I have fallen into that category a few times, where, among other things, I have learned new words. The one was CSF leak. That condition now has a celebrity face to it in George Clooney.
The other was cholesteatoma, which has no celebrity presence.
Looks like something about cholesterol, doesn’t it? Many doctors have never heard of it.
Here’s one jolly definition:
“Cholesteatomas have been recognized for decades as a destructive lesion of the skull base that can erode and destroy important structures within the temporal bone. Its potential for causing central nervous system complications (eg, brain abscess, meningitis) makes it a potentially fatal lesion.”
It’s a little like a microscopic Blob, that great sci fi movie from the sixties, that eats anything in its way. The lesion is actually dead skin and cells that have clumped together because of a retracted eustachian tube. A retracted tube doesn’t allow enough air to circulate in the middle ear, and air is needed to clean out the dead skin and cells that slough off.
The tumor grows and grows. It attaches to the ossicle chain, the miracle of the 3 smallest bones in the body in the middle ear: the malleus, incus, and stapes.
I have read descriptions of how they work, how they create sound for us to hear, and it still seems to be a miracle beyond belief. Think about your ear, now think about THREE BONES banging away in there: the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup.
Once the cholesteatoma was found in my left middle year, I didn't have an option. And so I had 5-hour surgery to cut the growth out. Almost always cholesteatoma surgery means ripping out the bones of hearing with the tumor, leaving you completely deaf in that ear. Then 6 months to a year later, they go back in and try to replace the bones with prosthetic malleus, incus, and stapes, either from a cadaver, or made of titanium.
But I had a 1 in a 100,000 piece of good news: the tumor was sitting in such a way that he could cut it out and leave the ossicle chain intact.
I go once a year for a followup visit. It’s been 4 years now. It’s possible that a piece was hiding behind the bones, and will grow back. Then I will be back in surgery. It is definitely waiting for the other shoe to drop.
At least til that time, I can hear it, and the proverbial pin.