It’s hard to believe five weeks have gone by since the day my life changed forever.
If you’ve stopped by this site during the past couple of months, you know I elected to have surgery in the hopes of correcting significant hearing loss in my right ear caused by a rare condition called otosclerosis. Since the stapedectomy on October 7, I can’t count the number of times I’ve nearly stopped dead in my tracks as I savor the sounds I missed or strained to decipher for years.
I am no longer asking people to repeat themselves several times. I have no need to contort my neck at odd angles to hear someone speak from behind a cash register or in a crowded restaurant. There’s just this new “balance” to how I hear everything from the music on my running playlist to the sirens and all the other sounds of the city. Then just three days ago, my first post-surgery hearing test proved the surgery was indeed a success. When the audiologist delivered the news that my hearing tested “within normal range in both ears,” I actually started crying.
In addition to being truly overwhelmed by how my quality of life improved in just a matter of weeks, I’ve also been blown away by all the supportive emails, texts and messages on social media from people near and far. I will be forever grateful for the support. I also can’t say enough about my ENT, Dr. Neil Sperling and his entire compassionate staff. Last but certainly not least, I have to give a special shout out to my “Uncle” Joe. A retired ENT, he performed countless stapedectomy surgeries during his own career and offered words of wisdom and encouragement from my initial diagnosis in 2018 right through my ongoing recovery. I couldn’t have made it through this experience without him.
I close with the knowledge that I am truly blessed to have had such successful results following surgery. I also realize while I feel lucky to have had this option in the first place, not everyone is comfortable with having surgery. Hearing loss can be caused by a myriad of factors, and I encourage anyone challenged by it to talk to your primary care physician or an ENT about your options. There have been so many advancements in hearing aids over the years, and I know many people who’ve worn them for years. (You may recall, I tried one myself for more than a year.)
I’ll see Dr. Sperling and have another hearing test in six months. In the meantime, I’ll continue being thankful for the sounds I hear each day and for all who continue to check in and send good vibes. It’s amazing how the power of positive energy can help us all stay on the path to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I hope these musings find you and your loved ones healthy and safe as we continue our journey through these challenging times. Again, I ask your forgiveness for my absence from the blogosphere. I’m certainly thankful to be in a better space both physically and mentally as we move through this fall of 2021, but I also know I’m not alone in my ongoing struggle to find a steady routine. I also haven’t felt compelled to write about anything, as life has felt pretty uneventful – until now. Tomorrow, I’ll undergo surgery for the first time in my life.
My repeat readers may recall a “big reveal” on this site not long before life as we once knew it changed forever. In January of 2020, I started wearing a hearing aid. This was the non-invasive path available to address the conductive hearing loss that came on suddenly in 2018 because of a rare condition called otosclerosis.
WebMD offers the simplest definition of this condition that affects a little more than three million Americans:
“Otosclerosis is a condition that causes hearing loss. It happens when a small bone in your middle ear — usually the one called the stapes — gets stuck in place. Your stapes bone has to vibrate for you to hear well. When it can’t do that, sound can’t travel from your middle ear to your inner ear. That makes it hard for you to hear.”
In everyday life, this condition makes it extremely hard to hear and follow conversations in crowded places or anywhere with ambient sound, like restaurants or gyms. While the hearing aid did improve my hearing somewhat, the device never felt truly comfortable and I found there were too many circumstances where wearing it wasn’t an option. That included high-intensity workouts including running or kickboxing. Since I couldn’t risk getting the device wet, it also never accompanied me on days at the beach – my go-to destination for solace during the last two summers.
The bottom line: after extensive research and another visit with the ENT who first presented me with my options, I decided to move forward with a surgical procedure called a stapedectomy. During the short procedure, I’ll be under general anesthesia while Dr. Neil Sperling removes the non-working stapes bone in my right ear and replaces it with a titanium micro prosthesis.
I am sharing my story as an example of when plan A doesn’t work, it’s up to you and you alone to determine if and when you’re ready to move on to plan B, if one exists. Am I nervous? To be completely honest, yes. But I’m also excited to see what the aftermath will sound like. I’ll be sure to write about how it goes and what the recovery is like. I do know I’ll be resting for a few days after the surgery and facing about two weeks of downtime from my running routine. I’ll also be having monthly audiograms until next spring to track improvements in my hearing.
I credit my journalism background with helping in the information gathering process throughout this journey to date. I’m also extremely grateful for the guidance from a dear family friend who happens to be a retired ENT and performed countless stapedectomies during his career. Finally, I thank everyone who has reached out since I first wrote about my hearing loss with so many kind words of support. These are the times you realize how a little encouragement can go a long, long way when it comes to getting back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Well, here we are just two days shy of the second month of 2020. How’s your January winding down as far as turning those healthy goals into a reality? If you’re still trying to find your groove, hang in there. Remember, it can take up to six whole weeks for habits to take root in our daily behavior. So, don’t give up now! This is a good time to take stock what’s working and what’s not. For example, if you’re more likely to workout in the morning rather than at night, stop stressing out when you don’t get to the gym after work. Instead, embrace that early-bird energy and keep setting your alarm appropriately to make time for that morning endorphin rush.