Ear Disorders Expert Forum
Eardrum Retraction
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Questions in the Ear Disorders forum are answered by Dr. Eric Wilkinson. Topics include acoustic neuroma, skull base tumors, hearing loss, cochlear implants, stapes surgery, eardrum repair, chronic ear infection, facial nerve problems, childhood deafness, vertigo, balance disorders, and tinnitus.

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Eardrum Retraction

My son John is 7 years old. We live in Florida but he speaks like he is from New York. He has always had an accent and I have always thought he has a hearing problem.

I had his PCP check his hearing 3 years ago and the PCP said he was fine. Come to find out a couple weeks ago the PCP did not read the report correctly and he actually failed the test.  

1st of the year I received a letter from the school saying that he failed the hearing test they gave him. After receiving the letter I made an appt with an ENT to get him tested. The ENT saw John on Feb 1st; the ENT was appalled with his findings. Apparently John has significant hearing loss in his right ear and moderate hearing loss in his left ear. The ENT looked into John’s right ear and could not see an eardrum at all. He looked into his left ear and saw a lot of fluid on his eardrum. The ENT said John’s right eardrum was severely retracted. When you look into the right ear you can see all the way to the middle ear bones. The ENT scheduled John for surgery for Feb 15th to insert tubes into both ears hoping that this would relieve the pressure in his ears and his eardrums would pop out some.
After the surgery the ENT told us that John’s right eardrum is like Suran Wrap around the 1st two inner ear bones and then tucked behind the bones.  There was no cholesteatoma present in either ears. The ENT said that he seriously doubts the tubes will help his right ear considering how severe retraction is.  The ENT said that the next step if the eardrum doesn’t pop out would be a tympanoplasty.
My question is: Could the eardrum retraction have been prevented if the PCP sent us to the ENT 3 years ago when he failed the hearing test? The ENT said that his problem is not congenital but gets worse over time. John has not had ear infections or colds or even allergies to speak of. But it seems like if the PCP looks into a child’s ear (a routine exam) and does not see an eardrum he should of sent us to an ENT long ago.
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Chronic eustachian tube dysfunction causing this kind of retraction occurs over long periods of time, and there is no evidence that placing tubes will prevent the problem.  Ultimately people with this problem often need hearing aids or surgery to improve the hearing.  He should have an allergy evaluation if he has not had one in the past.

Hope this helps.  Good luck!

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical
advice - the information presented is for patients education only.
Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your
individual case.
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