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Hearing Disorders Message Board

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Hello everyone,
I too had a Stapedotomy on December 2nd. I have wanted to post before now, but immediately after the surgery I could not stand to sit in front of my computer. Having anything close in front of my face actually made me feel sick to my stomach. Could not even read a book or magazine. You want to talk about boredome!! At least watching the TV across the room did not make me sick! So I was not completely bored.
And when I felt well enough to work at the computer it was time to head back to work. I was out for 2 weeks, 1 week before surgery for the Thanksgiving Holiday and 1 week after. So I had 2 weeks of work to catch up on and did not have any free time to post until now.

I have had many of the same results listed here, numb tongue, hear heart beat in operated ear, ringing in ear got much louder, etc . But, I have also had some differences.

I know that I can be very long winded when I type up posts on the Internet. But I wanted to write up my experiences that led me to this point. I feel that some of the things I have experienced over the last 20 years of dealing with hearing loss may help someone else. So please be patient with my ramblings.

Here is my tale.

My hearing loss was what many here on these forums have described, the lower frequencies were worse. I had an almost even hearing loss in both ears. At the time of my surgery I had a real obvious sharply slanted line on my audiogram with lowest db being around 55 for the lower frequencies up to around 15 db for the higher frequencies. My hearing loss became noticeable in my teens and got worse with age, I am now 42.

My first hearing screening was in 1989 at one of the Beltone Hearing Aid reps. She told me that I was too young for hearing aids and told me to go see an ENT, which I did. In 1991 I was referred by the ENT to go see an Ear Specialist, someone who just did ears and hearing. He told me I had an inner ear bone deformity and that it was genetic and asked if I had family with similar hearing loss, which I do. At that time he told me that surgery was an option and that they would replace all three bones of the inner ear, but that I only had 50/50 chance of coming out with better hearing. And even had the same 50/50 chance of coming out completely deaf.

I did not like those odds at all. At the time the hearing loss was not so bad that it impacted my life that greatly. So I declined the surgery

Over the next few years I returned to the ENT occasionally when I had ear infections and such. Each time I went I would ask if there were any new technologies that might help me. Each time I was told that the answer was no and that the odds of the surgery had not changed. So I continued on for years with continually declining hearing and having no foreseeable help on the horizon. I assumed that once my hearing got bad enough the doctor would give me hearing aids and I would have to wear them the rest of my life.

I awoke on Christmas Eve about 5 or 6 years ago with a real bad ear ache. Being Christmas Eve my normal ENT was already out of the office for the holiday. Went to the Insurance website to get our approved doctor list and called several doctors until I could find one who was actually open on Christmas Eve and agree to see me.

When I went to see him, turns out he was a young Dr. Do not know if he was just out of college or not, but he had his own practice. I gave him my history verbally as I did not have any of my records from previous hearing tests. It had been a few years since my last hearing test so he had his audiologist give me one. He tells me that the results of my test indicated typical otosclerosis and he gave me a real high pressure pitch to have surgery. High pressure pitch from a new doc did not sit well with me so I passed on the surgery, got prescriptions to deal with the ear ache and went my merry way.

Over the next few years I kept going to see my old ENT, even after he moved his office to be about a 45 minute drive for an office visit. And all the while he kept making the same recommendation. Telling me that he trusted the findings of that Ear Specialist 18 years ago. He even confirmed that when I felt the hearing got bad enough that I could not function any longer, he would give me hearing aids. But during that time that single visit to the young Dr's office kept nagging at the back of my mind. Was that Dr. right and the Ear specialist wrong?

Eventually I decided that it was time for a new ENT closer to home and work. And one who was willing to consider other options. I talked with my family doctor to get a recommendation for a trustworthy ENT. She gave me two names. I researched both and choose the one I thought seemed to have a good reputation. Even after choosing the Dr, I took several months to actually call and make an appointment. I was actually scared to move forward.

Eventually I got up the courage and made the call. Had a new audiogram done. The Dr. came in to discuss it with me. He listened to my history and I felt that he actually listened to my concerns with the previous diagnosis. He actually pulled up a chair and we sat and talked for awhile. He said he honestly could not 100% guarantee his diagnosis was right and the other Dr. was wrong. But, he has been doing it for years, has done 100's of the stapedotomy surgeries. And he said my results were text book matches for the diagnosis of otosclerosis.
We even talked about what would he do if he opened my ear and found out that all 3 bones needed to be replaced and not just the Stapes. He said he was always prepared for those conditions and that he would have prosthesis ready to go for that situation.

My hearing has gotten really bad. It is effecting my life and my work. I had to do something. I did not want to live with hearing aids. I agreed to the surgery.

Still with me after reading all of that? Good. My main reason is to help other people who may be holding on to a diagnosis that may not match. I guess the moral of my story is to get a second opinion.

Now on to my surgery, and the surprises I got!!

The morning of the surgery I arrived at the hospital. After getting checked in, changed into the hospital gown, getting an IV started, etc, the doctor comes into check on me before the surgery. We talked with the Dr. and he told my wife he would come see her afterwards. I thought it was kind of funny, but the Hospital Policy is that the doctor actually had to verbally confirm with me which ear he was operating on. He then had to sign my head next to that ear. He signed on my neck under the ear. I guess they have had to many people having surgeries on the wrong parts of the body and this is their solution!

The rolled me off to surgery. Last thing I remembered was the anesthesiologist cracking a joke to me as they held a mask over my face and pumped the anesthetics into me. The surgery went well the Dr. told my wife. I never got to see the Dr. after the surgery as he had back to back surgeries scheduled and by the time I awoke he was in the middle of the next patients surgery. As I was waking I remember hearing voices asking me questions. My first words I remember speaking were "I can hear you out of my right ear" (that's the ear I had surgery in) A nurse laughed and said that it was a good sign. The anesthesiologist came in to check on me and I could hear the nurse telling him what I said. He patted my leg and said that was excellent.

