Even as someone who enjoys writing, I’ve been struggling to find the right words to describe the last 14 days. How can you accurately define what it’s like to be able to hear again? This overwhelming new reality is an amazing gift for which I will be forever thankful.
After more than three years of struggling to hear out of my right ear, especially in restaurants, gyms or anywhere with ambient sound – and there are just a few of those living in New York City – I decided to undergo a stapedectomy. The procedure has a high success rate – more than 90% – for those diagnosed with otosclerosis. The rare condition occurs when the stapes bone in the middle ear (which happens to be the smallest bone in the body) stops working properly. This prevents sound waves from reaching the inner ear, resulting in conductive hearing loss. On October 7th, Dr. Neil Sperling, replaced my faulty stapes bone with a titanium prosthesis.
I was placed under general anesthesia for the procedure, which took about 90 minutes. For me, the anesthesia turned out to be the toughest part of the experience. The kind nurses at the Greenwich Village Ambulatory Surgery Center kept me in recovery a couple of hours longer than expected to administer anti-nausea medication intravenously. Back at home, I slept for five hours straight, and continued to suffer from nausea and dizziness for the first 24 hours. As far as any pain, it was minimal. I needed only two Tylenol before my real bedtime that first night to stave off the slight ache in my ear.
The dizzy, woozy feeling continued throughout the weekend, but thanks to James’ care and a stockpile of movies and shows to choose from, I simply laid low and drank lots of fluids. Being on antibiotics and steroids, I didn’t have much of an appetite. The biggest shock: I didn’t even want wine. (My liver must have enjoyed the short hiatus!)
Four days after surgery I saw Dr. Sperling for a follow-up, and he removed the packing from my inner ear. Rid of the gauze, it suddenly felt as if someone flipped a switch and the fog started lifting almost immediately. The best part of that post-op visit: I started hearing sounds in my right ear. Heading home from the appointment, I almost started crying on the sidewalk. I think I may have startled James when I suddenly stopped in my tracks and looked around to fully take in the sounds of the city. They were somewhat muffled and definitely overmodulated, but I suddenly realized the traffic, sirens, people yelling into their smartphones – the cacophony of sound that defines New York City – was being processed by both ears.
Since then the sounds have grown a bit sharper, and I can follow conversations without tilting my head to the left to favor what was once my only “working” ear. A few nights ago, I even asked James to lower the television. I now have some itching and a bit of a “clogged” feeling in the right ear again, but I’m staying positive this may only be a temporary “setback” as the healing continues. (If it continues by the end of next week, I’ll be sure to get to the doctor’s office.) Right now, I am scheduled to see Dr. Sperling again in a few weeks, and I’ll have a full hearing test to officially gauge how things are progressing. Another exciting day to look forward to!
In the meantime, I’m getting back to some real exercise and slowly increasing the mileage on my power walks in Central Park. Two days ago, I managed to for my first post-surgery short run, (just one-and-a-half miles long) and experienced no balance issues at all. Just one more reason I’m more thankful than words can describe.
This unexpected journey has taught me a lot about hearing loss. There are so many different types and causes, but not all have a surgical option as a possible solution. So again, I realize how fortunate I am to have had the ability to choose a course of action that could have such a positive impact on my quality of life. To anyone struggling with hearing loss, I encourage you not to suffer in silence. Talk to your primary care physician or find an ENT. (If you live in or anywhere near Manhattan, I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Sperling!) Get your hearing tested and see what options exist.
I close with a heartfelt thank you for so much love and support that’s helped me through this ongoing journey. The number of prayers, good vibes and encouraging words I’ve received from near and far are simply overwhelming. I’ve also been amazed to learn how many people of all different ages are considering this surgery or struggling with their own hearing loss story. Please don’t be shy about sending along any questions. By sharing our experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – we can help each other gather information and get back to our sometimes sidelined plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!