Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I’d rather not be in Vegas April 6, 2011

I've lost 70 percent of the hearing in my right ear due to a sudden sensory hearing loss.


I’ve walked through a Minnesota casino twice and failed to pull a single lever on a slot machine or drop a single coin.

I prefer to play it safe, to not risk losing for the slim possibility of winning. It is the reason I don’t buy lottery tickets. I feel like I’m throwing away my money.

That is partially why a decision I am currently facing is so incredibly difficult.

Do I have surgery or not?

Will I be among the 25 in 100 who benefit from a sac round window graft? Even the name of the surgery is daunting. I don’t know enough right now about the outpatient ear surgery to decide.

But I have the statistics. For only one in four patients, the surgery successfully restores some hearing. But the percentage of hearing regained is perhaps only 20 percent. The slim possibility exists—about two percent—that the surgery could cause me to lose all of my hearing in my right ear. That really doesn’t matter given I’m basically deaf in my right ear anyway due to a sudden sensory hearing loss that occurred a month ago.

I currently have only 30 percent hearing in that ear. I hear only “noise,” nothing as distinguishable as a word. I also suffer from tinnitus, ringing in my right ear.

On Tuesday when I met with a renowned ear specialist in Minneapolis, I was presented with the surgery option. I was not expecting this, was not prepared with a list of questions. My immediate thought was this: “I don’t want to have more surgery.”

Already in my life, I’ve had seven surgeries, the first at age four to correct my vision. Since then, I’ve had oral surgery to remove my wisdom teeth, three Caesarean sections, inguinal hernia surgery and my last, total right hip joint replacement, not quite three years ago.

I am not anxious to rush into another surgery.

But time is of the essence. Apparently the sooner the surgery is done after the hearing loss, the better. I don’t understand why and I didn’t think to ask.

My doctor offered no recommendation on the surgery. I asked. He says he doesn’t recommend, only presents the options and information and allows the patient to decide.

I am at the point now of researching, pondering, praying, considering a second opinion, losing sleep over this decision.

What should I do?

Should I risk throwing away $3,000—my health insurance deductible? Should I risk not having the surgery if it could restore even a small percentage of my hearing? (A hearing aid will not help with the type of hearing loss I have.) Should I risk the risks that are always there whenever you have surgery?

I’m not a gambler. But right now I feel like I’m in Vegas.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


6 Responses to “I’d rather not be in Vegas”

  1. Bernie Says:

    Ug! What a decision to have to make. The adage, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” comes to mind. It must be your decision in the end. Is restoring even a tiny amount of your hearing worth the risk? Will that tiny amount have an effect on your hearing? What do your husband and kids think?
    I can see all the reasons why you would not want to do the surgery. I can also see a few why you might want to. I’m sure via your talking and prayer, you will come up with the right decision for you.
    I’m sure that all your readers will be rooting for you. Good thoughts being sent from Montana. *hugs*

  2. I don’t know how I missed this posting of yours Audrey. I just read it now and I really want to wish you the best with this difficult decision that you are facing. 20% (maybe) is not a good result from any surgery. And as for rushing into something because it should be done “as soon as possible” is not a choice as far as I am concerned. 20% (maybe) is like listening to someone shout at you while you hold 2 thick pillows to your ear. I keep thinking that there has to be something out there waiting for you. Sometimes we are given doors that we are unable to use but the windows still work. You are in my thoughts and prayers always.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Harriet, you probably missed this post because I published two yesterday. Sometimes I do that when the subjects of my posts are timely.

      The odds don’t seem all that good regarding this surgery, do they? But I guess surgery results can never be certain. I am still contemplating, researching, praying.

      Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. Too have such support from you and others is truly a blessing.

  3. This is a tough one Audrey. I always find more information always helps me. Is there any other specialists you could talk to? Any people who have had the surgery who would be willing to talk to you?
    Good Luck,

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, I could see another specialist, although the one I saw in the Twin Cities is top in his field. I’ve talked to several friends who have had hearing problems and ear surgeries, but their hearing losses are completely different than mine.

      At this point I have decided not to have the surgery.

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