Ear and Balance Institute: Pioneers in inner ear disorders


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WHEN YOU HAVE an inner ear problem (vertigo/dizziness, hearing loss and tinnitus) there is only one medical practice in Louisiana where you can go that has a single focus on these conditions: Ear and Balance Institute in Covington. This medical practice has specialized to solely deal with inner ear problems and has built an international reputation for getting results. Patients from Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia and from virtually every state in the U.S. arrive at the Institute every week looking for answers.

The clinicians of Ear and Balance Institute, specializing in neuro-otology and skull base surgery—Dr. Gerard Gianoli, Dr. James Soileau and Dr. Kacie Harvey—have a combined 76 years of experience treating inner ear disorders. Dr. Soileau had been in practice in the Baton Rouge area for 30 years prior to the move to Covington. His practice is restricted to diagnosis and medical treatment of vestibular disorders. Dr. Gianoli was a full-time associate professor at Tulane University Medical School prior to joining Ear and Balance Institute in July 2000. His practice includes all aspects of medical and surgical treatment of inner ear disorders. Dr. Harvey joined Ear and Balance Institute in December 2000 right after training and focuses on neuro-audiologic diagnostics and hearing rehabilitation.

Previously in Baton Rouge, Ear and Balance Institute moved to a brand-new facility in Covington three years ago. The office building was designed to accommodate the special requirements for the cutting-edge equipment used in the determination of inner ear disorders. The Institute moved to Covington in order to be more accessible for patients throughout southern Louisiana and to be closer to the New Orleans airport for their out-of-state and international patients.

The clinicians at Ear and Balance Institute are dedicated to the treatment of inner ear disorders causing vertigo, dizziness and hearing loss.  The vestibular and auditory testing lab at the Institute represents one of the most comprehensive testing facilities for inner ear disorders in the world. The Institute houses equipment for inner ear testing that can only be found in a handful of places in the country. For example, the Institute has a device that measures intracranial pressure non-invasively. NASA was the first to obtain one of these devices in order to test the astronauts in the Space Station. The Institute was the second to obtain one. Elevation of the pressure inside your head can be the root cause for several inner ear disorders. Identifying this is the first step in helping many patients overcome their inner ear problems. 

Among the more common causes of vertigo and imbalance is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). This inner ear disorder is due to loose crystals provoking spells of spinning vertigo and imbalance. The doctors at Ear and Balance Institute have a particular expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of BPPV. Both Drs. Soileau and Gianoli were among the first doctors in the country to treat this disorder with the revolutionary Epley Maneuver. Ear and Balance Institute has stayed at the forefront of treatment for BPPV by adding the Epley Omniax device. The Omniax is used to diagnose and treat the most complex and persistent forms of BPPV. Ear and Balance Institute was the second clinic in the world to own the Epley Omniax, and was heavily involved in the research study leading to its approval by the FDA.  

Among the rehabilitation services offered at Ear and Balance Institute are an array of devices for hearing. Dr. Harvey is instrumental in determining the appropriateness of patients for hearing aids, implantable hearing aids and cochlear implants. Dr. Harvey says, “Our philosophy is to customize the technology to fit the patient’s individual needs in order to improve their quality of life.”

Ear and Balance Institute has not just pioneered treatments of inner ear disorders; it has also been at the forefront of the wave of third-party-free medical practices. With the growing complexity and bureaucracy of our health care system, the Institute was among the first to embrace a third-party-free practice 10 years ago. A third-party-free practice is one where the doctors have eliminated contracts with insurance companies and Medicare/caid. The result is a simpler process where the doctors are free from the restrictions imposed by the medical bureaucracy. As Dr. Soileau says, “We work for our patients, not for the insurance companies.”

Besides the doctors not being encumbered by insurance company and Medicare/caid restrictions, the doctors are also free to spend as much time as needed with these very complex patients. “Our typical new patient visit is an hour or longer,” reports Dr. Gianoli. This is a huge difference compared to the typical 10-15 minute visit seen nationally among physicians.

Whenever a patient calls Ear and Balance Institute, they are told the cost for the visit and/or testing prior to scheduling an appointment. After your visit, you receive a claim form showing how much you have paid and the codes for the visit. You then mail the claim form to your own insurance company, who will reimburse you directly according to your individual benefits. The Institute office manager, Beth Soileau, says, “Because we are up-front about our prices, there are never any surprise bills from our office.”

Evaluation of vertigo and dizziness requires an extensive history and physical exam. Vertigo patients require extensive vestibular testing and auditory testing. Lastly, vertigo/dizzy patients require extensive education and counseling. Because of these challenges, many physicians do not have the time or resources to be able to evaluate and treat vertigo/dizziness.

Because of their third-party-free status, the doctors at Ear and Balance Institute can do this in a timely manner and can spend as much time as needed with every patient. They can do the extensive testing and the education/counseling personally. Since inner ear disorders represent one of the most complex medical problems, it is best evaluated by someone with expertise in this area. Consequently, all patients are seen by the physician on their first and every visit. This allows for an overall better experience from the patients’ standpoint. 

Ear and Balance Institute  |  985.809.1111  | http://www.earandbalance.net/





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