Arnold Blair: Titanium Prosthesis Helps Patient Regain Hearing

For most people a winter cold is an inconvenience. When Arnold Blair caught a cold in December 2017, it was life changing.  His common cold indirectly led to a profound positive change in his life, the ability to hear again in his left ear.

Since he was a boy, Arnold, now 48, had had severe hearing loss in his left ear and suffered from repetitive ear infections. Not only did this force him to avoid swimming and other water activities, but he believes it was responsible for a speech impediment, exacerbated his dyslexia, and contributed to a host of other issues he grappled with while growing up.

Two surgeries when he was a young child reduced the frequency of his ear infections and improved his hearing to 40 percent, but he was told that that was as good as it was going to get. He managed as best as he could for more than 30 years as his hearing deteriorated to the point where, in recent years, he wore hearing aids—until he got that cold. It was that cold, which lingered for months and led to an ear infection, that took him to an ear, nose and throat  specialist at Mount Sinai, who treated the infection and referred him to Maura K. Cosetti, MD, Director of Otology/Neurotology at Mount Sinai Downtown and Associate Director of the Ear Institute at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, for possible surgical treatment.

Dr. Cosetti diagnosed chronic otitis media and conductive hearing loss. A CT scan revealed evidence of mastoid infection and a likely displaced prior prosthesis, probably from one of his surgeries in the 1980s. She believed Arnold was a good candidate for surgery and in July 2018, she performed a tympanomastoidectomy, a routine surgery at NYEE, and an ossicular chain reconstruction with a prosthesis. During surgery, Dr. Cosetti was able to reconstruct his ossicular chain and treat the infection. After medication and recovery time Arnold was overjoyed to learn he now had near normal hearing in his left ear and would no longer need hearing aids. More importantly, he is now able to enjoy swimming and is planning to acquire his diving certification.

“As soon as I had the surgery, I was amazed that I could hear in stereo for the first time that I can remember,” Arnold said, who is nearly giddy when talking about how Dr. Cosetti’s procedure changed his life. “For the first time in my life, I feel whole.” He says that surgery has enabled him to relax more because he doesn’t have to concentrate so hard on hearing and listening. He finds his work as an attorney easier and he wakes up in the morning feeling invigorated.

In hindsight, Arnold said he wishes he had explored his options earlier instead of relying on one opinion from many years ago. “New technology for hearing loss is emerging all the time,” says Dr. Cosetti. “If someone has an ear problem, it’s worth getting checked out because it’s possible that there’s a new procedure or device that might make a big difference.”

“This surgery has changed my life and I plan to make the most of it,” Arnold says. “I’m looking forward to going snorkeling with my 12-year-old son. This makes me so happy.”