UAMS Ear Specialist Hits the Right Note for Harpist

By kelly

She had seen ear, nose and throat doctors since 1995 to relieve the pain and pressure of her right ear, which “popped” and never recovered after a cold in 1994. The only treatment she received until she saw UAMS’ Michael Gluth, M.D., in November 2010, was the repeated placement of tubes in her eardrum. The relief from those treatments lasted only six to nine months, and eventually the numerous tube replacements wore away most of her eardrum.

UAMS’ Michael Gluth, M.D., an ear specialist, was able to rebuild Beth Stockdell’s eardrum.

Having a large permanent hole in the eardrum relieved pressure, but it was uncomfortable and she lost hearing in that ear.

“I’m a musician so the hearing loss started to be a problem,” said Stockdell, a harpist who lives in Fayetteville. “I was losing some of the tones and the balance of sound was off.”

Stockdell first heard about Gluth, a fellowship-trained ear specialist, from ear, nose and throat colleague Felicia L. Johnson, M.D., who sees patients in Springdale.

Johnson tried to assure her that Gluth could offer a solution, but for Stockdell it sounded almost too good to be true.

“I’ve been dealing with this for so many years and I’ve had so many doctors; it’s been a long, frustrating process,” she said. “So I was a little skeptical at first.”

For Gluth, her ear problem wasn’t so out of the ordinary.

“I probably see someone with her condition at least once a month,” Gluth said. The solution was to replace Stockdell’s eardrum.

Harpist Beth Stockdell said UAMS’ Michael Gluth, M.D., was the first doctor in 15 years to provide a permanent solution for her ear problem.

While a normal eardrum is fairly substantive and vibrates like the head of a drum, Stockdell’s had collapsed, and what was left was like wet tissue paper, Gluth said.

Using a procedure known as cartilage tympanoplasty, Gluth replaced her eardrum with a tiny piece of her own cartilage. By using cartilage, the rebuilt eardrum is strong enough to hold a tube securely for several years, he said. And when she needs another tube, it won’t compromise the new eardrum.

At UAMS, Gluth works with John Dornhoffer, M.D., professor and director of the Division of Otology and Neurotology in the College of Medicine. Dornhoffer is world-renowned for pioneering ear surgery advances.

“This technique of rebuilding the eardrum with cartilage wasn’t invented at UAMS per se, but definitely Dr. Dornhoffer has popularized it in the United States through his work here,” said Gluth, who joined UAMS in 2010.

More than a year after surgery, Stockdell said her ear still feels normal.

“This is the longest I’ve gone after a procedure with my ear still feeling good and stable,” she said. “It’s been a miracle for me.”