Once I was awake enough they took me to the next recovery room. When the wife got in to see me they had a large bandage that covered the entire ear and part of my face. I was happy that I was able to hear thru the bandage. Everything sounded very weird. Kind of like a cave with dripping water causing lots of distortions of the sounds. But, I was able to hear and to me that was a good thing.
I Was on my way home about 3 hours after the surgery ended. That night was my worst experience as the anesthesia drugs made me have lots of nausea and vomiting and I could not even keep water down. But after that night it was gone, with maybe some occasional nausea with the vertigo, but thankfully no more vomiting.

The next day after the surgery I had a post-op appointment at the Dr. office. That is when he surprised me with more details of the surgery. My wife had already told me I was in surgery much longer than we were told it would take. And he told me why. apparently I have very narrow ear canals and a small opening in my skull into the inner ear. The Dr. sliced my ear canal open and the incision went all the way out to about 4 mm onto my face. That part was not too bad, but then he told me he had to widen the hole in my skull to be able to get into it!!!!!!! I was not prepared for that at all!!!!

But, he says that once he got into the inner ear, he found exactly what he expected to find. I did indeed have Otosclerosis and not the inner ear bone deformity that would require all of the bones to be replaced. Once he had access to the bones the rest of the surgery went exactly as planned. He implanted the prosthesis and sealed me up.

After telling me all of this he removed the bandage to inspect the incision. It was covered with butterfly strips and he said it looked fine. Other than the bandage he did not remove any of the surgical packing. He put a cotton ball and a small normal bandaid over the surgical packing. Said to come back in 1 week.

As I left the thought that kept going through my head was "He had to drill a larger hole in my head!!!!!!" That was the surprising part. I was trying hard not to freak out about that revelations. In fact, I knew that I had small ear canals. If I ever used headphones with changeable tips I always had to use the small sized tips or they would not fit my ear comfortably. So I was able to accept that he had some difficulties with that physical aspect of my body. But he had to drill a hole!! DAMN! What makes it crazy is that I am not a small guy. I am 6'3", I have a big head, big feet, big hands, etc. I played football as a defensive lineman in high school and college. I am not a small guy and have never been told that any part of my body was small! So, that was a shock.

But, over all of that. The most important part is that the doctor told me that the inner ear bones were exactly what he expected to find. He told me that I have an excellent chance of having a successful outcome from this surgery.

After leaving I had the wife stop by the pharmacy and purchase some Neosporin and some more of the extra large bandages that the hospital had used. If I had a large incision that led all the way into my skull, I wanted something more on my head to keep out infection than just a small band aid and cotton ball.

Over the next week I had all the same symptoms everyone else has reported, Vertigo, nausea, ringing in my ears, everything tasted like metal, had some mild pain, etc. I could hear things thru the bandages. And loud or high pitched sounds caused discomfort. It is not pain, but I really feel sensitive to the sounds.

Once the 1 week was up I returned as planned. On this trip the doctor removed the first layer of the surgical packing. He also removed the butterfly strip and cuts out the stitches from the incision. He tells me that everything seems to be healing just fine. He tells me that there is additional packing deeper in the ear that he is not going to remove at this time. And to come back in 1 week. He also tells me that I can return to work as long as I feel that I am able.

I return to work the next day. Over the next week things get better the nausea is gone. The vertigo is mostly gone. Only get it now if I move fast or bend over for more than 1 second. Sound in the ear does not change much. I can hear, but it is muffled. And loud or high pitched noises still cause some discomfort.

My main complaints after this are the ear has that uncomfortable plugged feeling, the incision is starting to itch. The itching is helped by using the Neosporin to keep the incision from drying out. Will also keep the scar from being as noticeable.

I also have some numbness in the outer ear and part of my face where the incision is. The doctor tells me that is caused by the cut nerves from the incision and that it will go away in a few months.

1 Week after that visit I go back. This time he removes the last layer of surgical packing. It is the gel layer that is right up against the ear drum. The sensation of removing it feels really weird. But once he does it is like someone pulled a cork out of my ear. The plugged feeling is instantly gone and the sounds come flooding in. Everything sounds really distorted. Almost like they did after surgery. Only negative is that I also got an instant headache after the packing was removed. Do not know if the packing itself caused the headache, or the new sound sensations.

The facial numbness continues. But is not as bad, or maybe I am just getting used to it.

One thing I have not mentioned previously is that I use a CPAP machine to sleep with due to Apnea. I have not been able to use it since the surgery. One of my main complaints is that I have not been sleeping well since the surgery. I was very happy when the doctor tells me I can resume sleeping with my CPAP. So happy that I instantly go home and take a nap with the machine!!

That was two days ago. I have now had 2 nights sleeping with the CPAP and I feel more rested. The hearing has stabilized. Things sound normal. I do not feel as if I am hearing better than pre-surgery yet. But the doctor tells me that there is still healing left to happen and that there is still fluid, blood, etc, still inside the inner ear that needs to drain. He said from this point the hearing will gradually get better.

Also, the loud and high pitched noises continue to bother me. Doctor really did not comment on that.

He wants to see me again in 1 month and at that time we will do my first hearing test since the surgery.

So, that is where I am at in my journey. I am not done, but I am well on my way. And I still have to have this done to my left ear.

I am certain that I have missed parts of my story that I wanted to tell. But, it is late and I have been typing on this for over an hour. I will post more as I think of it.

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