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Ear, nose, throat care on one floor now

Eight-year-old Porter Bowe of Rochester has been seeing hearing specialists ever since he was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at age 3 months.

Sometimes he and his parents had appointments at three different spots on the Mayo campus.

"More than once I wound up going to the wrong place just out of habit," said Porter's mother, Holly Bowe.

Now, the Bowes can all go to one area on the 12th floor of Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building, where the Department of Otorhinolaryngology — ear, nose and throat care — held a grand opening Tuesday night.

The department tests for ear-related problems, postnasal drip or lumps in the neck, sinus problems, along with head, neck and voice problems. There's also testing for reconstructive plastic surgery, but the surgery is done in a hospital.


With the opening, just 1 1/2 of Gonda's 20 stories remain to be finished.

"I like it a lot," Porter said of the 12th floor.

His favorite part? The new floor has educational screens for both adults and kids, and a wing with exam rooms designed specifically with kids in mind. The tile floor in the room Porter sat in Tuesday depicts a giant apple and worm. Out in the hallway are photos of an otter swimming, a loon with a chick and the Northern Lights.

Holly Bowe said it's hard to describe the difference that the new facility will make for patients. The services the family received from the department, even before all its parts came together at one site, "changed our life."

Porter's treatment has allowed him to go to school at Bamber Valley Elementary School. "I like it," he says on a Mayo YouTube video , adding, "a little bit, not too much."

For families who used to have appointments scattered across the Mayo campus, said Dr. Chuck Beatty, the new facility means they don't have to try to get kids who might have balance problems across streets.

The new center expands available space for hearing tests, balance tests and checks of cochlear implants from 14,000 to 25,000 square feet. Thirty-two exam rooms have expanded to 48, and there are 13 sound booths that are "double walled and triple insulated" for hearing checks.

Intricate equipment allows medical providers to test balance for an elderly person, for example, using a chair that spins in a darkened space. Infrared light allows providers to watch eye movement for diagnosis of the cause of dizzy spells.


Another test allows providers to measure a person's proprioception (feeling of the floor by the feet and ankles). A problem with that sensation can be another cause of dizziness.

Sight also can be tested with a screen colored in purple, yellow and green. An elderly patient wears a harness as a safeguard and then researchers test whether he or she is using sight for balance or not. Another device requires that patients follow a red light with their eyes while lying down, and while researchers pour cold and warm water into an ear.

That can trick the brain into believing that you're turning, allowing health providers to test function.

All of this might sound a little Draconian.

But, the "rotary chair" and other devices provide great relief to patients when they're able to find a diagnosis, Beatty said.

Beatty said he's thrilled with the floor's all-in-one concept.

"We're really excited," he said. "It's great for our patients, and our staff."

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