About 6 weeks ago I got sick and had a lot of nasal congestion. I first noticed it on a Monday. That Wednesday I woke up with a sharp pain in my right ear. To date, it's the most pain I've ever been in. I literally couldn't move because I was in so much pain. The pressure from the congestion was enough to cause a perforation in my eardrum. I didn't know this at the time.
My eardrums have always been fragile. I had tubes put in when I was an infant. The first time I flew in an airplane I was in a lot of pain because of the pressure on my ears. I can swim but can't go underwater. I've perforated my eardrum twice (right one both times) in swimming pools. The first time was playing a game called "shark" which is basically underwater tag. The second time was simply from sinking to a normal depth after jumping from a 10 meter diving board.
I went to my family doctor and he totally missed the perforation and said I just had an ear infection which I also had. He gave me a prescription for some antibiotics and some eardrops. Well, the eardrops aren't supposed to be used if you have a perforated eardrum. One of the side effects after prolonged use is hearing loss. My hearing was impaired from being sick already because my ears were clogged. With the infection, I had a lot of draining out of my ear and it was like my right ear was under water.
I played tenor in a 9 piece big band that Saturday. My left ear had cleared up so I thought, no problem. I'll be on the right side of the band and I can hear everybody. Wrong. They set up the opposite way and I had a terrible time trying to hear/follow the lead alto. But I made through OK.
Over the next week or so my infection went away. But my hearing never fully recovered. Remember, I didn't know I had a perforation at this time. So I go back to my family doctor. He looks at it (still missing the perforation) and says to give it a week. I do and nothing changes.
So I make an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist. He finally sees the perforation. He said that they can be hard to see and family doctors often miss them. I had pressure tests and hearing tests perfomed. My right ear is still within a normal hearing range but it's noticibly not as good as my left. So he wants to see if it will heal on it's own and wants to see me in three weeks.
Well, that was today and it doesn't look like it's healing on its own. So he's recommending surgery. The procedure is called a Tympanoplasty. It's an out patient procedure. I would go in during the morning and be put under general anesthetic. They make an incesion behind the ear and then graft some skin over the perforation followed by some gelfoam to make sure it stays in place. Once it heals and the gelfoam is absorbed into the body (about 6 weeks) I should notice improvent in my hearing. It also takes also takes a couple of months for the incision to fully heal.
During the first 6 weeks after surgery, you're not supposed to blow your nose, sneeze through your nose (use your mouth), or play a wind instrument. This last part is of obvious interest to me. Part of me wants to say that "I close off my nasal passages when I play so it shouldn't really affect it. They probably mean brass players. They build up way more pressure than I do. I've known several lead trumpets who gave themselves nosebleeds." But then, of course, I don't want to do anything that could possibly jeopardize the success of the surgery. If I have to have surgery, I might as well make damned sure it works.
So now I'm bummed because I'm facing the fact that my horn playing could be out of commission for a month and a half.
I go back to the ENT doctor in 2 weeks and if there's still no sign of improvement then I'll have the surgery. I'm still holding out some kind of hope that it can still heal on its own.
Has anybody here gone through this before?