At 42, Bettendorf resident Michele Coplea was slowly losing her hearing, and as a medical transcriptionist who wears earphones for hours every day, her hearing loss was beginning to limit her life. “I had no idea how bad my hearing was,” she recalls. “I never really noticed over the years – until just last year when I began to notice sounds were more muffled.
“I kept thinking something was wrong with my headphones,” says Michele. But it wasn’t the headphones. So she explored other possibilities, including ones that might explain her dizziness. “I thought it was allergies, but those were ruled out, too. I just had no idea I was losing my hearing.”
Michele turned to the hearing experts at ENT Professional Services, Davenport, and specifically ear surgeon Dr. Douglas Dvorak. “When we tested her hearing,” says Dr. Dvorak, “we found her hearing levels were significantly below normal, in fact, she had a maximal hearing loss that a person can have in the absence of nerve damage in the inner ear.”
“I got the test results back,” says Michele, “and I thought ‘It’s my job to hear.’ Without hearing properly my career would be affected.”
Michele was diagnosed with otosclerosis, an abnormal growth of the middle ear bones that causes hearing loss. Says Dr. Dvorak, “Otosclerosis involves a sponge-like bone growth in the middle ear that prevents the ear bones, and therefore ear drum, from vibrating. Those vibrations conduct sound waves – a necessary part of hearing. Some sufferers also experience a persistent ringing in their ears as well as the dizziness similar to what plagued Michele.
“The causes of otosclerosis are unknown, but there is evidence it is often a hereditary condition. Untreated otosclerosis can eventually result in complete deafness, so it’s critical people are diagnosed while we can restore hearing to normal levels.”
Dr. Dvorak is one of the few surgeons in the Quad Cities who performs this procedure called a stapedectomy, which replaces the ear’s rice-grain sized
stirrup bone (the stapes) with a prosthesis – a replacement bone that vibrates properly. “It’s an incredibly delicate surgery,” Dr. Dvorak says. “It takes steady hands for sure, but the results can be amazing. I have many patients whose hearing was very poor prior to surgery, who were then able to hear a whisper right after the surgery in the recovery room.”
Prosthetic Bone in the Ear
In April, 2011, Dr. Dvorak operated at the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center to removed Michele’s left-ear calcified stirrup bone and replace it with a tiny prosthetic bone. “After we operated on her left ear, hearing levels returned normal,” Dr. Dvorak recalls. He then repeated the procedure for the other ear in July, bringing both ears into normal range.
Michele’s restored hearing not only keeps her transcription career going strong, it has returned the normal background sounds to her life. “It (the surgery) has made a ton of difference. I am hearing things now – I even hear the icemaker in the fridge. We have three dogs, and their barks are loud and clear now,” she laughs.
About ENT Professional Services, PC
ENT Professional Services, PC
is a provider of comprehensive ear, nose and throat care. The practice includes three highly trained, board-certified otolaryngologists, along with a licensed Physician Assistant and audiologists who use the most up to date treatments and technologies to provide high quality care for patients of all ages.
Dr. Douglas Dvorak has been practicing in Davenport since 1995. He specializes in disorders of the Ears, Nose and Throat for both pediatric and adult patients. He has a special interest in the surgical treatment of sleep apnea and complex ear surgeries. He enjoys traveling and watching his children’s sporting events.