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Old 12-12-2010, 01:27 PM   #1
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Flying after stapedectomy?

Hi, Group,

This is my 1st post in this forum. Thanks for your advice and opinions.

ISSUE: WHEN I CAN I FLY AFTER STAPEDECTOMY?

I had a stapedectomy December 2, 10 days ago. I am 55 yoa. Noticed I couldn't hear well in the left ear on the phone, then background noise affected my hearing, starting about 3 years ago. About 50% hearing loss one ear. Other ear has almost perfect hearing. It affected my quality of life, so I finally had a stapdectomy.

I flew to Boston from Houston specifically for this particular specialist to perform the surgery. He's performed about 3000 stapedectomies over a 20 year period, with no cases resulting in facial paralysis, my huge fear. It was a bit more complicated than he expected. Stapes was fixed and laser wouldn't work. He had to use the "old fashioned" method to remove the stapes with a drill rather than laser cut it and place the prosthetic.

I am supposed to fly home December 19, one week from today.

At my follow-up with him on December 8th, he removed the few behind-the-ear stitches and the ear packing. I said I couldn't hear in the operated ear. However, he whispered in my ear and I could easily hear him and the tuning fork seemed very loud. He said I could fly home on the 19th and I do not have another follow up with him.

However, it is an odd sensation. It seems like I can't really hear in that ear. But some sounds are overly loud now-like banging pots, music and other noises. Being in a store with the Christmas music and people talking and annoncments on a sound system seem quite loud. I assume that means I "hear" fine. My ear still aches a bit, has a very stuffed or full feeling, sound of wind is fairly constant, yet it doesn't seem like I can hear from the operated ear.

I obviously trusted, and do trust, this surgeon, or I wouldn't have gone to the significant expense and inconvenience of traveling to have the surgery performed by him.

However, I feel like my eardrum will rupture, or something bad to my ear will happen if I fly soon. I know this sounds ridiculous, I am just afraid to fly back soon. I'm reading the ENT guidelines which seem to indicate 6 weeks before taking a commercial flight, but my surgeon said 2 weeks post op (it will be 17 days post op to fly) is fine.

Please tell me I'm just being unreasonably fearful of flying so soon!

I've checked Amtrak--it'll cost me another $1200 by the time I get a tiny cabin and cancel my return flight, and it will take me almost 60 hours total time to get back home via train. Ugh.

With the snow and storms this week, I'm not up for a drive across country alone. I can't stand long distance driving even under the best of conditions.

I also really need to be back at work on December 20, if at all possible.

I plan to take a decongestant; I'm mailing most of my stuff back rather than carrying much weight to the flight; I'm flying back business class figuring less chance of getting bumped in the head, whatever...reading this, it seems so silly, but I don't at all feel ready to fly. What else can I do to ease all ear pressure for the flight? (Other than a double vodka to ease my nerves about hurting the ear!)

Ideas?
Thanks a lot.

Last edited by NewEar; 12-12-2010 at 01:33 PM.

 
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Old 12-25-2010, 04:39 PM   #2
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Hi New Ear

I had a stapedectomy on 1st December 2010 in Sydney, Australia. So that makes me 26 days post-op.

I still feel like I have almost no hearing in the operated ear, however I do hear loud clanging of plates, saucepans, microwave door etc..

The packing was taken out of my ear two weeks ago but my ear still feels totally clogged & muffled. Like your doctor, mine did the tuning fork test at my post-op appnt & told me the operation was successful. I'm starting to get worried as my hearing doesn't seem to be improving. Also, since my surgery, the hearing in my good ear (non-operated side, which also has slight otosclerosis) seems to have gotten worse, it feels very blocked & muffled, also since the surgery I have been hearing my own voice very loudly in the non-operated ear but not in the operated side. The sound of my voice in my head is driving me crazy, especially since it's all on the non-operated side. It almost feels like nothing at all is happening on the operated side. The ear & the entire side of my head is numb. The surgeon said numbness is from the incision and will take a few months to heal. Any sound that does get through the ear sounds like it's gone through a synthesizer.

I've read hundreds of posts on these boards over the last few weeks & I realise lots of people get the synthesised sound etc but mine doesn't seem to be improving.

My surgeon told me there is a lot of fluid still behind my eardrum which will take a while to heal & also told me to keep the ear dry until my next appointment on 18 January 2011. My surgeon is highly respected & is considered to be one of Australia's leading surgeons so I have total faith in his ability.

In regards to flying it seems everyone is told something different. I have read posts where people have been told ok to fly one week after surgery but others have been told to wait 6 weeks. I guess you've already made your decision re flying but if it were me I would put it off as long as possible, especially while the ear still feels muffled.

