Vision and hearing are undoubtedly two of the most important senses that we have. Imagine losing both your sight and hearing at the same time. Such a difficult scenario is common for patients seen at the Eye and Ear Genetics Clinic at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

Physicians, counselors, orthoptists, and staff from the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences and the department of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery have combined forces to provide a pediatric eye-ear genetics clinic that specializes in rare inherited eye and ear diseases affecting children. The clinic allows multiple providers to see patients on the same day and work together to find a diagnosis and care plan for children with both eye and ear disorders. Families with children experiencing vision and hearing loss and balance disorders from across Iowa and the country come to access multiple specialists in a single clinic visit rather than scheduling separate clinic visits at different times.

The clinic uses genetic testing, visual field testing, electroretinography, optical coherence tomography, and fundus and diagnostic photographs to diagnose difficult to identify hereditary diseases like Waardenburg syndrome, Usher syndrome, and Pendred syndrome. Patients receive a basic ear, nose, and throat exam, an audiogram if needed, and an OtoSCOPE® Genetic Test, which is a single test used to determine the cause of their hearing loss. Genetic testing for inherited eye diseases may be ordered through the UI’s Carver Nonprofit Genetic Testing Laboratory and Molecular Ophthalmology Laboratory.

Individual patients and their family members may elect to contribute to scientific research that may lead to cures for their diseases by providing blood draws and skin biopsies. Research is performed in the Institute for Vision Research and the Molecular Otolaryngology and Renal Research Laboratories at the University of Iowa. This extensive level of testing allows physicians to provide a diagnosis for many patients who have not had one previously.

Direct access and constant interaction between physicians and researchers also means patients benefit from receiving the latest information on the scientific advancements and progress toward treatments and cures. This includes information on clinical studies and trials that may impact their future care. Such information provides a measure of hope to individuals who might not otherwise know where to turn for answers to their child’s unique vision and hearing problems.

Patient Stories

  • Andrew's Story: Usher Syndrome

    Andrew Needham Andrew had some hearing loss before experiencing balance problems. His parents had no idea that Andrew had a genetic disorder that would also impact his vision. Read more.Read more

Locations and Contact

  • UI Stead Family Children's Hospital
    11200 Pomerantz Family Pavilion
    200 Hawkins Drive
    Iowa City, Iowa 52242
    In House Directions: Elevator L, Level 1
    Hours
    • Monday through Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    Contact
    • Phone: 319-356-2859

Care Team