I’ve had this problem with my left ear for a few years. It started when I was working a part-time at an after school care program. Being around kids everyday, obviously I was exposed to more germs and 2 Winters in a row I got very bad cases of the flu. Like, knocked on my ass for 7-10 days, no energy to move or do anything but in pain and so stuffy I couldn’t sleep much, bad. I got my very 1st ear infection during this time and it didn’t seem to go away. I was in pain for 6 months and bleeding from my left ear.
When the infection finally cleared, I had suffered hearing loss in that ear. I went to an audiologist for a hearing test and he noticed a pin-size hole in my ear drum. He said to give that time to heal, come back in a few months, then we’ll reassess the hearing loss and see if anything needs to be done. Well, a few months later my ear was finally feeling normal, I had gotten used to the hearing loss and I never went back to have my ear checked. *slapping myself on the wrist*
Then in mid-September of this year, my ear started hurting and my hearing decreased even more. Over the next 3 weeks, the pain got worse; it felt like I was being stabbed in the ear. I also felt like there was something stuck in my ear canal (the place where were not supposed to stick a Q-tip but we all do because we can’t stand to feel water in our ears). So I made an appointment with an ENT. After a round of oral and ear dropped antibiotics, hearing tests and a CT scan of my head and neck, I finally received a diagnosis on November 7th. I have a mass in my ear.
What does that mean? This mass, probably made up of harmless skin cells, has filled the space behind my ear drum, preventing the ear bones from vibrating normally, thus interfering with my hearing. It continues to grow and pushed over my ear drum into my ear canal. So, I really do have something in my ear canal and it has nothing to do with improper use of a Q-tip. Phew! Wouldn’t want to get caught by the ENT for that offense! ;o) This mass is also growing down behind and under my ear. The mass is grainy, like sand, so as it’s grown, it has been rubbing away at my ear bones – another reason for my hearing loss.
How did this happen? This can happen to people who have had ear tubes put in as a child (I did not) or who’ve had a whole in their ear drum at some point (I have). Some skin cells travelled through that hole and have been multiplying. The pain I feel is the erosion of my ear bones by the mass and it has subsided tremendously over the past weeks – a good and bad thing. ;o)
What can they do? My ENT said it will involve 2 surgeries, and I need someone more specialized than him to do them. The 1st one, to go in and remove all parts of the mass and assess the state of my ear bones. It is done in a hospital but it is only a few hours and will be outpatient. The second surgery is to put in prosthetic ear bones/bone pieces to replace what has been eroded away. Isn’t that totally awesome?!?!?! Did you even know that prosthetic ear bones existed?! I sure as hell didn’t! I have appointments next week with 2 surgeons (because the hubs said if surgery is involved, then a 2nd opinion is to be had) to go over all my tests, listen to what their plan of attack is and, to basically interview them and see which one gives me the better vibe.
My ENT was great explaining all of this to me in detail and answering all of my questions. I appreciated that he was upfront with me and was honest that this is a time sensitive issue, instead of being vague, referring me to a surgeon and leaving it to that doctor to tell me everything. He assured me that this is a common issue and the mass is just skin cells. Even though I never asked him, he said at least 3 times, “It’s not a tumor.” Each time he did, I tried not to giggle because all I could think of was Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop saying, “IT’S NOT A TOOMAH!!” LOL! That line kills me!
After he’d explained everything and answered all my questions, he said, “I gotta say, you’re handling this very well. You’re so calm.”
“I don’t worry unless there’s something to be worried about. You’ve explained everything to me so well and I’m just relieved to have a diagnosis that has a solution,” I replied.
He said, “I wish I could be like you. I’m a worry wart. I worry about everything!”
“That’s because you’re a dad; It’s your job,” I replied. “It’s what my dad does and what my husband does. So I don’t need to.”
Even though he said this is common, that cancer in the ear is extremely rare and this is just skin cells, he assured me that it will still be biopsied. I asked if it could spread into my sinuses or throat since all of that is connected to the ear and he said no. However, if left untreated, he can grow straight up into my brain or straight back into major blood vessels, so I should not delay on seeking treatment. He also said that despite the efforts to remove the mass, a cell or two could be left behind and they would reproduce. So, I’ll need regular CT scans (I forgot to ask how frequently) for the rest of my life to keep tabs on it.
I am so excited that an end is in sight! I am at peace and confident because God will be with me and will bear any worries that may come up. But there’s never such a thing as too many prayers, so I ask that you keep me in yours. Thank you.
I’ll keep you up to date when I know something new.