Celebrating 75 Years of Changing Lives Like David’s

Dec 2, 2020 | Donor Spotlight – Your Stories, House Institute Foundation, In-House Treatments & Innovations

By Javia Headley, Marketing Communications Manager

In 1946, when Dr. Howard House first founded what is now the House Institute Foundation (HIF), he dreamed of helping patients like David. At that time, there were not many options for those struggling with hearing-related disease. He hoped an institution dedicated to hearing research and education for hearing professionals could change that.

The previous 75 years of House Institute Foundation history is filled with numerous innovative advances that have not only changed modern hearing science but have also changed lives. One of those advances is the translabyrinthine approach. Dr. William House, brother of founder Howard House, discovered this technique in the late 1960s. This procedure allows doctors to remove most, if not all, of an acoustic nerve tumor, without risk of significant damage to the brain. Since its conception, HIF has been educating neurotologists and neurosurgeons worldwide in this technique. These physicians take what they learn and apply this expertise in their practices, caring for patients like David.

For most acoustic neuroma patients who pass through the doors of the House Ear Clinic, they can note the exact moment they realized they were losing their hearing. For David, it was a phone call. Managing a pizza shop as a favor for his friend who had gone out of town, David was spending his time tossing dough, boxing pizzas, and taking phone orders. Habitually, he answered each call with his right ear. At first, David thought the muffled sound was simply the result of an old telephone that needed replacing. Then, preoccupied with taking an order, he switched the phone from his right ear to his left. The sound was instantly better.

Months later, an MRI revealed the difference in hearing was caused by a three-centimeter tumor resting on his acoustic nerve. The tumor was so large that his physicians, Drs. William Slattery and Gregory Lekovic, recommended it be removed. The safest method of removal was the translabyrinthine approach pioneered by the House Institute. By the end of his surgery, David was tumor-free. Throughout this experience, the House staff and David’s community rallied around him. “It felt wonderful to be a catalyst for the outpouring of love and support that came from the people in my life,” David explained. 

Although the tumor removal resulted in hearing loss on his right side, the translabyrinthine approach allowed David’s doctors to save his other facial and balance nerves. One of David’s biggest concerns upon being told he would need this surgery was whether he would be able to ride his motorcycle again. Inherited from his father upon his death, David’s small Harley Sportster meant a lot to him. It connected him to his father’s legacy.

One great legacy led to another.

Our 75 years of research and education around acoustic nerve tumors and hearing health allowed us to help David get back on his motorcycle. As Ray Bradbury once said, “It doesn’t matter what you do … so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”

The House Institute Foundation has done this through the translabyrinthine approach, and every time David works on his father’s motorcycle, he can enjoy his father’s legacy as well.