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Spinks surgery set for Dec. 3 in Seattle hospital

Interim city manager Robert Spinks will have surgery Dec. 3 to remove a noncancerous but potentially life-threatening tumor from the auditory canal leading from his left ear to his brain.

Then he will be recuperating at home for four to eight weeks following his release from the hospital, Spinks told the council at its Monday night meeting.

"Not that this experience hasn't been fun or challenging or career-enriching," said the police-chief-turned-city manager.

Spinks, who has been the city's police chief since February 2005, became its interim city manager in May when the city council fired Bill Elliott.

Lt. Sheri Crain has been the acting police chief since then but now she is on limited duty because of knee surgery.

Spinks said he will check in at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle on Dec. 2 and have the surgery the following day.

The 50-year-old Spinks was diagnosed with the condition, known as a acoustic neuroma, during an early November visit to Dr. Robert Craven, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Port Angeles, for allergy and sinus problems.

Acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous growth that originates in the cells that wrap around the eighth cranial nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain. The nerve is responsible for transmitting sound and balance information to the brain.

Spinks had a follow-up surgical consultation on Nov. 17 with Dr. Douglas Backous, an ear, nose and throat doctor who works in a sub-specialty dedicated to disorders of the ear and certain areas of the central nervous system.

Backous is one of two surgeons who will perform the delicate operation, Spinks said.

The surgery will mean the loss of hearing in his left ear, which already has lost some high-range hearing because of the tumor, he said.

According to the Acoustic Neuroma Association's Web site, if the tumor continues to grow along the auditory nerve, it can begin pressing against the brainstem and cerebellum.

The loss of hearing in one ear will require him to wear either a "CROS" or "BAHA" hearing aid, Spinks said. People with normal hearing can locate where sound originates, known as directional reception, because it reaches one ear sooner than the other. The person turns toward the sound until it is reaching both ears simultaneously.

The CROS hearing aid simulates that sensation by capturing the sound on the deaf side with a small microphone and transmitter worn on the ear. Then the sound is delayed a split-second and sent to a receiver and amplifier worn on the good ear.

Since the brain is receiving two sounds a split-second apart, it can determine where the sound is originating.

The BAHA or "bone-anchored hearing aid" consists of a surgically implanted sound processor that transmits the sound on the deaf side to the nerves of the inner ear by direct conduction through the skull.

Both hearing aids allow the person to have both directional reception and to hear sounds on the deaf side without turning his or her head.



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