Stapedectomy Experience (UK)

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Hi everyone,

I've just had a stapedectomy in my right ear and thought I would share my experience with others who may be considering this operation. I'll try and update this every couple of days, but feel free to ask any questions you might have in the meantime. I've really benefitted from reading people's first hand accounts in the lead up to this op so this is my opportunity to try and give something back to this niche stapedectomy community ;-).

Background to Stapedectomy: Since Dec 2016 I started to notice that I was losing hearing in my right ear. At first it was only minor (20% loss) but by early 2018 I was classified as severly deaf in that ear at around 85-90% loss. The severe hearing loss had a big impact on my social life, my ability to carry out simple tasks (i.e. riding my bike) as well as my work (meetings became a struggle). All of this coincided with a 10 year relationship break up in 2017, which when combined with my hearing problems, made me the social equiavalent of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Something had to be done...

Getting Diagnosed: Getting the diagnosis for Otosclerosis in my right ear took a bit of time. Initially I thought it was wax build up and went to see a Dr in Romania while visiting my then girlfriends parents. They couldn't find any wax and recommended an MRI to check it wasn't anything sinister. Returning to the UK I got an appointment with the ENT department who undertook a series of checks and concluded I had Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. Cue several months of steam baths, decongestants, anti-hystamines none of which were effective in improving my hearing. I also had a CT scan which confirmed that there were no tumours present (these tumours are often harmless even if found). Returning to ENT after 6 months ready to demand grommets for my ears I was put through a hearing test again. This confirmed I was now severly deaf in my right ear, but also that my Eustachian Tubes were functioning normally. Hmmm? What had happened?

It turns out that the machine that they would have used to check the pressure in my middle ear canal wasn't working during my original appointment and therefore they were unable to discount ETD. Annoying.

My crude understanding of how they diagnosed my Otosclerosis is as follows. Ear drum was working fine, my auditory nerve was picking up sound fine (checked through bone conductivity tests if I remember correct) and my middle ear pressure was also good. By process of elimination they were pretty sure it was my a mechanical problem with my 3 ear bones, in particular the stapes.

Why did I opt for the Op? At the time I was given the option of hearing aids (hmm); a Bone anchored hearing aid (i.e. a hearing aid implanted into your skull) or a Stapedectomy. My personal reasons for going for the op were 1. my hearing was so bad in the affected ear that I felt the risk of losing my hearing totally through the op would not have resulted in a much worse situation to the one I was already in. 2. The success rate was for the op appeared to be good and could be undertaken as a day case 3. The op offered the potential to hear completely normally again. The other two options would have provided more artificial hearing benefits. 4. Probably an element of vanity about not wanting to wear hearing aids of have an implant 

Day of the op: So I was quite nervous about the prospect of a general anaesthetic (GA). I woke up on the day of my surgery Tues 8th and had to skip my coffee and breakfast as per the rules. The order of play went a bit like this....

1. Seen by nurse who checked vitals

2. Seen by anaesthesist

3. Seen by surgeon

4. Dress in funny clothes and excellent socks

5. Go into the operating theatre, have a small freak out about how many people are there just for you, get a mask over your face and then passing out.

In all seriousness I am a fairly anxious person, but the NHS staff were amazing and knowing what was coming each step of the way really helped quash any mystery about the process. Essentially GA is extremely safe unless you are a 120 year old man being rushed into A&E with half an arm and a penchant for long mid-morning snoozes.

Waking up and Day 1: The surgery took 2 hours for me, although 45-60mins is more common (i have a small ear canal apparently!). and you'll generally be put under for about 4 hours in total.

Waking up you will have a nurse checking your vitals and handing you some water to sip. Everyone has a different post GA experience (inc. hysterical laughing, crying and memory loss) but for me I was just  moderately dizzy and very lethargic. I got wheeled into a recovery room for about an hour an ate everything they had on offer. The first trip to the toilet was difficult as was putting on my clothes due to being so off balance.

I was given some paracetemol and Ibuprofen for the pain (at this point there was none) as well as some cotton balls to replace periodically over the next few days. I was told my follow-up appointment would be in 2 weeks where the packing in my ear would be removed.

At this point many people talk about being able to hear straight away. I can't say this was my experience, but I largely think this is due to the packing which is fairly tight in your ear. However, I did notice that scratching my ear lobe lightly produced a much louder sound than prior to the surgery which helped to give me some piece of mind that something has worked.

Day 1 returning from surgery: Dizzy and tired. Dizzyness comes more from leaning head forward, leaning head backwards or going up and down stairs. This is a very common side effect of the surgery so I'm not worried at this point. I have to move in a more considered way but I don't think I'm at risk of falling over from this feeling of being off balance. There is some pain in the affected ear but it's not too bad. Had a big meal, watched some TV and then feel asleep on my back.

