The Ear Institute Center for the Ear, Hearing, & Balance is dedicated to providing patients with services for ear problems, hearing loss, dizziness and vertigo, falls prevention, balance testing and rehabilitation, and expert recommendations on hearing improvement.

B. Maya Kato, MD

Dr. B. Maya Kato, MD is board certified in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.  She is a fellowship-trained Otologist/Neurotologist, and focuses her practice on disorders of the ear, hearing, and balance.

Dr. Kato’s clinical expertise is in the fields of hearing loss, dizziness and balance disorders, pediatric otology, cochlear implants, implantable hearing devices, and skull base surgery.  In her clinical practice, she draws upon knowledge gained from her distinguished academic career, award-winning research experience, and extensive sub-specialty training.  She provides care to pediatric and adult patients.

A native of Los Angeles, Dr. Kato graduated with honors in biology from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1989.  In 1994, she received her MD degree from the University of California, San Francisco.  She completed her residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Washington in 2000.  Dr. Kato then completed a two-year fellowship in Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery at the Michigan Ear Institute.

She has published numerous research articles in the fields of otology, otolaryngology, and neurosceiences, and presented nation-wide at clinical and scientific meetings.  She has been active in residency training, and for several years directed the temporal bone dissection course for Northern California Kaiser Otolaryngology residents, and was a member of the teaching faculty at UC San Francisco and UC Davis.

Dr. Kato is the medical director and founder of the The Ear Institute, Center for the Ear, Hearing, & Balance in Palm Desert, California.   It is her vision that The Ear Institute will serve as the regional center of excellence for her patients with ear, hearing and balance disorders.  She lives in Rancho Mirage, California with her husband and son.


    • Auditory System Deprivation and Its Long-Term Effects

      Hearing only starts with your ears. It is the auditory system, which is composed of the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear and the auditory neurological pathway, that allows the process of hearing to occur. That process begins when sound waves enter the outer ear and are channeled through the other complex parts of the ear, the nervous system and into the brain. The physical characteristics of the original sound are preserved as various types of energy that the brain recognizes and identifies as a particular sound. So, in actuality, you hear with your brain!

      However, when it comes to maintaining your auditory system, you lose it if you don’t use it. Just as the muscles in your body become sore when you exercise after a period of doing nothing, your auditory system will have a hard time getting back into shape should you suddenly decide to wear hearing devices, especially if you have gone a long time without treating your hearing loss. Your brain will lose some of its ability to process information due to lack of stimulation and as a result, it will be more difficult to recognize sounds… even with hearing devices.

      To minimize the impact of auditory deprivation, you should address the hearing loss sooner once diagnosed, rather than when the condition gets worse. Providing solutions and positive outcomes for patients with advanced/longstanding hearing loss can be done but with greater challenges as the condition of the neurological system is weak. Early intervention results in better outcomes.
      We recommend you receive a baseline hearing test beginning at the age of 40. During this test we can determine the lowest volume level you can hear at various frequencies or pitches. We can then reference this at subsequent testing and monitor changes.
      Once your hearing threshold is identified, we encourage you to have periodic hearing tests (every two or three years) to help prevent and/or identify hearing loss earlier than you otherwise might. If you are a hunter, musician or woodworker, or are frequently and consistently exposed to loud noise, an annual hearing test is recommended. It is only through preventative care that we can help you prevent further damage to your hearing system.

    • New Study Supports Brain Training for Seniors with Hearing Loss

      According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately one in three people between ages 65 and 75 experiences hearing loss. For those over 75, the statistic is closer to one in two. The term for age-related is presbycusis, which is caused by natural wear and tear of the auditory system.

      The process of hearing occurs not just in the ears, but in the brain as well. The ears channel soundwaves and convert them to vibrations, which are transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve for interpretation.

      According to a recent study by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, senior patients were able to improve speech recognition by exercising their brains with computerized games.

      Throughout the study, elderly patients with hearing loss used a closed-loop (CL) computer audio game that had them listen for subtle changes in sound to solve puzzles. At the end of the eight weeks, those in the CL group correctly identified 25 percent more words in background noise than those in the control group, whose video game did not include sound cues for the puzzles.

      This is significant in the hearing industry as it may change the way audiologists work with their patients. There are a number of brain training programs already on the market that some specialists have implemented in their patient care, including Listening and Communication Enhancement (LACE), clEARWorks4EARs and Angel Sound.

    • Happiness From Hearing Devices

      Dramatic lifestyle improvement found in patients who start using hearing devices

      Many scientific studies in the past have confirmed the negative impacts associated with hearing loss: depression, anxiety and social isolation. There are positive impacts associated with hearing solutions, as well. A study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) supplies overwhelming data about how much of a difference hearing devices can make.

      The study surveyed more than 2,000 hearing loss patients who use devices to enhance the sense of sound. Of the sample group, 82 percent of patients indicated they would recommend hearing devices to their friends, and 70 percent reported an improved ability to communicate. The data also shows more than four out of five people who use a device to hear better are satisfied with their solution.

      “This survey clearly reveals how dramatically people’s lives can improve with the use of hearing devices,” BHI Executive Director Sergei Kochkin, PhD said. “In this comprehensive study of more than 2,000 hearing device users we looked at 14 specific quality-of-life issues and found today’s hearing devices are a tremendous asset to people with even mild hearing loss who want to remain active and socially engaged throughout their lives.”

      The study also concluded up to a third of patients saw improvements in their romance, sense of humor, mental, emotional and physical health. Further, roughly 40 percent noted improvements in their sense of safety, self-confidence, feelings about self, sense of independence and work relationships.

      These results are the most significant of their kind because they show a clear potential solution to many of the draining feelings patients with hearing loss suffer. Many of the positive responses are attributed to changing technology that has led to smaller and less visible hearing devices, resulting in a decrease in the societal stigma associated with wearing devices in day-to-day life. New devices are more intelligent and offer many improvements over older generation models. BHI’s Kochkin believes the first step to preserving your future enjoyment in life is to make an appointment with a hearing health professional and get your hearing checked.