Health/Fitness

Laser procedure repairs hearing loss

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Children often suffer chronic ear infections caused by Eustachian tube dysfunction.

That can lead to a deformed ear drum and hearing loss, but now doctors at Duke are using a laser to repair the eardrum.

Dick Ekstrand, a 67-year-old retired attorney, noticed something different after taking a 10-year break and then returning to work.

"I couldn't hear what was going on, and the judge was speaking and I just simply couldn't hear it," Ekstrand said.

When he was a child, he suffered severe ear infections so he decided to go to Duke University Medical Center for an ear exam.

That's when Dr. David Kaylie told him about a new laser procedure to repair his eardrum and possibly improve his hearing.

"The problem with the Eustachian tube is something that can't really be fixed, but the problem that it causes with the ear drum is something that can be fixed," Dr. Kaylie explained. "The Eustachian tube allows air to get into the middle ear. If it's not working right it creates a vacuum in the middle ear and the eardrum gets sucked in the like saran wrap."

Ekstrand said he feared what could happen, if he didn't have surgery.

"They noticed that my eardrum, in layman's terms, was affixed to something and therefore wasn't able to vibrate appropriately and therefore couldn't conduct sound as it normally would," he said. "They said to me at that time if it wasn't fixed, I could go deaf in that ear."

Dr. Kaylie used a flexible laser to repair Ekstrand's eardrum.

"The heat from the laser caused the collagen to snap back to its native position and it tightens the eardrum," he said.

The painless procedure took only five minutes but gave back years of hearing loss.

"I can hear my grandchildren and everything they say," Ekstrand said.

Because no cutting is required when using the laser, there is no pain and a lower risk of infection.

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