Day 2: Just as dizzy as yesterday, cotton swab has a small amount of blood on it, ear pain definitely worse and can hear my heart beat/blood rushing sensation in my ear. None of this is unbearable and I still manage to talk to my sister on Facebook and listen to Adam Buxton's podcast. It's fairly embarrassing but one piece of advice I would give is get some 'stool softners' and or laxatives. A side effect of GA and pain medicine is constipation. Combine straining with a traumatised ear op and you have a fairly tricky pain balancing act while hovering over the toilet. Heed my words!

Day 3: Bad night of sleeping waking up in pain. Think I'm trying to do to much to soon. No change in hearing, but I'm really not expecting anything until the packing is out. Felling generally a bit deflated after the GA and not being able to do anything active...I am not an indoors person. Had a dizzy walked to the shops looking like a drunkard.

Day 4: slightly better sleep. Still some pain but I've only taken one ibuprofen today so it could definitely be worse. Still some minor bleeding on cotton swab. Ear continuing to make weird farting and squelching noises. I'm pretty relaxed that my ear is in recovery mode so I'm not expecting any miracles at this point. You'll read on other forums that some other people are already back to work at this point. This still feels some way off for me, but from what I've read about this procedure I can say for sure that everyone has very different recovery experience and associated timescales. Life can't be too bad as I've managed to write this post. Will update more over the coming days...

 

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  • Posted

    Thank you Jake.  Not my problem but most informative and sure to help others in your situation.  I will read Your updates with interest and I do hope this is a permanent fix for you.

    Best wishes, Maureen

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  • Posted

    Day 5: there's still some pain there but it's coming in sharp unexpected bursts rather than a dull ache. I've only taken a couple of ibuprofen so it's definitely manageable pain. Have to be a bit cautious with how I move my jaw, especially when eating or yawning as i feel like this sometimes sets back the healing. No change in hearing at the moment, but as stated previously I think this is due to packing. Getting lots of tinnitus and hearing my heartbeat, but none of this unbearable or wholly unexpected given the trauma to my ear! Worst thing at the moment is just the amount of time spent indoors and the fact that I can't wash my hair. I have become a bearded hermit and I'm not sure I like it.   

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  • Posted

    Day 6: Will probably cut these daily posts down to weekly as I'm running out of ways to tell you that I'm still a bit off balance and there's still a dull ache. Definitely all improving though. Feel good enough to take my guitar and sit by the river today and write a song about my ear. Ear canal is getting less painful and more itchy...annoying!

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  • Posted

    So Day 14 update. Tomorrow I'm due to have the packing removed from my ear although I have to confess I accidentally pulled some out on Day 10 when changing the cotton dressing. Today marked the first notable change in hearing. My ear popped a little and suddenly I could hear certain sounds very clearly. These are most confined to things like closing a cupboard, hearing plates clatter etc. Very weird hearing anything out of that ear for the first time in a year! So there's some progress. As for the downsides I'm getting lots of tinnitus (ringing/crickets) which varies in intensity throughout the day and there's still some dizziness there when I do things quickly. Let's see how tomorrow goes. Looking forward to washing my hair one of these days ;-)

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    • Posted

      Hi Jake - I had a similar procedure (laser stapedectomy) about 7 weeks ago. Still dealing with some balance and dizziness issues, as well as some ringing. Seems to be getting better but glacially slow! How are things working out for you at this point? 
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    • Posted

      Hey! Nice to hear from a stapedectomy comrade in arms! Yeah so shortly after my last post I started to feel really good and everything was getting better. I then went to some works drinks in a really noisy pub and it completely knocked me out for a 4-5 days. Really bad tinnitus and the dizziness came back with a vengeance. It was really silly to be honest. Classic case of 'I feel physically better so everything must be completely healed.'

      As for now (4 weeks post) I'm really happy. My hearing has definitely improved (although I would guess that most of these have been made in the bass/mid frequencies), my dizziness is still there in the mornings and when I'm really exhausted but generally is a whole lot better and my tinnitus has virtually gone. We'll see what the hearing test says though before I make any firm conclusions. Like you it's been a very slow and steady progression every day.  

      Did you have your hearing test yet? Are you getting water in your ear (showering etc.) at this stage? I stupidly booked a cycling holiday in France from July and then realised that I probably shouldn't take the Eurostar due to the pressure change. Ferry for me now....I hope the dizziness isn't too bad!

      Glad things are improving for you. Would be good to hear how you are getting on. 

      Jake

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    • Posted

      Thanks for reply Jake. Sounds like we're going through some similar issues. The first 4-5 days after the operation I couldn't walk without assistance which I wasn't expecting. I know everyone reacts differently to the surgery so I think mine hit me pretty hard relative to other stories I've heard. At this point I'm almost 8 weeks out, pretty functional but still haven't been able to do any exercise other than walking around which is driving me a bit nuts! Like you, I start feeling a bit normal and then overdo it and realize I'm not quite there yet. Still some dizzyness at times and light headedness when I'm moving around - although it is getting better. I actually have been taken some allergy medicine which I think has relieved some of the pressure from my ear - I had felt a constant need to want to pop my ear for the last little while. 

