A few months ago I had a Tympanoplasty on my right ear. It and the three months since then have definitely been something.
Why I’ve needed a tympanoplasty
So when I was about 3 years old or so my parents took me to see a doctor. I hadn’t been speaking at all and they eventually determined that I had fluid in my ear for some reason. They put a tube in my ear, which was the appropriate medical procedure at that time, and that got the fluid out. It left me with a perforated eardrum in my right ear that never healed. This wasn’t much of a problem for me until I started swimming in about 2008 or so.
I remember being in the middle of a fairly important court hearing (I was a prosecutor and it was certainly important to the defendant) and having a pounding headache. It was the start of what has been probably one hundred ear infections that I’ve had ever since I started swimming. The ear infections kept on happening regardless of what I tried. Medication, vinegar and peroxide mixes, even earplugs didn’t solve it. I would have to use cottonballs and paper towels sometimes in order to plug the hole up and keep from leaking all over my court clothes. My first ENT indicated that it should be a wait and see thing; just keep on taking the medication whenever I got an infection and and we would see what happened. When I started swimming in open water, I was less interested in taking my chances with that. I reached out to an ENT and ended up at a local hospital for a Tympanoplasty.
So what is a tympanoplasty?
Okay, so a Tympanoplasty is a surgical procedure for an ear. It’s a procedure that is done to people who have a perforated eardrum by either patching the eardrum back together or by putting a new substance in for the eardrum entirely.
They can either go through the ear canal or they can cut behind the ear and go that way. The second one is what they did for me; they made a cut behind my ear, pulled it apart I suppose, went inside and cleared out some stuff that was growing out of the hole in my ear (um, like a plant?) and then gave me an eardrum that is based off skin of the bone of a cow*.
Pictured above: the stuff that was growing out of my ear before the procedure.
I’ve never done surgery before other than wisdom teeth so the notion of knocking me out and having a tube breathe for me was pretty frightening. So was the operating room, which looked more serious than the bridge of the Starship Enterprise (any version).
So I googled operating room gifs so I could get something to show you, but this came up. I have nooooo idea what’s happening here. They did not do this during my surgery. At least I don’t think so, I mean I was asleep.
I don’t remember much. They kept on asking me if I needed to go to the bathroom while I was in pre-op. I told them “to do what? you said I couldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight so there’s nothing to come out!” Then they wheeled me into the OR and I saw about 15 people in it and I started freaking out. Then they talked to me to calm me down while the anesthetic started working. Then they put the pure oxygen on me and I was out. I woke up a few hours later in the recovery room and counted all my fingers and toes to make sure that they were still there (I don’t care if it was for an ear surgery, I wanted to be SURE I left with everything that I came in with. Minus one effed up eardrum). I remember being wheeled back into the pre-op room and I was so glad to see my partner and my mom there. I came home and got loved on by everyone and even our cats.
The full recovery process is about 6-8 weeks or so. For the first three weeks I had keep the ear canal completely dry. I had to use a cotton ball with Vaseline on both sides in order to keep water from getting in. I also couldn’t carry objects that weighed more than 10 pounds (which is EVERYTHING) and had to learn how to sneeze differently.
The worst part of the Post Surgery, as you can imagine, is the sedentary activity. I couldn’t get the ear wet at all, via sweat or via pool water. So I had to basically sit for about 5 weeks and do nothing. I ballooned up in weight and got pretty cranky.
My surgery was 3 months and a few days ago as of the time of this writing. I’ve been able to start swimming again and was even able to finish a triathlon recently. I go in for my final follow up and hearing test in a few weeks.
The more that I think about it the more I realize that my hearing has always been messed up. At least in the relevant portion of my life. I don’t really care about how bad my hearing was before I was 3 years old. And if that is the case then I could be overcoming a life long ailment. I will give a report once I have my 3-month appointment.
*This is what I remember them saying. Now note: I was drugged when I woke up so I may have heard it wrong.