Those with hearing and balance disorders know that many extremely troublesome conditions go undiagnosed. A very important basic activity is to correlate the findings on autopsy in the inner ear with clinical symptoms.
To this end, there is a nationally supported network of laboratories throughout the country. For patients who have well characterized ear conditions and who indicate a willingness to have their inner ears harvested at the time of death, a system has been set up to collect and process the temporal bones.
Unfotrunately, the infrastructure to gather temporal bones in the USA is suboptimal. We ourselves have had situations where a patient indicated a willingness to have their temporal bone "harvested" but a "harvester" -- an otologic surgeon -- was not available. Once this happens, one loses one's enthusiasm in encouraging patients to be generous.
Nevertheless, the national temporal bone registry website is at http://www.tbregistry.org. We fully support this effort and encourage our patients to consider temporal bone donation.
A pamphlet about this, That others may hear, can be obtained from the NIDCD Nationasl Temporal Bone Registry, Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary, 243 Charles St, Boston MA 02114-3096. 800-822-1237