Silence to Sound: Holly Lanpher's Journey with Hearing Loss

Holly Lanpher takes no sound for granted. Born in 1985 in Vista with severe hearing loss in her left ear, Holly grew up depending only on her right ear for hearing.

After seeing multiple doctors who could not determine the cause of her hearing loss, she began using a hearing aid at 5 years old. However, she decided to stop wearing the device in 1st grade after being left out of a school activity due to her hearing aid. Leaving her hearing aid behind, Holly experienced much of her elementary school years with muffled hearing, but she made the most of her young life like most other children her age.

When she was about 12 years old, her hearing worsened after she dove into the deep end of a pool to retrieve a diving toy that was 12-feet underwater. The pressure from the dive perforated the ear drum in her right ear. That injury later led to an ear infection.

Holly continued to focus on school and sports, but she realized her hearing was deteriorating. "I started to hate myself because I couldn't hear. I felt like half a person, and I prayed every night to become whole again." Doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong and Holly began to lose faith in finding any doctor who could help her improve her hearing, she said.

From then on, her hearing began to negatively affect her social life and grades.

One day, while in class, Holly's right ear began to bleed. She was sent to a nurse and later to a physician who referred her to Dr. Patrick Fitzgerald, an ear, nose, and throat specialist with Arch Health Partners. He looked in side her ear and concluded that it was a terrible ear infection that needed surgery right away.

The infection turned out to be a cholesteatoma - a tumor that had eaten away Holly's ear bones in her only good hearing ear - and the tumor was headed toward her brain. Along with the tumor, Dr. Fitzgerald removed 2 1/2 of the three bones in her ear at Palomar Medical Center Poway.

"I totally trusted him. You could really tell he cared. It was scary, but it was really exciting to know my hearing was going to get fixed."

It was the first of multiple surgeries Holly would undergo at Palomar Medical Center Poway under Dr. Fitzgerald's care. After the first surgery, Dr. Fitzgerald implanted two prosthetic ear bones to replace the two bones the cholesteatoma had deteriorated. However, due to the extensive damage and scar tissue that remained, the prosthetic bones had nothing to latch on to.

Holly's only option was to wear a hearing aid.

When Holly was 20, her fight for her hearing continued when she discovered that the tumor in her ear had returned. Dr. Fitzgerald recommended a mastoidectomy to keep the tumor from spreading to Holly's brain. He also recommended implanting a bone-anchored hearing device known as a BahaTM System, which was new at the time. "I was devastated with losing my hearing again," Holly remembers. "But as bad as it was, Dr. Fitzgerald never presented me without an option. He always had an option."

She had the device's abutment implanted at the Surgery Center of Palomar Medical Center Poway in March 2005, where "the staff was amazing," she said. A few months later, Holly remembers sitting in Dr. Fitzgerald's office when he turned on the Baha for the first time. "I became alive. I burst into tears - happy tears.I could hear the nurse's footsteps out in the hallway behind a closed door. Who knew walls were not sound proof?"

Today, Holly is a thriving 28-year-old who enjoys interacting with people. "I used to be so quiet and angry on the inside, but that just wasn't me," she said. "I have a lot of time to make up. My hearing does not hold me back anymore."

  • Palomar Medical Center Escondido

     

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    Escondido, CA 92029

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  • Palomar Medical Center Downtown Escondido

     

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    Escondido, CA 92025

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  • Palomar Medical Center Poway

     

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    Poway, CA 92064

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