
Nerve hearing loss can also be caused by a variety of other disorders and conditions such as hereditary hearing loss, bacterial or viral infections of the inner ear, and toxic effects of certain medications.
Finally, the mechanism that enables us to walk upright and not lose our balance, the vestibular system, is also located within the inner ear. The inner ear is filled with specialized fluid, and it contains highly specialized cells and nerve endings.
The vestibular system helps keeps our balance and presents dizziness, something people may experience due to damage or disease to the inner ear. Such dizziness can be debilitating, prevent people from working and leading satisfying lives. In some cases, balance disorders simply go away over time.
In other cases, the problem comes and goes, or only occurs under certain circumstances such as moving in the darkness or looking down from high places – vertigo. One well known disease that affects the vestibular system and also causes hearing loss is Meniere’s disease.
How do I enroll in the National Temporal Bone Donor Program?
First, if you’re considering membership and signing on as a donor, thank you. You’re doing a wonderful thing for those who come after you. You’re gift is a valuable contribution to further research on the causes of hearing loss and balance disorders.
Signing up is as easy as a call or click. First, 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.
Indeed, it may be a difficult decision for some people who get a little skittish about parting with body parts after death. But think of it this way: you’re helping others suffering from hearing loss and balance disorders, even in death.
You’re giving the gift of hearing – a priceless gift that will make the lives of many better in the future.
Please help by contacting the National Temporal Bone Registry. Your gift will continue to give for generations to come and that makes it a very special gift, indeed.
For more information:
24-hour hotline (800) 822-1327 (voice)
TTY line: (800) 439-0183
Fax: (617) 573-3838
Write to them at:
The NIDCD National Temporal Bone Registry
Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary
243 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114-3096