My ear drama (for newer readers)

A couple of people have expressed interest/concern about my dizzy spells recently, so I thought I would explain the story of my inner ears. It’s a long one, so settle in.

I’ve had problems with my ears all my life. I’ve had numerous operations to put tubes in my ears, I’ve had a skin patch placed on my eardrum, and always had hearing loss. It’s something I’ve always had problems with, and I had just accepted that I wouldn’t be able to get water in my ears, or fly, or have normal hearing.

In 2004, after a series of concurrent ear infections, it was discovered that I had a cholesteatoma which was causing chronic ear infections in my right ear. There was a chance that the infection could spread to my brain, so my specialist (Dr. G. Robert Kletzker, MD, FACS) quickly scheduled me for a radical mastoidectomy. Basically, he cut a hole in my head and scooped the infection out, and rebuilt my eardrum and ear bones.

There was a follow-up procedure in 2005 that aligned the ear bones to increase my hearing in my right ear, moving it from around 40% to close to 70%. When my ear was healing in 2005, the doctor said that cold breezes might make me dizzy, and proscribed meclizine to help me with the dizzy spells. After winter passed, the dizzy spells faded, so I stopped taking the medication (as it made me drowsy).

In mid-October of 2006, I started getting them again, so I went back on the meclizine. It didn’t help. Whether I was on or off the drugs, I was continuing to get dizzy spells whenever I went outside (even with earmuffs and a hat covering my ears). I visited Dr. Kletzker again, and he determined that because the mastoidectomy is so large, it was collecting air pockets. Since I had been two years without any infection in my right ear, and my hearing was so radically improved from the pre-2004 levels of hearing (and alternatives such as a hearing aid, ear plug or continued medication unreasonable), we agreed that reversing the mastoidectomy is probably the best route to ending my dizzy spells. Essentially, he took some skin grafts and bone dust from other parts of my skull (away from the area of both ears) and filled in the hole, sculpting a new mastoid “plug.” The surgery was scheduled for December, right near the end of writing MET: Awakening.

There was a complication in January 2007, where it was discovered that the bone implant was dissolving. I had to go back into surgery immediately, but it was far less invasive.

Over time my ear healed. Every once in a while I’ll still get dizzy spells, usually because an allergy has settled into my inner ear. This last one was pretty bad, but I had also been flying every other weekend for two months, combined with a lack of sleep on the last trip and the worst allergy season in Atlanta. I plan to keep an eye on it, but thus far I’m not worried — compared to what I’ve been through, a few days feeling miserable is nothing.

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