Monday, December 10, 2012


Almost a year ago I was watching something on TV and feeling tired so I laid down on the couch with my left ear on a pillow. I was quite alarmed when everything went silent. Lisa had been telling me for years that I was deaf and I knew that I wasn't hearing everything quite as well as I should but my entire life I've had excessive ear wax and I'm used to going deaf. All I've ever had to do is flush out my ears and everything was back to normal. Well this time when I flushed out my ears it didn't go back to normal. 

I continued ignoring the obvious because I just assumed that I would eventually have to get a hearing aid and I wasn't ready to fork out $2,000 for one of those things but finally Lisa's pestering convinced me to go see a doctor. They confirmed what I already knew. I am deaf in my right ear but what I didn't know was that my left ear is normal and both of my inner ears are normal. That means that my hearing loss is conductive and the good news about that is that it can be fixed with surgery. While they won't know for sure until they cut open my ear drum and go in and look they tell me that I almost certainly have what they call "Otosclerosis". What that means is that over the last several years I've had abnormal boney growth on my stapes (trivia - the stapes is the smallest bone in the human body). It has now gotten to the point that it is impeding the natural vibrations so much that it interferes with my hearing. I don't hear a whole lot out of my right ear.

Apparantly Otosclerosis is genetic but I don't remember anyone in my family being deaf. I think Grandpa Lybbert may have worn a hearing aid when he was much older than I am but that is it. I'm almost the youngest one in my family so if it is genetic it looks like my brothers and sisters dodged the otosclerosis bullet as well as the baldness bullet. They also say that it is more common in women than in men so I don't know what to say. 

The odds of the surgery restoring my hearing to normal is 99% but the odds of it making me completely deaf is 1%. That is a little scary but I guess it isn't doing me a whole lot of good as it is. From what I read, if you have a good doctor the odds are even better and my doctor has done hundreds of these so I guess that should give me some comfort. I need to ask him what his success rate is. 

What they do in the surgery is completely remove the stapes and put in a prosthesis. That seems rather radical to me but hey, if it works. The other thing which they didn't mention (but I read about) is that when they remove the stapes they also rip a hole in the "oval window". The oval window is the membrane that vibrates between the middle ear and the inner ear (cochlea). To plug the hole they take a piece of fat from somewhere else in the ear and stick it in the hole. Weird, I need to ask about that one.

So I haven't completely decided to go ahead with the surgery but it won't cost much more than a good hearing aid and then I won't have to worry about batteries, or getting it wet or all the other hassles that you go through with a hearing aid. Wish me luck. I'm just glad I live today and not a hundred years ago. They figure it was otosclerosis that Beethoven had when he went deaf. Frankie Valli also had otosclerosis and had to sing by memory during the 70's. He later had the same surgery in the 80's that I'm looking at and got his hearing back. I'll bet that was pretty cool for him. 

 The middle ear amplifies sound 1,000 times.


Lynn said...

Wow. Learn something new everyday. That was so interesting. We will keep you in our you try and make that decision. Amazing what they can do now medically. To get your hearing back is truly an amazing thing!

My DH was told that his hearing loss is permanent. I wonder how permanent now after reading this. One can always hope that new knowledge and technology keeps on coming.

Let us know what you decide! ; )

Alycia (Crowley Party) said...

I know it is easy for me to say do it because im not being faced with that 1% chance, but I say, you already deaf as it is, go for the surgery :) haha crazy that this is genetic... random how the body works!

Lisa said...

Glad you finally went in. I was thinking the other day about your wax build up. Will you be able to continue to do what you do for that after you have the surgery?