I would be interested to hear how your recovering is going, as I'm only one day behind you regarding our surgery dates.

Also, I still have mind vertigo, especially when walking up or down stairs.

All the Best with your recovery.

 
Old 12-25-2010, 08:19 PM   #3
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Quote:
Originally Posted by australiagirl View Post
Hi New Ear

I had a stapedectomy on 1st December 2010 in Sydney, Australia. So that makes me 26 days post-op.

I still feel like I have almost no hearing in the operated ear, however I do hear loud clanging of plates, saucepans, microwave door etc..

Hi, AustraliaGirl--we're a day apart, but it sounds like my healing has been a bit quicker. My ear is still a bit clogged feeling, but just a little. The pots and pans were LOUD for the 1st 2 weeks. I think after about 14-20 days, it was extremely loud. No, far more normal.

The packing was taken out of my ear two weeks ago but my ear still feels totally clogged
My packing was taken out on day 6. I've kept all water out. Basically, rested from December 2- til I took the flight December 19. I was very afraid of flight, but it was ok...I chewed gum, drank water, swallowed as much as I could on ascent/descent.
Walked, some exercise, but nothing strenuous. No head facing down. Didn't sleep on that ear for a couple of weeks. My hearing has dramatically improved although I can feel some clogged feeling still.


Like your doctor, mine did the tuning fork test at my post-op appnt & told me the operation was successful. I'm starting to get worried as my hearing doesn't seem to be improving.

It sounds like it has improved if many sounds seem dramatically louder. I think just hold on, be a bit more patient.

Also, since my surgery, the hearing in my good ear (non-operated side, which also has slight otosclerosis) seems to have gotten worse, it feels very blocked & muffled, also since the surgery I have been hearing my own voice very loudly in the non-operated ear but not in the operated side. The sound of my voice in my head is driving me crazy, especially since it's all on the non-operated side.

I felt that for the first couple of weeks, like I couldn't tell where sounds were really coming from. The direction was confusing. I couldn't easily distinguish the good ear from operated one. My good ear is virtually perfect, but it was confusing while packing was in and even for a week-10 days after that while the interior swelling subsided.


It almost feels like nothing at all is happening on the operated side.


The ear & the entire side of my head is numb.

Hmmmm. I didn't have any numbness. I'm sorry that you are suffering.

The surgeon said numbness is from the incision and will take a few months to heal.

Australia girl: Do you mean incision inside your ear or the few stitches he may have taken on the outside of your ear, behind the ear where mine were? My doc took a little piece of skin from behind the ear to put inside the ear. Left a couple of little stitches back there which he removed on day 6 when he took out the packing.

Any sound that does get through the ear sounds like it's gone through a synthesizer.

I've read hundreds of posts on these boards over the last few weeks & I realise lots of people get the synthesised sound etc but mine doesn't seem to be improving.

I'm so sorry that you feel that there's no improvement. I think the fact that you sense the LOUD pots and pans is a good sign. Hang in there for a while.


My surgeon told me there is a lot of fluid still behind my eardrum which will take a while to heal & also told me to keep the ear dry until my next appointment on 18 January 2011.

I am taking the admonition to keep the interior of the ear dry very seriously. I wash my hair 2x weekly. Before washing, I fill the canal with a cotton ball. Put tons of Vaseline on it to create water barrier. Then I put a mini-shower cap like thing over the ear. I bought those at a beauty supply store. They're like 2" miniature shower caps that you find in hotels. I gently press the plastic of the "ear cap" against the Vaseline to help it keep all water out. it's not perfect, but seems to work pretty well.....My doc said I could shower and go about my life, but because I'd rather be very conservative and avoid complications, I'm doubling many of his warnings in terms of waiting times. He said i could go back to yoga but I feel like there's no way I could do "down dog" or anything involving face down positions for more than a moment. it also make me a bit dizzy to quickly look down then up, or some positions like that. Can't quickly "whip my head around" without a bit of dizziness......My tinnitus is gone, but still feel that there is some swelling in the ear.......My doc said optimal result at 6 months.


My surgeon is highly respected & is considered to be one of Australia's leading surgeons so I have total faith in his ability.


I paid a huge amount of money--for the medical costs, being away from work for 3 weeks, and traveling to Boston, just for my surgeon. I believe that your surgeon himself is the key. It's good that you have faith in him. Just try to be a bit more patient. I am very optimistic for your recovery that you are disturbed by newly loud sounds.

