Earpocalypse: What The Doctor Said

I just got back from my doctor’s for the post-surgery follow-up. Let me get the bad news out of the way first: the vertigo is still ongoing, and while Dr. Alvarez suggests I take it day by day, he thinks it’s realistic to assume it’ll be another week or so before I can return to work and something resembling a normal routine. I have a follow-up in a few weeks where I can reassess my healing, see about lifting and exercise, and so on.

He also explained to me what happened during the surgery. Often I use “inner ear” to explain what’s been going on, because it’s just easier, but in reality the problem has been in my middle ear (picture provided to help explain things). As I mentioned in my previous post, the tissue grew over most of the malleus, and all of the incus and stapes. Dr. Alvarez essentially cut out all of that (as well as part of my eardrum) and replaced it with a strut that directly conducts the sound from the newly-constructed eardrum to the plate of the stapes (the “foot” of the stirrup, if you will) that connects to the inner ear proper. This was actually all in the plan.

What wasn’t in the plan is that the plate of the stapes actually fragmented during the surgery, giving him no place to anchor the strut to. He had to rebuilt that before he could attach the strut. Since that connection is what helps the inner ear regulate balance, a foreign connection to the inner ear results in the body not understanding what “balance” is until it’s all healed. Ergo, vertigo.

Now, the good news.

Dr. Alvarez (aside from being a sci-fi and fantasy geek, as I learned today) is frankly amazed at how much hearing I have now. His best-case condition for the surgery was that it would result in about -20db in hearing loss, which is pretty much where I was at beforehand. So, if healing continues at the pace it is, I could come out of this with no net hearing loss. I won’t gain any, but I may not need a hearing aid.

I’m really trying not to get too excited about that, but I may not need a hearing aid. I went from almost certain hearing loss to a noteworthy chance of none.

Further, as I remarked that I’m glad I decided to get the surgery done, he agreed. If I had decided to leave it alone, I could have developed a brain abscess. He also mentioned that the reconstruction is actually more extensive than my previous surgery, mainly because instead of trying to rebuild a few worn out bones, I had to have the entire system completely replaced.

So, while I’m naturally a little frustrated that I’m going to be laid up for another week, this is probably the best news I could have gotten. Even Dr. Alvarez seemed genuinely surprised at how well things are going. If that means I have to force myself to not push and let myself heal to make sure I maximize my chances of this amazing outcome, I will sit on the couch and snuggle with my dog for as long as it takes.

Right now, though, I think I need a nap.

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