By the time Caitlin Echave was a high school sophomore, she and her family were resigned to the fact that her hearing loss, which began when she was 11 years old, would never get better. She had reluctantly started wearing hearing aids, but still hid that fact from everyone except for close friends. After moving to Charlotte, Caitlin never imagined that a trip to yet another otolaryngologist would change her life forever.
Caitlin was referred to CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat after complaining that her ears felt stopped up during an office visit with dermatologist John VanGurp, MD. She had her first appointment with Bill McClelland, MD, FACS, on May 17, 2006, and her mother remembers that day well.
“He examined Caitlin’s ears under a microscope, which her former ENT didn’t have.” said Mrs. Echave.
Dr. McClelland observed an abnormal anatomy in Caitlin’s left ear and ordered a CT scan. He also diagnosed her with chronic otitis media and chronic mastoiditis of the left ear, prescribed a course of antibiotic drops, and recommended an audiogram and tympanogram at her follow-up visit.
The CT scan revealed that the space behind Caitlin’s ear drum and the bones in her ear were normal, but a thick plug of bone and skin was obstructing her ear canal, causing the hearing loss in her left ear. Surgery would be required to remove it, but for the first time in years, there was hope that Caitlin’s hearing could be improved.
On July 7, 2006, Dr. McClelland performed a left ear canal reconstruction on Caitlin. He used specially designed drill burrs from Stryker® to clear away the obstruction.
“As I drilled away at the bone that was blocking the ear canal, I found that the original cause of the problem was a myringotomy tube that had been left in place from the procedure she’d had as a young child.” Dr. McClelland explained. During the surgery, the tube was removed and Caitlin’s ear drum and canal were both repaired.
Caitlin’s recovery time was minimal. She saw Dr. McClelland several times during the weeks following the surgery. As the final packing was removed, Caitlin experienced normal hearing for the first time since she was 11.
“I wanted to jump up and down right there in the office, but I waited until I got on the elevator.” said Caitlin.
Her chronic ear infection had resolved, and an audiogram confirmed that Caitlin had normal hearing in her left ear. Things that other people take for granted, like going to the movies, hearing a whisper, or swimming were now accessible to her.
“We couldn’t be happier.” said Mrs. Echave. “After believing that Caitlin’ hearing would likely worsen, it’s amazing that she can now hear normally!”