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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?
 

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Nope, never had that.

After a very bad infection a couple of years back I had
grommets inserted for a condition known as 'Glue Ear'.

These fall out eventually.

The problem is caused by a blockage of the Eustachian tubes.

I'm wondering why you have a history of pressure build up in your
ears. Perhaps there is a problem with your Eustachian tubes ??
 

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My son went through that procedure when he was about 13. Unfortunately for him, his eardrup ruptured again within a year and again would not heal. The ENT wanted to let him get older before trying it again - he's now 18 with the hole still there. He's got to be cautious, but he's really not restricted too much. He uses a custom-made molded earplug when he's in a pool or around water activities - that's about it.
 

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Agent27 said:
UPDATE: I'm having surgery on the 19th.

Good luck, man. Follow your doctor's suggestions--practice piano for a few weeks.:cool:
 

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Agent27 said:
Yeah, but I need to get my keyboard fixed.

Details, details.:D;)
 

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Agent27 said:
Yeah, but I need to get my keyboard fixed.
Why fix if you can borrow? :D

BTW, do exactly as the Dr. tells you and the proceedure should heal just fine. Take care....
 

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I'll put in a word your family doctor (since I am one) - perforations CAN be hard to see, especially if they're big. Of course, I've never missed one (!) but I remember having a lecture from an ENT guy who said HE often couldn't be sure - very reassuring.

You should do fine - it'll be good to hear in stereo again.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
potiphar said:
I'll put in a word your family doctor (since I am one) - perforations CAN be hard to see, especially if they're big. Of course, I've never missed one (!) but I remember having a lecture from an ENT guy who said HE often couldn't be sure - very reassuring.
That's what my ENT guy said. But I've been wavering on this physician for a while and don't think I'll go back to him. I needed to get off of antidepressants under doctor supervision so I could join the Navy. He gave me samples of some stuff I thought were for a Thyroid condition. They were actually just a different antidepressant. When I realized it I was dumbfounded.
 

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Agent27 said:
That's what my ENT guy said. But I've been wavering on this physician for a while and don't think I'll go back to him. I needed to get off of antidepressants under doctor supervision so I could join the Navy. He gave me samples of some stuff I thought were for a Thyroid condition. They were actually just a different antidepressant. When I realized it I was dumbfounded.
That does sound like a breakdown of the proverbial doctor-patient relationship. I'm surprised you stuck around for so long. Now I can imagine an ENT surgeon thinking antidepressants were for treating the thyroid...
 

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Are they going to be able to go in through the ear canal to do the surgery or do they know yet? We didn't know which technique they would use on my son until after the surgery - we knew it could go either way. For him, they could not go in through the canal.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
They're making a long slit behind the ear and then peel it back. No such luck just going through the ear canal.

Potiphar:
To clarify, he gave me a presciption for some thyroid pills and I thought the samples were kind of to get me started while the prescription was being filled. I was just peeved that I specifically went there for the sole reason of starting to ween myself off the meds only for him to give me more antidepressants. I told him I wanted to get off of 'em and why. I didn't say I want to switch from Paxil to Lexapro or anything.

It's just a culmination thing. He's started charging my insurance company increasingly outrageous amounts of money for not really doing anything and my insurance payments have really jumped as a result. He charged more for looking in my ear than the specialist did for looking in my ear and running pressure and hearing tests. As a doctor, can you tell me a reason I might not be aware of why this would happen?
 

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That was the same technique used on my son - really no big deal as the back side crease of the ear is the perfect place to hide a scar. No healing issues either . . . and he definitely had something cool for teenage "show and tell."
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
I had the surgery last Tuesday. I Got there at 6:30 AM. It was supposed to start at 7:30 but I didn't have my watch on so I don't know if it did. I wasn't nervous 'til I got there. My mother drove me and my dad drove in from Seguin (near San Antonio). My sister wanted to fly in from Sacramento but we talked her out of it.

I had an IV for the anesthesia. They didn't even have me count down or anything. I shifted from by bed to the operating table and the next thing I know I was out. I remember vaguely a breathing mask but I'm pretty sure that was after it was all over. The only time I saw the surgeon was in my room prior to being wheeled into the operating room.

They wrapped my head in gauze and it looked like I had a diaper on my head. Against my better judgment I will post a pic. This was taken as soon as I got home from the hospital.


Notice I couldn't wear my glasses properly due to the bandaging. They wouldn't let me wear my contacts during the operation.

I really haven't had any pain. I took the pain meds as a precaution but I really didn't need them. I got the bandages off on Thursday. The canal has packing in it and as a result I'm basically deaf in my right ear right now. Actually, because it's so closed off I hear a very high pitch ALL THE TIME. It's extremely annoying. I can't sleep on my right side yet though I think I'll be able to in a few days. So I sleep on my left side which means both ears are covered and I'm completely deaf aside form the high pitch screaming in my right ear.

The packing is very uncomfortable. I often get a tickle (kind of like when you get water in there) and I automatically shake my head and upper body. I think part of that is natural wax draining. When I move my ear a bit to relieve the sensation, I hear the squishiness.

I don't get the packing taken out until July 25th. :mad:

Oh, and they doctor said my ear canal was actually very narrow so they enlarged it. I'm not exactly sure what that entailed and forgot to ask when I saw him.

Anyway, thought I'd give an update as reference in case anyone has to have this done in the future.

Here's a pic of my stitches.
EDIT: In light of a few responses, I have changed the pic to a simple link so people don't just stumble upon it and get grossed out.
http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d135/SecretAgent0027/Ear2.jpg
 

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From the looks of that stitching, the amount of skin they took suggests that was one big perforation in your ear drum. Did they seal the hole or replace the whole ear drum? I didn't realize the drum is so big, if they replaced the drum.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I'm not sure of the source for the graft, but the incision is because they had to fold the ear over and go through the back to get at the eardrum. I think sometimes they can go through the canal. But due to the shape and narrowness of my ear canal and the placement of the perforation in the eardrum, they had to do it the way the did.

I was told that it was a pretty big hole though.
 

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i hope it heals well. I recommend milk, chocolate chip cookies and like the doc says, rest (no sax.) It sounds like you did the right thing, so hang in there until you're better. :D
 

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Damn, I guess I'm lucky. About three months ago, I felt an earinfection coming on in my left ear. The pressure started building on Friday, and by Saturday the pain was excruciating. I played an R&B gig that night without telling the guys what was up, I just drank more.

The following day, Sunday, I felt relief of the pressure on my ear drum, as it tore to release all the built-up stuff. I remember blowing my nose and hearing the broken snare in my left ear. The pressure relief wasn't enough, the pain was still wicked.

I finally saw my Doctor on Monday, and he prescribed Augmentin, Some drops(that couldn't get into my swollen ear canal), and lots of Vicodin! Within 10 days, the swelling was gone but the draining wouldn't stop. I was putting napkins in my ear at gigs and they were getting soaked. Nasty!

I finally was referred to a specialist who looked into my Eustachian tube with a device that went up my nose. The blockage that caused this whole mess was a pair of opposing polyps in my Eustachian tube. I was given more Augmentin, some different ear drops, and some steroid based nose spray.

When I went to the follow-up visit, my eardrum had healed and the swelling went down.

For the 4 or 5 gigs that I played while half deaf, I had absolutely no idea how loud I was playing, but I was a better harmony singer!


Dude, get better soon. That scar looks gnarly!
 
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