Thursday, February 09, 2006

Can you hear me now? Not so good..... (updated)

The News

I got some scary news the other day, I'm still trying to come to grips with it. I may have completely lost the hearing in my right ear permenantly, or at the very least if it does come back to any extent at all I may need a hearing aid the rest of my life. Now, as life changing events go, this is not THAT earth shattering, I mean it is not as if I lost a leg or an arm or something, It certainly could have been worse. But the suddenness of it and the virtual NORMALCY in how it came about still boggles my mind.

The Symptom

On Wednesday, week before last, at about 3pm, I yawned, my ear popped, started ringing, and I have not heard anything in that ear since. I had a sinus headache at the time and felt like a cold was coming on, so at first I didn't think a whole lot about it, I just figured I had an inner ear infection and I made an appointment to go see my GP doctor the next morning for some antibiotics and a decongestant and a steroid shot (this should have been a red flag, but at the time I didn't think much of it either) and everything would be right as rain in a couple days. Three days later, I still had not heard anything and went back to the doctor. They told me that this might drag on for a few more days and to relax, everything would be fine. Two more days passed and I was starting to panic. I made an appointment with an ENT for day 8.

The Testing

When I got there the first thing they did was a complete Audiology workup, and I do mean complete. They tested the mechanical movement of both eardrums (normal) they tested the reflexes of the muscles in the inner ear (paralysis on the right side) they tested both the frequency response and how well I could understand speach in each ear at varying loudnesses. The result? Over 100dB of hearing loss in the right ear. At this level, they are at the limits of thier machine to discriminate between crosstalk between the ears, bone conduction, and losses in the equipment itself. This loss appears to be neurosensory, and not a mechanical problem with the structures of the inner ear.

The Diagnosis

The doctor came in and after doing a visual examination of the ear, we discussed the results of the test. While there are a number of exotic things that can cause this, the leading culprit is something called Sudden Neurosensory Hearing Loss Syndrome. This is as you can imagine a "catch-all" type diagnosis for those things that don't neatly fit other diagnoses. These are often termed idiopathic meaning that nobody really knows why or how it happened. There are three main theories that exist for the "why" of it at this time. They each could be causative, but probably not in combination. They are nerve damage due to blood clots, essentially a stroke in the blood supply to the inner ear. Nerve damage due to viruses, a number of whom have shown some ability for nerve damage including a number in the common adenovirus and Pneumonae families. And third, and less well regarded, is a fistula or membrane tear within the conchlea itself. In my case either of the first two are possible as I was feeling poorly at the time, I could have had a virus. I also have a heart condition that COULD cause small clots to form due to turbulent flow patterns in my atria, especially if my heart rate gets up due to the use of stimulants such as decongestants.

The Treatment

Many cases of this syndrome resolve themselves on thier own without medical intervention or notice so it is difficult to gauge just how prevalent this is. The chance of full recovery is however tied fairly linearly to the amount of initial hearing loss, which in my case is virtually total. Therefore, the odds of a complete recovery for me are probably in the range of about 20%. The hope at this point is that I will recover enough hearing to be able to work with it using artificial aids. A number of treatments have been tried over the years, but the only one that has shown to be of any help at all is high doses of steroids. I'm on day three of this treatment and I MIGHT have recovered a little hearing, but that is far from proven. How well that bodes for me is yet to be known.

The MRI Results

Well after much consternation and calling every person remotely associated with the fiasco, I FINALLY got my MRI results. Seems the doctor's office either lost the results, misfiled them, or just fell flat on thier face. The results had been posted last friday in the computer system, and hardcopies were faxed Monday morning. The doctor's office was telling me that Radiology had not sent them the results yet. So I ask for the number to radiology, thinking I'd call over there and light a fire under someone's arse, she tells me she can't give the number out. BULLSHIT. I called the main number and asked for the head of radiology, got right through. As it turns out they had done thier job, and were willing to send yet another copy. Seems my beef is with the doctor's support staff. I guess they've never sat and waited a week to find out whether they have brain cancer or not.... assholes....

Oh, by the way, in the words of Ol' Arnie... "It's not a TOOOMAH!"

They still don't know for certain what happened, but they at least know what it isn't...


Blogger TxGoodie said...

Oh...I'm so sorry! I'm going to cross everything I own and pray and think good thoughts and light a candle! That's scary that it was so sudden, but maybe it'll go away as fast as it came about. I see your Ad generator really went nuts with hearing aid ads....jerks.... anyway hang in there and try not to let it get you down, pal! And don't beat yourself up for not rushing to a specialist right away....who knows these things until they happen and it's a done deal.

January 28, 2006 9:01 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

Thanks, I appreciate it. Most people don't go to a specialist right away, which may be a big reason why not as much is known about it as there possibly could be. If it WAS due to a clot, I would suspect one of the clot busting drugs that are used for heart attacks and strokes might be useful if you got dosed within 30 minutes or so of onset. But who would think it was anything but an ear infection? The side effects of those drugs are such that they would not give it to you unless they were sure that was the case anyway, and even then that would be a big "maybe". The average person who does seek medical attention for this does so after a week to 10 days. I went within 19 hours and even that was apparently not soon enough.

January 28, 2006 9:43 PM  
Anonymous said...

Ror, sorry you're having problems with your hearing.

I have a problem with my right ear but I also know what caused it. Shooting without ear protection as a kid, loud concerts and loud music in general, and working in the refineries before hearing protection was required.

January 29, 2006 5:59 AM  
Blogger Pigilito said...


What a horrible thing to have happened. Please keep seeing specialists over this.

I sure hope it resolves itself at least somewhat.


January 29, 2006 6:29 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Soyer said...

This happened to my brother, a musician. He was watching the Boston 4th of July fireworks show and lost hearing in one of his ears as well as picking up a constant ringing in the other.

The good news for him -- and hopefully will be for you, too -- is that within a couple months everything came back to normal.

Myself, I'm constantly amazed that I have any hearing left at all after playing in rock bands as a kid, being a club DJ for years, and -- oh yeah -- firing guns a lot. At least with the last I used hearing protection.

January 29, 2006 7:27 AM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

Well, I can't say I'm not guilty of all of the above myself, but strangely, none of that did it. Hell what is life without loud rock and roll and shooting? the two just seem to go together...

January 29, 2006 6:14 PM  
Blogger Cory said...

Sorry to hear that Ror. Has there been any progress or about the same?


January 30, 2006 12:50 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

I went to a different ENT this morning, (the last guy didn't seem all that thourough) and got some encouraging news. While I still have profound hearing loss on the right side, it is coming back. I have gone from about 90-100dB down to about -50dB down. 0-20 dB down is "normal", my left ear ranges from -15dB to -5dB which is better than an adult has a right to expect, it is actually the hearing of a child, without all the damage from shooting and loud Rock and Roll concerts and such. (it is a log scale BTW.) The new guy has scheduled me for an MRI to rule out a tumor of the brain, but the soonest opening is thursday afternoon. It is coming back, SLOWLY, but it is coming back. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

January 30, 2006 5:27 PM  
Blogger Pigilito said...

That's good news. Given that some hearing has returned, is it likely that much of the rest of the loss will be erased?

Good luck with the MRI.

January 31, 2006 4:21 AM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

Pigilito, likely? no, but possible. There is still a very strong chance that it won't come all the way back.

January 31, 2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger Pigilito said...

It must be a relief to have ruled out a tumor, even though you had to hunt down the info yourself.

February 10, 2006 6:19 AM  

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