The ENT thinks I may have otosclerosis. This is a condition where the stapes bone (the 'stirrup') in the middle ear becomes fused because of bone overgrowth. The stapes bone is the last bone in the middle ear (and the smallest bone in the body) leading from the ear drum to the cochlea. It transfers the vibration to the cochlea and ear nerve, which sends sound signals to the brain. If this diagnosis is correct, then my hearing loss is not age-related, high-frequency hearing loss (which is what I was told two years ago) but conductive hearing loss caused by a progressive disorder that can eventually lead to severe hearing impairment and ultimately total deafness. The rate at which this happens is described as 'gradual'.
Needless to say, I am sick about this. I have been reading online sources of information for the last three hours and my eyes are very tired. All the websites say the same thing. When I first read that this disorder, untreated, leads to deafness, I did burst into tears. But that didn't last very long. One thing at a time here. I am not deaf yet. I don't even know for sure that I have otosclerosis. One ENT at Nuneaton's GE Hospital thinks I might and has referred me on to the next guy. So just slow down.
If it turns out that I do have this, there are two alternatives, apparently:
1) Get a hearing aid and have hearing checked at least once a year to monitor hearing loss.
2) Surgery called a 'stapedectomy', which removes the stapes bone and replaces it with a plastic and platinum prosthesis.
Well, the very idea of having a prosthetic middle ear bone fills me with dread. Add to that the statistic that while 90% of patients enjoy improved hearing as a result, 9% have no improvement or worse hearing, and an amazing 1% of patients actually lose their hearing entirely as a result of this operation--WHAT! 1% of patients who just had a hearing loss when they went under knife, then come out 100% deaf! To me that is a chance that is just too high, at least right now. If my hearing were so far gone that I had nothing to lose, maybe. But right now I can hear. This specialist will have one hell of a time convincing me I need a prosthetic device in my middle ear. Even if it turned out successful for a time, I hope to live another 40 or 50 years! Will that thing last 40 or 50 years? Would I be just a very hard of hearing old lady without the prosthesis (letting the disorder proceed naturally) or a completely stone deaf old lady because my prosthetic devices slipped or caused necrosis? I just think now is not the time for surgical intervention.
May all beings be at ease.