In regards to flying it seems everyone is told something different. I have read posts where people have been told ok to fly one week after surgery but others have been told to wait 6 weeks. I guess you've already made your decision re flying but if it were me I would put it off as long as possible, especially while the ear still feels muffled.

Thank God flight was uneventful. I'm planning to fly to South Africa for holiday the end of January, and the still-muffled ear is a bit scary. Surgeon said that the length of flight isn't significant, only the ascent/descent.


I would be interested to hear how your recovering is going, as I'm only one day behind you regarding our surgery dates.

I went to a dinner party last night. About 20 people. Lots of talking. Kinda loud music as the night progressed. I was shocked that I could hear most everything said, and that all the background noise wasn't too disturbing. Before surgery, that would have been impossible. i was starting to read lips, hear things like "Do you want to saddle the cow?" rather than "Do you want to sit on the couch?" !?!?!?-----That brought a few laughs over the years.

Also, I still have mind vertigo, especially when walking up or down stairs.

Yes, I'm a bit careful with stairs, sudden looking up/down/around, getting up suddenly. I have a teensy issue with balance still, but far better than the 1st 2 weeks after surgery.

All the best to you, too.
I hope your recovery comes along quickly soon.




All the Best with your recovery.

 
Old 12-26-2010, 09:03 PM   #4
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Australiagirl,
A couple of other things:
1. When I drive and the car window is open, it is disturbing. Can't really tell if it feels like air is whooshing loudly, forced into my ear, or if if feels like loud air is being sucked out of my ear.
2. When I burp--a discrete one, not some dude's beer-y loud belch, makes me feel a little dizzy each time.
3. Ear still feels clogged, but most days are minimally better.
4. No numbness in or outside the ear.
5. Getting up very fast or really sudden changes can create almost a black-out situation, like rushing through a grocery store, leaning down to reach a bottom item, getting up fast, makes me need to hold onto the cart and remember to slow down and pay attention to idea of keeping head up most of the time.
6. Ear still has a few popping, crackling sounds.

Hang in there.
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR RECOVERY!
Best,
Lana

 
Old 12-26-2010, 09:05 PM   #5
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

And Australiagirl,
I also take decongestant pills every night before I go to sleep. Maybe that helps a little?

 
Old 12-27-2010, 02:23 AM   #6
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Hi Lana

Thanks for your reply, it help lift my mood (especially the burpy bit..LOL)

Great to hear you're improving a little each day.

I can definitely relate to the vertigo feeling but thankfully that's one part of my recovery that seems to be going quite well.

I'm guessing the numbness around my ear is from my incision. My surgeon made a cut in the fold down the front of my ear & slightly up into my hair (I think there were about 4 disolving stitches). The incision allowed him to gain better access to my ear canal. The numbness starts from approx 2 inches up the side of my head (above the ear) & also includes the top & inside top of my ear. I'm glad you don't have any numbness as it's not a nice feeling but apparently it should subside within a few months.

My main issue is the clogged/blocked feeling in my ear, it's pretty much totally deaf today. I'm trying to stay positive & keep telling myself that the hearing will improve once all the fluid drains away.

I did have the crackling/popping sounds your mentioned but they now seem to have stopped. I sort of wish I still had them cause I'm pretty sure that's all part of the healing.

Thanks for your advice regarding the decongestant, I will give it a try for the next few nights - happy to try anything at this stage.

I expected to be out of action for a few days after my surgery, I never imagined I would be like this almost one month later & still unable to return to work (and to have worse hearing than prior to the surgery). I work for the Australian Government & can't be at work while my hearing is this bad.

Please keep me updated on your progress.

All the best
Teesha

 
Old 01-02-2011, 06:22 PM   #7
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Hi, Australia Girl,

We've talked about our post-stapedectomy progress.

I had a set back. Hope you can avoid it. Tuesday, I went to a LOUD, trendy restaurant with a friend. It was deafening, all concrete, lots of people. I felt assaulted. We left after a few minutes. My girlfriend said I was holding my ear. We then went down the street to another place. It was loud, but not LOUD. I don't think it was a coincidence that on Wednesday, I was feeling a bit woozy, and not because of too many drinks. A bit off-balance. Thursday, I was literally holding the walls as I walked. Like I was on a boat.

My ear didn't ache, but apparently very loud noise can cause inflammation to the healing eardrum and whatever else is in the ear that can swell.

They prescribed steroids, which I've been taking 3 days now. The vertigo has pretty much gone, but I'm not taking any more chances. So long as it's healing and the noise seems very loud, I'm going to try to avoid all loud noises when possible. Ear is still a bit clogged. I'm using that as a big guide for noise-avoidance and hair-washing.

