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May 4, 2023

Rediscovering Music After Hearing Loss: Ronnie’s Inspiring Story

by Brianna Rauchman

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Ronnie overcame severe ear pain and hearing loss with the help of Courtney Voelker, MD, PhD, at Pacific Head and Neck . Follow his journey through two successful surgeries, including a tympanoplasty and stapes bone reconstruction.

Finding the Hidden Cause of a Musician’s Hearing Loss

Ronnie felt a familiar sharp pain that signaled yet another ear infection. For years, he endured recurrent ear infections, accompanied by swelling and discomfort. Despite multiple visits to the emergency room, urgent care, and ENT offices, Ronnie was unable to get an appropriate diagnosis for the underlying cause of these infections. Nevertheless, he pursued his passion for music; that is, until a new symptom arose.  

Courtney Voelker MD PhD
Courtney Voelker, MD , PhD

At first, Ronnie barely noticed his hearing loss. However, as the condition progressed, he struggled to hear music and conversation in his right ear. Alarmed by these changes, he urgently sought medical attention. 

Fortunately, Ronnie was referred to Pacific Head and Neck, a division of Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center of excellence. There, he met with board certified neurotologist Courtney Voelker, MD, PhD, who specializes in treating complex ear conditions. Upon reviewing Ronnie’s imaging tests, Dr. Voelker discovered that the recurring ear infections had caused a brain lesion that required a complex surgical intervention. 

Relief at Last: Ronnie’s Tympanoplasty and the Journey Ahead 

In late February 2022, Ronnie underwent his first surgery. During the procedure, Dr. Voelker discovered extensive damage, as the infection had consumed Ronnie’s entire eardrum.  

Black and white profile of person touching their ear. Ear is red to symbolize pain.

To repair the eardrum, Dr. Voelker performed an operation called tympanoplasty. During this procedure, she used a small piece of tissue to patch the holes in the eardrum. Next, Dr. Voelker performed a mastoidectomy to remove two destroyed ear bones.  

After waking up from surgery, Ronnie felt a huge sense of relief. The debilitating ear pain disappeared. Despite a successful operation, Ronnie still had a long road ahead, involving several months of recovery and a subsequent surgery aimed at restoring his hearing.  

Rebuilding the Inner Ear and a Path to Hearing

In November 2022, Dr. Voelker performed the second surgery, where she rebuilt Ronnie’s stapes bone. The stapes bone, also known as the stirrup bone, transmits sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear.

Unlike during his first surgery, Ronnie did not wake up to immediate results. In fact, his hearing loss remained pronounced. Dr. Voelker reassured Ronnie that his ear may require time to heal before functioning properly.  

Reclaiming Life’s Symphony

One month later, while Ronnie was driving down Burbank Boulevard, he suddenly heard three little pops in his ear.

It was as if I was hearing from that ear for the first time in years. And I just sat there, literally just crying my eyeballs out, but in the best way possible. Tears of joy. And my hearing has continued to get even better and better.

The back of four middle aged adults an an outdoor music event.

Captivated by the music streaming from his car speakers, Ronnie pulled over to the side of the road. Suddenly, another pop occurred, further enhancing his hearing. The sounds of life, previously muted, now vibrated with striking clarity. In the following months, Ronnie’s hearing continued to improve. 

Ever since restoring his hearing, Ronnie has been enjoying live music performances with his friends. He now effortlessly hears conversations in noisy environments, which used to be a major challenge for him before his surgery.

Ronnie expressed deep gratitude for Dr. Voelker’s surgical expertise and compassionate care, which restored his hearing and renewed his quality of life.  You can watch Ronnie’s story here.  

Hearing loss diagnostics available at PNI

Hearing loss quality of life

At PNI’s Pacific Eye, Ear, and Skull Base Center, we offer comprehensive audiologic and otologic evaluations to establish baseline hearing health and follow-up care.

If you or a loved one struggles with hearing loss or tinnitus, we offer rehabilitative support, including custom hearing protection, hearing aids, hearing implant evaluations, and counseling.

We understand the importance of hearing. It plays a vital role in connecting us with friends, family, and coworkers. Enhance your quality of life with our team of skilled professionals at the Pacific Eye, Ear, and Skull Base Center.

More information: 310-477-5558

About Courtney Voelker, MD, PhD

Courtney Voelker MD PhD

Courtney Voelker, MD, PhD (DPhil Oxon), is a Rhodes Scholar and board-certified neurotologist. She is Director of Otology/Neurotology-Lateral Skull Base Surgery; and Director of the Adult & Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at Pacific Neuroscience Institute. She is an otolaryngology – head & neck surgeon who takes care of adult and pediatric patients seeing a wide range of inner ear and skull base conditions. Highly accomplished in the clinic and in research, she is committed to offering top quality, compassionate care to all her patients.

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About the Author

Brianna Rauchman

Brianna Rauchman, BA, is the Communications Coordinator for the Lifestyle Program, where she helps develop outreach strategies to connect with an expanding audience. Her responsibilities include providing launch support, developing content, assisting with collateral design, and planning social media strategies.

Last updated: May 30th, 2023