Rebuilding an ear drum..
January 10, 2013 2:19 PM   Subscribe

My 5 year old son has lost 70% of his ear drum and a large portion of his hearing in his right ear. The Dr is talking about surgery to repair's called a Tympanoplasty....

We aren't sure what happened...he did have a tube in his ear drum and when the tube came out, instead of closing up, the ear drum basically dissolved. He has profound hearing loss in that ear...hopefully, the surgery (which applies a thin muscle graft to make a new drum) will restore most of his hearing. I'm a little freaked out, not so much....I trust his doctors, I trust that this will all work out... Just wanted to see if anyone had been through this surgery and the subsequent outcomes with their child.
posted by pearlybob to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not the most useful anecdata in the world, but a little boy I babysat for through middle and high school had a tympanoplasty when he was around 3 or so, due to problems (not sure how severe) resulting from the tubes. I don't know anything specific about how his surgery or recovery went, just that he was always in good spirits, and came out of everything 100% repaired.

He's, gosh, probably in 10th or 11th grade now, and is by all reports a completely normal and healthy kid.
posted by phunniemee at 2:42 PM on January 10, 2013

This is a fairly common surgery in children; we have 2 ENT surgeons at my hospital who do them on a regular basis. The outcomes are pretty good, but for individual patients the outcome depends on such factors as what (if any) middle and inner ear problems are associated with the perforated ear drum; that also affects the complexity of the procedure. Unless the patient has other health issues that complicate things the surgery is usually done as an outpatient and is well tolerated, although there is some increased risk of postoperative nausea and vomiting (which is true of much ear surgery). Let me know if you have other questions; your son's surgeon and anesthesiologist should be able to give you answers more specific to your situation.
posted by TedW at 2:44 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was this kid, I started out almost legally deaf due to fluid in my ears. I had tubes in my ears for nine years starting at age 3 or so (w/outpatient surgery each year to re-install the tubes), speech therapy to catch up on talking skills, etc. When my ears finally dried up, there was a massive amount of scar tissue on both eardrums (L, R) and I had hearing loss. My left eardrum healed (sealed the hole) on its own but the right eardrum did not and I had a tympanoplasty to fix it.

After the surgery healed I recovered most all of my hearing loss - I was at 100% within the normal frequency range of human speech, though outside that range there was some loss.

My outpatient surgery was in ~1990 when I was 12, and things are still good now at 35 :) I can scuba dive, fly, etc without problems. I am still prone to more ear infections than average due to my history, but I don't see that being related to the tympanoplasty.

For the actual surgery itself, it was a non-event. I went in, went to sleep, woke up very groggy and my parents took me home where I slept and puked and slept for 24hrs (common for general anesthesia for me). I had to wear a half-foam ball thing strapped to my head which protected the ear while it healed, thankfully this was during school break so I only had minimal bandages when I returned to school.

The hospital also provided a video of the surgery, it was kinda cool but it was zoomed in the ear and we had a hard time figuring out the orientation and what parts were what...

As TedW mentions, the biggest variable to success is knowing the root cause and other complicating factors. If there's inner ear damage that's usually permanent in my limited knowledge.

The biggest fear I had as a kid was knowing that the surgery involved cutting behind the ear and folding it forward, then stitching it back in place afterward. There's no visible scarring but I was worried that my ear was now "weaker" and wrestling/roughhousing/motorcycle helmets/etc might tear my ear off :p Obviously once everything is healed that's not a worry.

Also, semi-related, I was put under via IV, and when they first put the IV line & saline drip in my arm during prep I sat there watching terrified as bubbles went down the line and into my arm. I swear I could feel the bubbles traveling up my arm and was sure I was going to die..except none of the nurses appeared concerned. Obviously I'd watched too many spy movies, this should not be an issue for your son at 5yrs :) They may even use gas to put him under, which results in very wacky dreams/synesthesia.
posted by jpeacock at 3:20 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had this done eight weeks ago (48 yo male). In my case, it was done through the ear canal rather than using the behind the ear route. Until the surgery itself, the doctor could not state for sure which route he would take.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 4:00 PM on January 10, 2013

I just read a blog post from a guy who had eardrum surgery. Not much detail - it's more of a "year in review" post.
posted by sarah_pdx at 5:43 PM on January 10, 2013

I had the same surgery mid/late 1970's, also my right ear. Many sets of tubes. I have maybe 25% hearing in that ear - which is an improvement, but certainly not great. Loud situations with multiple noise sources are impossible for me - parties for example. Its all a jumble of noise. Hopefully techniques and treatment have improved over the years!
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:50 PM on January 10, 2013

I had this done when I was in high school, around 20 years ago.

My surgery was brought on by an inner ear infection gone wild which built up to the point of blowing out my eardrum.

Surgery was behind the ear, but I don't remember anything particularly bad about recovery.

The only lasting issue I've had is with ringing in that ear. But even that isn't so bad that it drives me nuts. My hearing was only slightly affected and I have no other issues (flying, etc...)
posted by austinetsu at 5:52 PM on January 10, 2013

I've had three typmanoplasmys on the same ear. Like your son, my ear drum was shredded by ear tubes. I had them done at age 13, 20, and 26 (I'm 28 now). I had to have them redone because of complications your kid has no probable chance of having if he's not incredible unlucky. After the third surgery, I regained about 85% of my hearing again (I regained it all at age 13 and 20). All three were from behind the ear, the scarring isn't visible, which is nice. The only long term complication has been terrible balance and occasional ringing. There is nothing nicer than regaining a large part of your hearing. Recovery depended on the doctor performing the surgery, but in general it wasn't terrible. A week or so of being ill, and then healing over a period of a month or so.
Good luck, you really have nothing to be worried about.
posted by Sucht at 6:44 PM on January 10, 2013

Thank you all.... I'm not really worried.....testing has determined that the inner ear structure is fine and his hearing loss is strictly from the ear drum being gone. Do I want him to have surgery?? No... do I want them to take off his ear to do this?? no, but I want him to hear and I know how important this will be. All in all, we could be dealing with much worse. I appreciate all of your stories... I feel better to hear (hah!) so many good outcomes. I hope you all have a great and sound-rich new year!
posted by pearlybob at 2:48 PM on January 11, 2013

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