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Howard Little's story

I first asked my General Practitioner (G.P.) to refer me to the Audiology Department at my local Hospital during the early part of 1995, having decided it was time to seek the assistance of a hearing aid after noticing a gradual loss of right-sided hearing for some time. Deterioration of hearing was the only problem, with no pain or any history of pain in either ear. My G.P. requested an appointment for me at the Audiology Department.

Before the Audiology appointment date was reached, I experienced some loss of voice and hoarseness following a throat infection and an urgent appointment was made for me to see an E.N.T. Consultant. I brought my audiograms this appointment, and mentioned my Audiology request. The Consultant's prime concern, of course, was regarding the hoarseness and loss of voice although by this time the symptoms had resolved. Following examination he was able to tell me there was nothing abnormal to be detected.

Very briefly and dismissively, after seeing the Audiograms and looking into my ears he told me that a hearing aid would be of no help to my hearing. Being so relieved at being told there was no sinister cause for the recent loss of voice, I left without questioning the Consultant's lack of interest in my deteriorating hearing or seeking any detailed information or reasons. Perhaps I should mention this Consultant was shortly to retire.

My hearing continued to deteriorate and become more of a disadvantage and embarrassment until in the summer of 1997 I again sought my G.P.’s help. After the audiograms had been taken, I was taken to see the E.N.T. Registrar in September 1997. After viewing the audiograms, examining my ears and questioning my previous medical history, he carried out a physical examination, which I was aware, was of a neurological nature. He then advised me that whilst he was of the opinion that a hearing aid would not be of much help, he would arrange for me to be issued with one, and that he wished me to have MRI Scan. A mould of my ear was taken, an aid was duly provided and the registrar was correct, it was of no help at all.

The MRI Scan requested by the E.N.T. Registrar was carried out in November and after the initial scan a further scan preceded by an injection was carried out the following day. The Consultant Neuroradiologist (who was known to me from my working days as a Hospital Administrator -- I am now retired) spoke to me after the scan. After my telling him I hoped I was wasting his time, he informed me I had a tumour.

Following the scan I returned to the E.N.T. Clinic in December for the official report and the Consultant told me I had an acoustic neuroma which required surgical removal. The E.N.T. Consultant advised me that she would refer me to a Neurosurgeon, and together they would perform the operation.

I was seen by the Neurosurgeon in February 1998, who confirmed the diagnosis and in detail outlined to my wife and myself the nature of the tumour and its course if left untreated. The Neurosurgeon was patient and informative. He went on to say that in view of my previous history -- in May, 1997, I underwent a quadruple coronary artery bypass graft -- the seven hours or so of surgery was too great a risk for me.

He asked whether I would consider seeing one of his colleagues at Sheffield who was treating the condition with Stereotactic Radiosurgery. This Consultant at the Sheffield Hospital being the third in the world using the Leskell equipment. My wife and I agreed to this and in March, 1998, visited the Consultant Neurosurgeon in Sheffield. He outlined the procedure in detail, and we both felt we had every confidence in the Consultant and in the treatment he proposed, and agreed to admission.

howard.gif (71031 bytes)
I am the old codger in the head frame.

I was admitted to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield in mid May, 1998. During that day, I was seen and examined by various members of staff, including Radiographers, Physicists, as well as medical and surgical staff. My wife was staying in a local hotel and I was permitted that first evening to join her at her hotel for dinner, returning afterwards to the hospital ward. The following morning, I was taken to be fitted with a helmet, which involved two pin screws drilled into each side of my forehead and two to each side at the back of my head to hold the helmet in a fixed and stable position. I was then given a further MRI Scan, and was taken by hospital transport to the adjoining Weston Park Hospital, where the stereotactic Radiosurgery would be carried out that afternoon, and where I would stay the night. Knowing that my wife was a retired radiographer, the Consultant had invited her to attend and view the entire procedure.

The actual treatment was carried out after lunch and lasted just short of ninety minutes. The treatment was entirely pain free and could be said to be relaxing, my having been invited to take with me a C.D. to listen to whilst receiving the treatment. The only discomfort was during the drilling into my skull, to enable the helmet to be fitted. 

Following the treatment and before the helmet was removed, a Polaroid photograph was taken which apparently was a routine procedure and souvenir of the visit. Although told to take things easy, I was fully ambulant immediately after the treatment.

After a night in Weston Park Hospital and an early morning visit from the Consultant Neurosurgeon and the Radiologist who stayed with me during the whole procedure and treatment, my wife was able to pick me up and we returned home to Preston. It was explained that the Neurosurgeon in Preston would take charge of my follow up and report his findings back to Sheffield.

Consequently I have been followed up in Preston.  In June/July each year, I have an MRI scan and am then seen by the Consultant Neurosurgeon. I am told the Neuroma has ceased to grow and appears to be softening but unfortunately the hearing in my right ear has been practically destroyed. I hesitate to use the telephone unless absolutely necessary, and prefer to stand to the right or in front of people when conversing.

The balance I have lost will also never recover. I occasionally stumble although seldom fall, as I am aware I am about to stumble and am able to correct this and regain balance by throwing out an arm. I tend also occasionally to slaver and when walking don’t feel comfortable or confident when close to the pavement edge as I aware I do not walk in a straight line. I still remain free of any pain in my ear and face.

I was 67 years of age at the time of radiosurgery, my date of birth being 06 Jan 1931.

Howard Little <carl.crook AT virgin.net>
Preston, England
March 2001

Last Edited: Wednesday, October 30, 2002