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!
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!