? - hearing, med school and everything in between

ok, this is something i haven’t discussed on here before, but i need to know what you all honestly think.
eta: apologies in advance, this got to be a bit longer and more discombobulated than i initially intended.
i have very little hearing in my left ear at the moment. docs aren’t quite sure why as of yet… my last mri showed absent stapes but no sign of a tumor growth, benign or otherwise. i realize that a lot of my grade difficulties began around the time my hearing started to decline. i was pretty much a straight A honors student through elementary/middle/junior high and through most of my senior year (a couple of B’s and one F in a first period physics class i never went to hey, i was a senior! mcdonalds was much more important that early in the a.m.! and if it counts for anything, i got a 90 something on the final, and my teacher failed me on absences.) i was on the deans list the first semester of college, then my gpa started to drop slowly but steadily, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. i graduated with a 3.0 from a 2 year college. i went to work, and thats when i finally accepted that i wasn’t hearing things all that well. at first it was like playing telephone with me. sometimes i would hear, sometimes i would hear wrong, sometimes i just didn’t hear. so i went to the doctor who referred me. i was referred to a big shot doctor in manhattan who basically said they needed to do surgery. he would look to see if there was a cholesteatoma or whatever else may be in there and if so, remove it. then he would check to see if the stapes were really absent and if so, rebuild whatever bones needed to be rebuilt. (bear with me, this was a couple years ago now and the terminology is not clear anymore). ok, sounds all well and good. i decided i was not letting this man anywhere near me in an operating room, no matter how world renowned he was. first off, i sat in his waiting room for an hour and a half after turning in my paperwork before anyone even acknowledged that i was there. i was brought into an exam room where i waited for another 45 minutes. i was starting to get anxious, because i had to get back to work about an hour ago! but i waited, and i let it slide because this doctor was supposed to be so great. he came in, started to take a history (with the door wide open), a nurse came by and said something to him. he got up, said, “be a minute”. he walked out, and went into the next treatment room where he took another patient. right in the middle of my sentence. so i sat there slackjawed for about 10 minutes and stewing for another 20 minutes. he came back, asked a couple more questions and then told me about the surgery i needed. i was pointed back to the desk where i paid the fee (he didn’t take any insurance) and left. they didn’t ask me if i wanted to schedule for the surgery, and i didn’t suggest it. i didnt care how fabulous of a surgeon he was, i was not going to be put under with this guy in charge of my surgery. with my luck, he’d decide in the middle of my surgery that he needed to go to the bank or whatever. now, this stuff may or may not actually happen in surgery, but… i like to live in my naive little bubble where i believe it doesn’t when i am the one under sedation! LOL and this guy didn’t exactly inspire confidence. i certainly didn’t feel like my issue was important or interesting to him. well, its MY hearing, and its important to ME!!!
anyways. sorry, that turned into a little more of a historical rant than i was intending.
i am now looking into having this surgery done. it was explained that, if the surgery was successful, my hearing would be restored pretty much 100%. of course, there is always the chance of a bad outcome in which i could lose the hearing i DO have in that ear. my original ear guy (the one who referred me) did say that the surgery was usually pretty successful. i’m scared. i know that without the surgery, even if i made it into med school, i would pose a problem to my patients at a later date if i don’t hear things the right way. i certainly wouldn’t want me for a doctor! but, if i do have the surgery and have a favorable outcome, can i consider myself right up there with applicants that have good hearing to begin with? or am i always a liability? my ear doc said that everyone is a liability, because you never know if/when your hearing will become damaged and that he wouldn’t worry about it (even back then, i was considering med school!!!). he said it should be a non issue, so long as the tests after surgery prove i had a favorable outcome.
so. i am researching this surgery, trying to find the best person to do it for me. provided it works, do you all think i can still be in the running for med school? i am going to do the surgery before i really start hitting the pre-reqs… i want to make sure i do really well in them.
anyway. sorry this got so long. i’m going to do this no matter what, but i was wondering if my chances at med school are now officially out the door.

I know of this procedure only from textbooks and cases in my audiology classes, but I did find a couple articles on it. The recovery period is pretty short - a couple of weeks’ worth of rest is what most recommend. If you have hearing in your other ear and don’t have any speech issues, then all the after-care would entail would be healing and follow-up visits with your audiologist for hearing tests and your ENT for overall healing and function.
I don’t see how this would hinder your application to med school, unless you did it in the middle of a semester and let your grades slip. Once you find the right doctor, you should be able to schedule it when it’s convenient for you.
Reading what you wrote above, if anything, this experience should provide you with lots to write about in you PS!
According to research, the surgery is pretty low-risk. It seems successful 95% of the time with risks including dizziness, tinnitus, or no improvement in hearing, which makes sense.
Even if you did lose your hearing, that in no way should affect your admission to med school as far as discrimination goes. And like I said, if you still have good hearing in the other ear, it may be difficult at times, but still not as unfortunate as beign profoundly deaf in both ears (although some deaf people are very proud to be deaf!).
Here are some web articles I found on deaf doctors:
Good luck with your decision on your procedure!

thank you for the links.
you made me feel so much better. actually, my other ear is fine. most people don’t know i have a hearing problem unless i tell them… and i’ve gotten pretty gosh darned good at reading lips - i do a fair amount of it when i’m in a loud situation such as parties and weddings and such. it helps me to pick up on any of the words i might normally miss.
in a strange way, i’m starting to look forward to the surgery. though i wonder if it will be weird to have full hearing back. heh. my husband just told me that i’ll have to actually listen to him, because i won’t be able to use the “i’m practically deaf in one ear” excuse anymore! he’s on to me!!! LOLOLOL

One of the residents at my hospital has a hearing problem. I don’t know to what extent-- she wears hearing aides, and uses a special stethoscope. Her speech is slightly altered, but she functions fine, and I think she is a very good doctor. I don’t think even total deafness in one ear, or reduced hearing bilaterally should be cause for you not to be able to become a doctor.

Hi there,
Just look up Dana Wolfe, MD who is a graduate of GWu medical school and a pediatric rehab specialist. She attended and graduated with no hearing at all.

thank you all for the overwhelming support.
i am soooooo happy that i don’t have to end my pursuit because of this! and, the references to doctors that are hearing impaired were amazing!!!
on a happy note, i think i found a surgeon to go see. she is supposedly really an excellent surgeon. of course, i have no real way to judge that, but now that i am working in the hospital, i’ve come across quite a few people who have recommended her based on their own experiences (including my very own boss). plus, all the guys down in sterile surgical supply have told me that she is so nice in person, even to them. i’m not too familiar with the dynamics of the hospital, but they seemed really pleased that she knew all of their names. not that any of this means that she will be able to restore my hearing, but i guess any time you go in for surgery, its sort of a crap shoot… i mean, i don’t know of any real VALID quantitative way to evaluate a surgeons skill. there are just too many variables. but as soon as my health insurance kicks in, i will make an appointment.
thanks again!!!


It’s amazing what different people can do when they do not let their limitations stop them ( if you can call them limitations - some of them do not!). I remember going to my cousin’s graduation from Temple University Medical School (way back in the mid 70’s - I think '76) and there was a doctor graduating in her class by the name of David Hartman who was blind. He studied from Braille text books and had special equipment made to perform exams, but he graduated and is listed in the following link http://www.shef.ac.uk/~md1djw/HCP-disability/whatsnew.html

If you click on Profiles of people on the left it has lots of different healthcare professionals and their stories - this includes deafness/ hearing loss, blindness, etc…

Hope this helps also,