I am flying again in about a month, which I hope will be ok.

NY Eve was inside, at home, and quiet. No loud party as planned.

I was also washing my hair more frequently, feeling like I was healing so well. 3-4 x last week. Though I use a cotton ball with Vaseline as directed, the cotton ball is soaked through each time. Back to washing hair only 2x a week---I would only wash it once if I didn't have to go to work M-F and my appearance matters a lot on my job.

Guess my complacency got the better of me.

Hope that you are doing better and better.
Best,
Lana

 
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Old 01-02-2011, 06:24 PM   #8
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Hi, Teesha--Ooops, I posted on the stapedectomy site we were talking on.
Had some complication...hope you're ok.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Lana

 
Old 01-03-2011, 10:12 PM   #9
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Hey Lana

I'm sorry to hear about your set back, hopefully everything has started to improve over the last few days.

My doctor didn't mention anything regarding avoiding loud places, I mean if the consequence can lead to what you experienced, perhaps our doctors should warn us. I understand they can't tell us everything however after reading hundreds of these posts, it seems that most of us are quite often unaware of the potential complications/side effects of the surgery.

I have been avoiding loud places as I find the noise overwhelming, even big shopping centres are too much. It's hard to understand cause I still hear basically nothing from my operated ear however loud sounds seem very amplified (as we've previously discussed). I still put a cotton ball in my ear whenever I leave the house. I will definitely be avoiding ALL loud places in future (I coudn't cope with that vertigo returning, it was horrible!). You must have been very distressed when you awoke to find yourself off-balance, I would have just freaked out.

How's your hearing coming along, hopefully better than mine. I still feel like I hear nothing & the ear is totally blocked/clogged. I go for audiology testing this Thusday (06 January). My surgeon is still on holidays & doesn't return until 17 Jan. I feel like my recovery has been at a standstill for weeks. I feel totally fine other than having a deaf/blocked/numb ear!

I know what you mean about the hair washing, what a pain that's been. Like you, I'm a compulsive hair washer. My hair has been washed every day for as long as I can remember. It's long & thick & not pretty if unwashed. I actually find the vaseline cotton ball works pretty well. I put a smaller cotton ball in first (smothered in vaso) then another piece of cotton wool over the top of that & basically pull it into shape so it covers the entire bottom of my ear (I use heaps of vaso & it seems to stick like glue!). My doctor said it's sooo important to keep the ear dry until at least my next appnt (which makes it 7 weeks of cotton wool). I also try to keep my head on the unoperated side and pull all my hair over there when washing it, I thought it would be a nightmare but has worked better than expected. Cotton ball is dry when finish.

Thanks letting me know how you're doing & also the warning re loud places.

Hope you're starting to feel much better, remember to take it easy.

Happy New Year!

Teesha

Last edited by Administrator; 02-02-2011 at 01:01 AM.

 
Old 01-04-2011, 05:58 AM   #10
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Hey, Teesha,

Good to hear from you.
Headed to work...you're about to get comfy at home for bed, upside down as we each are time-wise.

So sorry that your hearing isn't progressing as you'd hoped. Perhaps because he had to go through behind in the ear and it was a bit more complicated that through the ear canal? Is some of the head-numbness easing?


They did tell me to avoid loud places/noises, but there's not time limit on it--guess until those places/things no longer bother me. I'm a believer now! The steroids seem to have helped right away. Still have another day of them.

Thanks for the tip on hair-washing and a better way to insert the cotton. I like your method far better than mine--I always end up with wet cotton, so that's no bueno.

Hang in there. I think that because the loud noises bother you, that's a sign that this is more succesful than you fear.

I still have sound that bounces off things--can't tell which direction sound is coming from sometimes. Ear still feels a bit full and has some occasional crackle. Still a little off-balance. Easier to sit, drive and lie down that get up and walk about. (That excuse for watching more tv and being left alone won't fly much longer!)

The idea that some people are bending over, doing yoga and going about their dailiy lives in a few weeks is amazing! I really want to get back to my yoga class and start with some beginner stretches, but I can't imagine all the pressure of leaning over like that.

Others have had awful complications. Sounds like you and I are in the middle of the continuum. I really think it's just a matter of waiting a bit more til we're both doing lots better. It's just been about 1 month. I bet in another month or so, we'll have great improvement. Doc did tell me to expect to have optimal result in 6 months, though he said pretty much go about my life after 2 weeks.

Have a good day. B_R_E_A_T_H_E, I tell myself. We'll be fine---it's lots better now than 2 weeks ago, right?

Best,
Lana

Last edited by NEWEAR1; 01-04-2011 at 06:03 AM.

