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Case Study: Otolaryngologist’s Cultural Intuition Finds Source of Patient’s Hearing Loss

Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma 


Hearing loss may indicate a range of diagnoses and potential comorbidities. However, for some patients, cultural and environmental factors such as where a patient grew up may point to sources of hearing loss, including life-threatening cancers.

As otolaryngologists approach patient care in a holistic way, especially when tailored to their local patient population, it is valuable to consider these factors when intervening medically and coordinating with multidisciplinary colleagues.

The Situation:

In early May 2021, a man who emigrated from Hong Kong nearly 40 years ago suddenly developed profound hearing loss in his left ear. The patient, who lived in the San Gabriel Valley, a suburban community near Los Angeles, assumed this hearing loss could be related to seasonal allergies. He sought treatment from a local physician, who prescribed a course of antibiotics, which did not improve the patient’s hearing loss.

The patient then consulted Kevin Hur, MD, an otolaryngologist at the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery’s Arcadia clinic.

After running a series of standard tests, Dr. Hur relied on his knowledge of his clinic’s local patient population in the San Gabriel Valley, many of whom originate from southern parts of China and Southeast Asia. In this population, nasopharyngeal carcinoma is common.

Inspecting the patient’s nose with an endoscope, Dr. Hur identified a tumor, confirming this diagnosis.

The Treatment:

The same day as the patient’s diagnosis, Dr. Hur mapped the tumor with a CT scan. He then coordinated appointments with radiation oncologist Jennifer Ho, MD, and medical oncologist Jenny Zhou, MD, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center colleagues from the same Arcadia clinic.

Over 33 sessions, the patient underwent chemotherapy and radiation, which eradicated the patient’s tumor. Over a year after diagnosis, the patient is cancer-free.  


Despite his successful outcome and continued improvement in quality of life, the patient still experiences some lingering symptoms, such as dry mouth and dry throat. Such symptoms can take more than a year to recede, but it still indicates that he is on the road to recovery. He remains grateful for the cultural expertise and seamlessly coordinated care he received at the Arcadia clinic.

Leading Otolaryngological Care at Keck Medicine

From routine primary care visits to specialized treatments for more complex conditions, the multidisciplinary team of physicians at the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology ­– Head and Neck Surgery clinic in Arcadia provides comprehensive care to meet a patient’s needs.

The clinic offers tailored treatment plans, the latest groundbreaking procedures and state-of-the-art technology tools, including screening mammograms with 3D tomosynthesis.

The department strives to cure diseases of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck by pursuing new scientific discoveries, translating this knowledge into novel and effective clinical treatments, offering patients a culturally sensitive experience while they receive high-level, compassionate care, and educating trainees to continue these philosophies into the future.