      I did have a hearing test at 6 weeks - it looked good for the lower frequencies (for the higher frequencies it wasn't as good but the surgeon told me that will change so we'll see). It's hard for me to tell how much better overall it is at this point (I have a bit of ringing going on still) but I'm pretty sure there has been some improvement and I'm banking on a bit more as we go. 

      Yes I was given the go ahead to shower normally at 6 weeks which was nice! Do you feel the pressure in your ear or are you worried about the Eurostar because of what the doctor has told you. I know that I wasn't supposed to fly for 6 weeks I think? I wonder how the boat will feel for you as far as balance etc. I have a boat trip as well in July and assumed I'd be all good to go but we'll see I guess! 

      Nice to hear from someone with a similar experience. Good luck with everything and I'm sure you'll be good to go soon. 

      Cheers

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  • Posted

    Hey there.  How is the ear? I had my operation on 4th June. The first 10 days were horrible. I couldn’t leave the house without somebody being with me. I spent most of my time just lying around the house or out in the sun. I totally underestimated how bad the dizziness would be. I had very little pain but on occasions had a sharp stabbing pain. And the temple on that side of my head ached at times. I can’t believe it’s only been 4 weeks. When I first got the packing out it was a nightmare with all the noises lol. My car sounded like a jumbo jet. I hated it. Everything was unbelievably Loud. Noise bald settled now and my hearing is so much better. It’s amazing. I’m finding my ear still a little achey at times deep down and my scar itches real bad sometimes. I went back to work 17 days after the operation, I work in care. I haven’t had any issues. I’ve been out walking and out on the bike too. Reading some other reviews has made me wonder if I’ve been overdoin it? 

    Anyway. Hope you’re recovery is going well

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    • Posted

      Hey Davina thanks for the message. I'm still trying to keep a keen eye on this thread as I know how helpful it was for me to have people reporting their progress at various stages of their recovery!

      Yeah I agree the first couple of weeks were no fun at all and I completely underestimated the side effects rolleyes  Sounds like you are doing really well for the 4 week mark though!!! 17 days was about the same for me. 2 months in I'm still being a bit careful with weight training and lifting in general, but I'm off for a cycle tour in France for a week and training for a 10k run which tells you that I at least 'feel' 100% recovered. My 2 month follow up appointment is tomorrow to see what the actual improvement is...I think it's going to be good and I'll try to post the results if I remember!

      I don't think you're overdoing it with walking and cycling. I would say be careful around sustained loud noise (i.e. music venues) because that has set me back a few times sad

      Really glad that the operation has gone well for you! It's been a game changer for me smile

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  • Posted

    Thanks for the music advice. I went to Ed Sheeran the night before my operation. I was scared while I waited on my app for the op and was overjoyed that it was the day after 🤣 only loud music I will experience anytime soon will be in the car.  Good luck with ure cycle. I’m sure if you if you are feeling good it will be okay.  I have my next appointment in August to have my hearing test done. 

    my o my issue now is how itchy the inside of my ear can be at times.  I hope it is just the ear healing. I had my sister looking in armed with a torch 🙈 to see if she cld see anything in case something was wrong lol. Best of luck with ure next appointment 

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    • Posted

      ooh yeah itchy ear syndrome. I forgot about that! Yeah it's so annoying when you can't scratch that itch! Take it easy Davina and same to you with your next appointment smile Jake

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    • Posted

      Hi Davina.... remember me 😁 I also had my op on 4 June and was off work 3 n a half weeks. The first couple of weeks were exhausting doing nothing and I never felt secure in myself doing anything. It's a strange op altogether. I feel my hearing has really improved, great not to wear a hearing aid. However I came on here looking for some answers... My tongue is still slightly numb and I have a horrible taste at the side where ear was operated on. Has anyone else got this? Also, where the stitches, at the top of ear, is a bit numb!

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    • Posted

      Well hello stranger. How r ye? Lol my hearing is great. Workies have accused me of hearing the grass grow in comparison to how I was before. Having no hearing aid is amazing. I was actually thinking today when I was out walking how the left side of my tongue is still not 100%. The taste is slight and the numbness is like the last stage of being numbed at the dentist so defo improved. Where my stitches were was still quite numb until last week. When I lie on it it feeels weird. Mines sometimes sore inside but not agony. X
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    • Posted

      Hi. I'm good thanks and like you loving the fact that after more than 10 years I've no hearing aid 😆 can't wait for December next year to get other one done. The taste thing is doing my head in, not appearing to shift. Hopefully I'll get up one morning and it'll be all good. Inside ear has been ok, no pain. Desperate to get in about it for a good scratch and clean lol. Still putting cotton wool in when washing hair just in case x

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    • Posted

      Haha. I have at one point threatened to get the toilet brush to scratch the ear hahaha. It’s horrible. Worse when I wake up in the morning lol. I feel that my mouth is always very dry in the mornings now and althats when I notice he taste more too. I do remember Mrs McAndie saying to me hat the taste and numbness could last for several weeks before it eased off.  The morning of the op was the only time it was mentioned to me about getting the other ear done. My right ear is nowhere as bad as the left was. When is you’re next appointment? X
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