Encounter with disability – wake up call
The past eight days, I have been suffering from hearing loss, apparently due to a middle ear infection for which doctors are still in discovery mode. I want to share the experience because I think many people enter into medical problems without much prior knowledge or experience.
I am a veteran of being sick. I almost died twice from illness and have other problems, mostly involving fishing. (Even sports fishing can be dangerous.)
To recap: I went for my daily 3.5 mile walk and talk. We walked by the beaver pond and I called to the frogs. I can make the sound of a bullfrog and under the right conditions, they will call back. So, we were chatting and it was funny. Sometimes I call geese too. I can get them excited, and we laugh like crazy.
By the end of the walk, passing by the pond once again, the noise of traffic in the area turned to static, and my head seemed to stop up. It didn't feel like a normal sinus blockage. There was no nose-running, and no pain, just intense head congestion.
By the time I got home a few minutes later, had a drink of water and sat down, all listening stopped because I could not hear.
I sent my wife out for some decongestant and took a nap. I awoke on her return and took some medication. Through the evening, nothing improved, so I pledged to go to Urgent Care first thing Sunday morning as we called the internist and he said that is what we should do.
Getting into Urgent Care was easy and a short wait, only several patients ahead of me. We were seen by Dr. Khalida Harrif who examined and said that I needed to see an ENT (Eye Nose Throat) specialist on Monday. Since that is where she works on Monday, we got right in by Tuesday. In the mean time, she prescribed Prednisone (steroids).
I took Prednisone starting Sunday and by Tuesday morning ENT appointment time, I felt some relief, though human speech was not discernible. The first thing in diagnostics was to have an audiology exam. The conclusion was as suspected, I have about 25% hearing in my best ear, and the other ear has been out for many years. So, I was profoundly deaf.
My wife was terribly upset about this, of course, though being a veteran of medical problems, I marched forward.
I was seen by Dr. Michael Nathan who said that I needed an MRI and that we would see how the Prednisone works in a week. Then, if necessary, we will begin shots through the eardrum and into the middle ear.
Now, you might think that sounds terrible, though it is nice to have a way ahead, to know what to expect next.
Over the course of a week, hearing came back to about 40% from 25% in the good ear. I was able to crank up the cell phone and to participate in a teleconference call during the week. That was hard, but amazing.
Yesterday, Monday, I received the injection into the ear. That brought almost immediate relief. The congestion is dissipating, and Tuesday morning, I am hearing a little more.
Dr. Nathan first applied a numbing agent. It stung for about 20 seconds. Then he injected the medication that began with a quick pop as the needle punctured the eardrum. Then, I felt a modest ear ache as I laid on my side for 20-30 minutes. I could taste the medication as it drained down my Eustachian tube. No big deal as I knew it was working.
I drove home afterward without difficulty.
My wife talked to her sister and warned that the next time we play charades, they had better watch out. We're getting real good at it around here.
More progress to report in a week, unless my head falls off, or something.
PS: Prednisone makes the honey-do list go faster.
ScienceDaily (May 14, 2010) — Deep inside the ear, specialized cells called hair cells detect vibrations in the air and translate them into sound. Ten years ago, Stefan Heller, PhD, professor of otolaryngology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, came up with the idea that if you could create these cells in the laboratory from stem cells, it would go a long way toward helping scientists understand the molecular basis of hearing in order to develop better treatments for deafness.”