Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tympanoplasty: 12 Days After Surgery

The sounds I described on the previous posts have been coming and going.  They are not consistent and I have no idea what triggers them.  One day I hear crackling, then it's gone.  Or I hear fluid, but I wake up the next day and it's gone too.  The ringing is probably the most constant sound I have been hearing and it's all kinds of ringing.  Sometimes it's so soft, like constant humming in my ear, other times it's sharp and annoying.  

I saw the specialist today and I described the sounds.  He said something like, "Yup, that might happen, let's see here..."  He removed my stitches and it wasn't painful.  The worst part felt just like I was poked by a needle, so no big deal.  He proceeded to insert some drops into my hear and he used his suctioning tool quite a bit.  I asked him, "How do you not suction out the skin graft" and he told me that he was working quite far from the eardrum, in the ear canal.  He was suctioning out some of the 'packing'.  As soon as he was done, I heard better instantly.  Not perfect, but much better and I would say about 50% now.  

The doctor looked in my ear for a while and told me that everything was looking great.  He said the skin graft was positioned right on, and he told me to continue using the antibiotic drops he gave me twice a day and to still take it easy.  By this, he now means no heavy lifting, no holding sneezes in, no bending straight down, etc.  

I have been going to work for a few days now and today my co-workers kept making me laugh.  I was trying not to laugh hard as I could hear weird sounds when I did it, and I was afraid that it could move my skin graft.  Yet, everything is well, so laughing a little was OK to do :)

I am pretty happy today for the first time since the surgery.  I think everything is going to be fine.  I asked the doctor if I could see what he removed from my ear and he pointed to a little table.  I actually got to take a photo of it with my phone, so here it is:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tympanoplasty: Week After

About five days after the Tympanoplasty operation, I stopped taking the vicodin regularly. I had very little pain. On the 6th day, I went to a required post-operation appointment. The doctor suctioned out a little of the 'packing' (some kind of foam that they put in your ear to keep the skin graft and eardrum pressed together so they attach to each other). He also gave me some ear drops to use twice a day.

On the days that followed (6-8 days after), I start noticing how I actually hear less out of the ear than I heard before the operation. I started to notice that when I covered my good ear, I could detect some sounds with my recently-operated ear, but not all. I could hear distinct voices on the television, but they sounded really low. I'd say that one week after the operation my hearing on the operated ear was at about 25% (when compared to my non-operated on side). It also worried me that certain sounds, like the wiggling sound of our ceiling fan, I could not hear at all. I noticed that my ear detected low pitches better than high.

I also had sounds in my ear that were quite bothersome and scary. The sounds I heard in my ear the week after the Tympanoplasty can be described as:

Slight ringing sounds
Sounds that seem similar to a heart beat
Feeling/sound of blood pumping
Popping sounds
Sounds of liquid, and the sensation of having liquid stuck in my ear.

I searched the internet and read all I could about Tympanoplasty issues and learned that these sounds are referred to as Tinnitus. Many internet sites mention that Tympanoplasty patients often experience Tinnitus, which can be present for some time (no certain estimate on how long), but are rarely permanent. I didn't find any personal accounts on-line of these sounds, or how they turned out, so that was why I decided to write this blog. Not knowing if what you are hearing is 'normal' can be scary.

Today, it has been 10 days since I had the Tympanoplasty surgery. The ringing sounds have diminished, but they are not completely gone. I also noticed that when there are a lot of different sounds, such as cars and everyday street sounds, my ear hears a wall of noise and I can't pick up what my husband is saying (when he's standing right next to me and we are walking). I ask him to walk on the side of my good ear, as it's much easier to hear him that way.

I have been putting the drops the doctor prescribed for a few days now. It's kind of itchy inside my ear canal on and off, but the doctor says it's just part of the healing process. Maybe all of these funky sounds and not being able to hear well are normal, but I don't know and won't know until three weeks from now. In a few days, I have my second post-operation appointment, so I will find out of the skin graft is doing OK.

If you had a Tympanoplasty and experienced these 'weird sounds', please comment with a description of the sound, and most importantly, with the duration and outcome of them. Thanks!

Tympanoplasty: Days 2-4

On the second day, my husband had been instructed to remove the tape around my ear and clean the stitches daily. The cleaning of the stitches was easy, consisting of a rub-down with hydrogen peroxide followed by an anti-biotic ointment (Neosporin).

I was told by my doctor it was best to wait a little and not shower until the third day, at which time I had to be very careful not wet my ear. Basically, I was only to have a body shower. On day two, I was still pretty drowsy and sleepy, but I personally only experienced two incidents of nausea (one on day 1 shortly after returning home from the operation, and another on this the second day when I got up to get the tape removed from my ear).

It was great to have home-made food, mainly clear soups that didn't require a lot of chewing. My family was great and brought things over that my husband only had to microwave. By day three, I was sitting up, but not moving a whole lot. I walked VERY slowly on purpose as I wanted to make sure not to do anything to hurt myself.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tympanoplasty: Operation Day

I had a procedure called a Tympanoplasty to repair a hole in my left eardrum. I was instructed not to eat or drink anything, not even water, the night before my operation. I showed up to the hospital at 6:30 am, dressed in comfortable sweat pants and warm clothing as the doctor suggested. My husband came with me as someone had to drive me home after the surgery as it was an out-patient procedure. I had never been put under general anesthesia, so I must admit I was a little afraid.

I laid there as they put on the IV, and the last thing I remember is speaking with the anesthesiologist. The procedure was short, before I knew it the operation was over. From the check-in process until the anesthesia wore off enough to go home, it had been a total of about 2 hours. When I woke up, my ear was gauzed up and taped. I had some pain (not a lot), but they gave me a painkiller in the IV which made quite comfortable and sent me home with a prescription for Vicodin and an anti-biotic.

I went straight home, ate a soup, took two Vicadin pills and the anti-biotic, and fell asleep. I was also instructed to keep my head propped up with some pillows for two nights and to 'take it easy'. Taking it easy meant being off from work for about 1 week and specifically the following:

No lifting
No getting up too fast
No bending down, if you must, bend at knees
Cough slowly
If you sneeze, don't hold it in, sneeze with your mouth open
Don't drink with a straw
No jumping, running, etc

The nurse recommended that I don't wait for pain to take the medication, to just take 2 pills every four hours. I followed the instructions exactly for the first day, and it was perfect for me. I had no pain whatsoever and I was nice and relaxed while laying in bed. I am an active 31 year old who gets restless easily, so the medication also helped to stay in bed as I got drowsy. I pretty much stayed stayed horizontal for the first two days and slept a lot to avoid doing anything too strenuous. Additionally, I took an over the counter stool softener that my doctor friend recommended as you should avoid straining and constipation can be caused by 1) Medications 2) Lack of exercise. With a Tympanoplasty you might want to stay in bed a few days, but you are definitely told not to exercise for at least 1 week. After 1 week, you can return to some aerobic activity, such as light walking on a threadmill, but you aren't allowed to do anything too heavy (so no jumping, running, crunches, or weightlifting for a while).