What? Can you repeat that? Lukas, I did not hear what you said, can you come closer? This is my new way of life.
I have had some form hearing loss for most of my life and I just adapted to it as a nuisance. I first noticed it in high school when I got to the age I was using the phone more. It only impacted my right ear and I just adapted to it by changing my behavior. Never really thought much of it and never had any tests performed to identify the the reason or search for a cure. It was really not a big deal and did not think about it. At times even had its advantages.
Fast forward almost 20 years..
I started experiencing more hearing issues back in late 2009. Enough so, that it prompted me to go to an ENT. I was having extreme difficulty hearing out of what I considered my good ear and just thought it was clogged up or that I had a slight ear infection. I was experiencing a very loud and disruptive ringing that was driving me insane called tinnitus. More on tinnitus later. I tried the normal things such as antibiotics, steroids, time, and nothing worked. I had brain scans and extensive hearing tests to look for any possible causes such as tumors. The ENT and Audiologist just said I had an unusual form of hear loss and recommended that I get hearing aids as that would possibly help with the tinnitus.
So, I got my first pair of hearing aids. Almost $6000 worth of tiny electronics that it on the top of my ears and a plastic ear mold that fitted to my ears. I called them, my robot ears and it was a fun conversation piece with my son for awhile. Learning to hear with hearing aids can be challenging. I did not realize how bad my hearing was until I put them in for the first time. It took me about a week to adapt to the unusual noises that I had never heard. Everything from my soft footsteps, the tinging sound of water as it dripped out of a faucet and the clicking sound one makes when typing on the keyboard. That and the reverberation of my voice were probably the most difficult to adjust to but over time, but it soon just became normal.
Well, a few months past. Around the spring time if I recall correctly. I was able to hear again in my left ear. I was hearing well enough that I stopped wearing the hearing aids daily. Days turned to weeks, then months. I was thinking to myself, what a waste of $6000.
Fast forward to spring of 2011..
What do you know? My hearing started to go again. So I started wearing my hearing aids again and went to a new ENT. We again tried the steroids, antibiotics and decongestants. Nothing worked. What was more frustrating was the pressure I had in my hears. I had just taken a flight and I had some slight sinus pressure buildup due to a head cold I had at the time. The pain I felt when the plane started to descend was of one I will never forget and I do not want to experience again. So, back to the ENT, he recommended ear tubes. I liked the idea because I felt that would relieve my ear pressure and I was flying in the next few days to Houston. He was able to get me in literally the next day at a local surgical clinic. A 38 year old grown man going in for what a 2 year old gets to relieve ear infections. Even the nurses at the surgical facility expected a 2 year old.
It took about a day after the surgery and i could hear once again. The ear pressure was gone and I did not need the hearing aids anymore. Though, everyone sounded a bit funny the first few days. Almost like robots.
Went to Houston for a few days and on my last day, exactly 1 week after the surgery I once again began having hearing issues and the tinnitus was back, louder then ever. I thought to myself, not again!
Fast forward 2 weeks, the Friday before the 4th of July..
My hearing was troubling me more then ever and impacting my sleeping patterns, more so the tinnitus. So, I would frequently get up at night and would stumble a bit. I really did not think much of the stumbling and I just thought it was due to lack of sleep and walking around in the dark or getting up to quickly.
It was now Friday, July 1st. The family and I had no real plans this weekend other then having the in laws over for a BBQ. I worked from home at the time and cut out around 5pm. I felt a bit funny, an occasional loss of balance but did not think much of it. Made it down stairs to the kitchen and started feeling dizzy and nauseous so I decided to law down on the sofa. This is when my world changed on me. I began feeling beyond dizzy with literally everything spinning and this took me to the floor. It was the feeling that i was on the tea cup ride at Disney just to long and it would not stop. Extreme vertigo kicked in.
My sister in law just happened to be over at the house. Not sure why she was there, she just was and the wife and kids had run an errand or something. She saw me on the floor and I am not quite sure what lead up to it but the next thing I know there was a police officer at the house then followed up with EMT. The vomiting began! I vomitted so much I was vommiting nothing after a few hours. Vomiting nothing up is worse then vommiting everything up. I ended up going to the hospital and spending the evening and all of Saturday there. Was prodded, poked and given high doses of anti-nausea medication and high doses of steriods. All this while spinning.
My ENT came to the visit me on Saturday morning in the hospital and after reviewing everything concluded I had Menier’s Disease. Meniere’s Disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance to a varying degree. It is characterized by episodes of veritgo and tinnitus and progressive hearing loss. Well, that is not good, but I did have an explanation for what was going on. I went home later that Saturday. Ears felt very full, a hard feeling to explain. Almost like there is water in my ears and I could once again could hear without any assistance from my hearing aids.
Meniere’s Disease is a disorder of teh inner ear that can affect hearing and balance to a varying degree. It is characterized by episodes of veritgo and tinnitus and progressive hearing loss.
I was told to adjust my salt intake. Basically reduce and eliminate as much salt as I can possibly stand and stop drinking any stimulants that contain alcohol or caffeine. You have no idea how difficult the caffeine part was as I lived on 6 cans of Coke daily, sometimes more.
Fast forward to August. We moved to Houston Texas from Schererville Indiana. Yes, that is another story. I had talked to my ENT about my move to Houston and he recommended that I pay a visit to Baylor at the Med Center. Houston is an amazing place with an entire portion of the city dedicated to the medical profession. So, before I moved, I scheduled an appointment. Again, right after I got to Texas, my hearing went south on me. Was not initially experiencing any vertigo but I did not feel right. My new doctor, a neurologist and researching had me on high doses of steroids and it worked for about a day. We then tried steroid injections and had an MRI. Still nothing. He was basically looking for what was causing this. After the blood work, MRI and the results of the steroids, he ruled out Autoimmune Disease and classified it as Menier’s Disease. Well, that was sort of a relief but the bad news is that I have established a new lower level baseline of hearing loss and I am now fully dependent on hearing aids.
Over the past few weeks I have learned to adapt to both the tinnitus and hearing loss and Vertigo. Mostly adjustments to my diet, medication and the knowledge of what is wrong with me. The people I work with and my family understand some of the hearing difficulties I have. I have been fortunate that I do have the capability of hearing others while wearing my hearing aids and when in direct face to face contact with them, but put me in a loud room or a noisy situation it is nearly impossible to understand people. I have also started using a high powered ear piece that I use for when on the phone at the office.
I still continue to look for better solutions to managing my situation. I still dont know a whole lot about Menier’s Disease and I live in fear of a Vertigo attach at any time. I have to take Melatonin to help with the sleep and that seems to be doing the trick for now. More to come I am sure…..