Tympanoplasty Update: Seven Plus Months Post Surgery

From looking at my blog stats over the past few months, I realize that the most popular search terms leading to my blog have to do with Tympanoplasty and Tympanyplasty recovery. It makes sense because just as I was, people having tympanoplsty surgery or parents with children undergoing this surgery are hungry for information since we are provided so amazingly little information on this topic by our ENT offices. Yes, the 3-6 paged tri-fold brochure doesn’t even dip below the surface of what this surgery is really like and doesn’t tackle the recovery process at all beyond the first week or so.

My son Josh had a Tympanoplasty with a TORP, replacing the malleus and incus bones of his right ear, on May 3, 2012. He was recovering well (although it was not an easy road by any means–see past blog posts by searching on the term tympanoplasty in the upper right corner of my blog), but then developed a fever and slight perforation after the two month post-surgery point. He began intermittently draining from the right ear. The drainage was never all that fluid. We’d simply see a large build up of amber heavy oily waxy coating sometimes almost blocking his outer ear canal and often it looked decidedly moist at the back of his ear. The build up would reach a peak every 7-10 days and then we’d use antibiotic ear drops. After our ENT finally got a culture (this build up usually peaked over the weekend) in October, he determined it was not infected and so we switched to a vinegar and cortisone based drop. Putting in these drops was never fun for Josh. Ear drops seem to put kids in agony, especially when tubes or a perforation is present. Looking in Josh’s ear with a flashlight became a daily routine. I love that I am using the past tense in the last sentence because now I am doing this only about once every week. Every time I’d find the build up it would cause extreme stress because somewhere in late August, our ENT mentioned that he might have to remove the TORP (prosthetic device serving as Josh’s first two middle ear bones) if the drainage continued. We’d learned at Josh’s three-month post op audiology testing that the TORP had raised Josh’s hearing in his right ear to 20 db across all of the frequencies; a significant gain for a child born with conductive reversed slope mild-moderate hearing loss. Needless to say, Chris and I are very attached to this TORP. I realize my extreme attachment here causes me intense suffering and I work with this in both prayer and meditation. I realize this restored hearing was a gift and it can come and go as it will. Tightly holding and gripping this healing will not make it stay. Better to open my palms wide in thanksgiving and accept what comes and goes then to walk around with tightly-clenched fists hoping no one takes “my precious.” (oh my, it always comes back to a Tolkien reference for me, doesn’t it?)

Anyway, at more calm times, I’d tell myself that both the ear perforation and the drainage were somehow serving Josh’s healing process. Although the ENT thought that Josh should be healed by three months post-surgery, I’ve learned from other tympanoplasty blogs that those undergoing this surgery don’t usually feel completely recovered until the six month post-surgery point. For Josh, I think it was even a little longer. I remember seeing the awful drainage again right before Thanksgiving and trying to get a Josh an appointment with the ENT. That would have been about 6.5 months post surgery. They told me that the ENT’s next available appointment was on December 13, which was Josh’s technical six-month post op check anyway (we pushed it back a month to the seven month point since we’d seen the ENT so many times throughout the fall–I am just glad we happen to live about seven minutes from our ENT’s office which is located on a major university health care facility and hospital grounds). So, the day before Thanksgiving, I just put the dreaded drops in Josh’s ears again, this time bribing him with a trip to his favorite place, the Science Museum, to get him to hold still for the drops and then endure the next hour or so of intermittent pain that’s he now remembers will be ahead after the drops.

About a week before Josh’s appointment (notably exactly seven months post surgery), I stopped seeing the drainage. The next week, Josh first had his audiology testing. He came back with 15 db across the frequencies. Wow! I was so pleased and grateful to learn his hearing had improved yet further since August. His ENT appointment was fairly uneventful and our ENT didn’t even see the perforation anymore, thinking it healed on its own, which is probably why Josh gained another 5 db in his hearing. Amazing. Yes. This places Josh’s hearing firmly within the speech spectrum without hearing aids on the right side. Chris and I celebrated with chai tea at our local food coop, allowing Josh to push the little cart around the store, as he likes to do, before Chris had to hurry off for work. It was a very good day indeed.

I guess I have hesitated to place this post out here because something more might go wrong in the future. But that is the case with anything, isn’t it? You can send your six year old off to what you think is a safe school, in a safe neighborhood and then never see him or her again. One can never completely find solid ground on which to stand, at least not here, in this temporal world, which by it’s nature is impermanent. Everything is always changing, nothing stays the same. I must endeavor to love and rejoice in the gifts I have while I have them and . . . not delay the rejoicing because something might go wrong in the future. Things will go wrong in the future, in fact, but it will probably be something completely different from that which I’ve spent my precious time in this life worrying about. And so here it is. I firmly rejoice this morning in Josh’s restored hearing in his right ear. What an amazing gift.

**Note–Josh continues to wear a hearing aid in his left ear and is completely happy with it. He always tells us when it is out of batteries and acknowledges that it helps him hear better. We cannot imagine allowing the same surgery on his left side. We only did the right side because of an extreme perforation that required surgical intervention.

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One thought on “Tympanoplasty Update: Seven Plus Months Post Surgery

  1. Oh, what fantastic news! I cannot imagine going through that surgery – the recovery process was harrowing. Nolan now has 2 tubes in his right eardrum and his eardrum most likely won’t seal after those fall out – he’s had 6 sets of tubes in that ear in just five years. I think if it comes down to it, we’ll just leave that ear – it is already at 75dB and he’s closing in on cochlear implant territory – if he hits that level, his eardrum will be unnecessary, anyway.

    I am so grateful Josh is hearing out of his right ear, and that he has access to a hearing aid in the left ear. Here’s to the gift of hearing, in whatever form it takes!

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