 
Old 01-06-2011, 02:09 PM   #11
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Sounds like you guys are doing fine. I wondered how youd been aussie girl knowning how bad you felt post op a month ago. Me too I was exactly the same, over 3 months now. All back to normal, the ear plugs I still have in my pocket come out less and less. My numb healing not so numb, works well especially the bass. Vertigo fully gone after a month or so...
Relax give the healing time... no work or flying for as long as you can...

 
Old 01-06-2011, 02:47 PM   #12
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Hey Malstann

Glad to hear you have continued to improve & everythings going well.

I'm still having a few dramas.

It's now 37 days post-op & still no improvement in hearing. My surgeon's on holidays until 18 January.

I went to the Audiologist yesterday & wasn't given good news. Audiologist said there appears to be major cochlear damage from the surgery (I had no cochlear damage prior). The testing showed that some sounds are getting through the ear however word discrimination is zero. The only thing I hear when words are spoken is a synthesized/chipmunky/squeaky type noise, hard to explain. If try to use the phone with the operated ear, it's all squeaky & I can't understand anything!

I was hoping it was just fluid or eardrum still healing however the audiologist said it's definitely a problem with cochlear & it will not improve. She started talking to me about a cochlear aid that gets implanted outside your head!!

I'm obviously upset & feel desperate to speak to the surgeon but that's not possible until 18 Jan.

I've been frantically searching all these posts trying to find someone who had NO word discrimination at 5 weeks & somehow ended up hearing ok. So far havn't found anyone.

Also I still have the echo & vibration of my own voice in my head through the non-operated ear, it's driving me crazy.

Thanks for you're post, I will keep you updated.

All the best with your recovery, great to hear things are going well for you.

Happy New Year
Aussie Girl

 
Old 01-06-2011, 08:06 PM   #13
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Thanks, Malstann!

So, to you and AustraliaGirl:

I went out to a loud restaurant last week and it was disorienting and painful. I wasn't sure if that was the cause of my loss of balance (wall hugging) the next day, but it seemed more than coincidental. After a week's does of steroids, vertigo is gone. Thought all was fine now.

Tonight, I went out to meet a friend for a drink. Quiet happy hour which started to get loud and it was so uncomfortable that I felt like I was being assaulted. I had to rush out, holding my ear, canceling our order before the server could bring it. Clearly, for me, the doctor's admonishment to avoid loud noise is one I am taking very seriously now.

So happy to hear that after 3 months, you are doing great, Malstann.

 
Old 01-07-2011, 01:31 AM   #14
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Smile Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

hi everyone,
hey do be careful going out. even after 3 months my ears sensitive.
im the same Lana loud environents aren't good.

when we last posted Teesha you were worried it handnt worked at all.
now you've hearing but still have the chipmunks, I had similar.
that's a whole lot better news. as for your audiologist when did she become
a doctor. I'm convinced you still have swelling. it's only month for goodness sake...
even since I last posted a month ago my ears still improving.
there is coclear interference that's where the surgery is. I do have damage and that means certain frequencies are gone. I don't hear anything at that spot.
but over all its a major improvement.
even the surgeon can only give an opinion because I presume he hasn't had the op. we're the ones who know how it sounds. I know it's slow going
don't worry it'll keep improving I promise. im truely pleased you still off work and resting, well done it's only a month. I thought it was going to be quick too. it isn't.
Relax one and all and look forward to better hearing.
talk soon
Mal

 
Old 01-07-2011, 09:39 PM   #15
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Re: Flying after stapedectomy?

Hey Mal

Thanks for your reply.

Your posts always lift my spirits & give me hope!

As you could imagine I was pretty devastated to be told (by the Audiologist) my ear will never again have the ability to decipher words (from sounds) without the assistance of a surgically implanted cochlear device. OMG! Audiologist said even though sound is getting through (the bone & middle ear), the part (of the cochlear) needed to understand words has been irreversably damaged. She put the headphones on me & did word testing in the ear, from 25 words I repeated none correctly. That was terrifying!

I can hear sound coming through but it's just the chipmunk/squeak/vibration, no actually word clarity. I asked where whether fluid/swelling etc. may be causing this & her answer was no.

So I guess the important part of what she said is this; although some sound comes through, it's useless as I can't understand the sound.

Mal I know you had the chipmunk sound but were you able to decipher any words from the sounds????

I definitely still remain hopeful of a good outcome. I just wish my surgeon wasn't on holidays!

Enjoy your bacon & egg sarnies (I'm not sure what a sarnie is but it sounds tasty).

Cheers

Teesha

 
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