Pioneering ear surgery removes tumors, improves hearing

Lloyd Griffith relished the noise that comes from a love of fixing cars and racing​ until the day a tumor in his ear caused his hearing to go from garbled to silent. Today his hearing is much improved, thanks to a pioneering minimally invasive procedure at UT Southwestern Medical Center – one of the highest-volume acoustic neuroma programs in Texas.

Transcript

[Lloyd] Even as a young person, I loved cars.

[Narrator] A love for giving old ones... New life.

I was always around noise especially when I got old enough to start driving a car.

[Narrator] Lloyd Griffith has always enjoyed being around all the noise his favorite hobbies offer, but the simple joys of tuning engines, hearing cars roar on a race track, would change dramatically as he reached retirement age.

I bought a gun... And we were in this friend of mine's back yard shooting it for the first time. Fired it. I just didn't get over the noise. I didn't have any ear protection on, and when I shot it, it just sorta rattled my head.

[Narrator] Over the course of the next several months, Griffith never regained his hearing.

Words were completely garbled. I knew boy, this isn't good.

[Narrator] After taking a routine hearing test, his doctor in Waco encouraged him to get an MRI.

It was about the size of my finger, my little finger.

[Narrator] A benign tumor, known as an acoustic neuroma, was growing in Griffith's brain.

I was terrified. He gave me a choice. He said you can go to Austin, you can go to Dallas, and I said I'd rather go to Dallas.

[Narrator] Which brought him to UT Southwestern Medical Center where he met with Dr. Brandon Issacson. An acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous growth that develops on the eighth cranial nerve.

It actually comes out the brain as one nerve and splits into three different nerves.

[Narrator] Which affects the acoustic balance and facial functions of the brain.

We're a referral center for these types of tumors in the north Texas area and even throughout the state. We see patients from all over including surrounding states.

[Narrator] Treatment options for patients vary from observation to radiation and surgery.

The traditional approach we would have used for that tumor a few years ago would have been a trans-lab approach. That's where you make an incision behind the ear, and then you open the bone behind the ear to get to the tumor, and then you remove the tumor.

[Narrator] But since 2016, Issacson and his team have been experimenting with a newer, more innovative surgical technique using an endoscope.

With this new approach, you basically can do everything through the ear canal, and so it's a much smaller incision, and it doesn't involve as much bone removal.

[Narrator] And that makes the recovery time much quicker for the patients.

[Lloyd] UT Southwestern's the place to be.

[Lloyd] I had the surgery. The garbling went away, so I actually heard better than before the surgery.

[Narrator] And although he'll never regain the hearing in his left ear, he's back to spending time doing what he loves.

[Lloyd] I thank God. Very grateful.