Douglas Hildrew, MD, is an ear, nose and throat specialist and skull-base surgeon who treats children and adults with hearing disorders and certain types of balance dysfunction.
Having grown up in a music family—he played the trombone—Dr. Hildrew has a great appreciation for sound, making otolaryngology an easy choice for him. “Watching someone hear for the first time is unlike anything you've ever seen,” he says, “especially when the patient is a young child hearing her mother’s voice for the first time.”
He often performs keyhole (minimally invasive) surgery, typically with an endoscope, essentially a small camera at the end of a thin, flexible tube—one of many techniques that have transformed the field. “If we have a scope tilted 70 degrees toward a tumor, it's that much less bone we have to remove or retract,” Dr. Hildrew says.
Endoscopes have also revolutionized tympanoplasty, a basic surgery to repair a hole in the eardrum. “It allows us to do everything through the ear, so there's no external scar, and people can go back to work or school more quickly,” he says. He also focuses on cochlear implants and auditory brainstem implants—the latter is an approach that helps people who are profoundly deaf and cannot be helped with other methods.
An assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Hildrew also pursues research in another one of his clinical specialty areas—facial nerve reanimation for patients with facial paralysis due to stroke, Bell’s palsy or a skull-base tumor. Another area of interest is tinnitus—ringing or buzzing in the ears—a problem that affects 50 to 60 million people in the United States, especially veterans.