Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bells are Ringing in My Ears

I don't often talk about any maladies that effect me, but today I want to talk about my ears. They ring.

I know they've been ringing for over 30 years because I clearly remember speaking to a doctor about them when I was 21 or 22. In my late 20s, the ringing was accompanied by loss of hearing in my left ear such that if I was speaking on the phone with the handset to my right ear, I had little awareness of ambient noise in the room. And what I could hear in my left ear was blurry.

The partial deafness and working in a good job with medical benefits prompted my first significant exploration into my ear problems. I went to Mass Eye and Ear, a part of Mass General Hospital, and had all sorts of tests. These essentially determined there was no clearly definable reason for the deafness or the tinnitus.

The hearing loss in the left has come and gone over the years. I have learned to accomodate it by strategic seating in settings where I'm in a group, such as large, in-person meetings and restaurants with a group of friends.

In my mid-30s, vertigo joined in the fun, so I now had a trio of ear issues. This led to the identification of Meuniere's disease as a likely culprit of these issues. My father has Meuniere's, though he hasn't had any vertigo attacks in 15 years or more. (This is lucky for him since his mobility is now impaired by Parkinson's.)

The hearing loss is always there to some degree, the vertigo is a very infrequent visitor, but the tinnitus is always with me. I'm writing about it now because it's really spiked up over the last week or so. Over the years, the loudness and the tone have varied significantly, even varying by ear. With the recent increase in volume, I now have a pulsing, high-pitched ringing shriek localized slightly to the left of center in my head. This is also accompanied by distinct ringing sounds located directly in my ears. When the house is wonderfully quiet in the mornings, like right now, it's presence occupies a fair portion of my consciousness; later in the day, when the activity level and noise increases, competing with the tinnitus, it will fade into the background.

In addition to all of this in the present day, I look at my dad and worry about the future of my ears. He is 84 and has two hearing aids, having worn them for at least a decade. Despite this, he needs to be spoken to in a fairly loud voice and dialogue often needs repeating. I suspect this is in store for me. D'oh!

8 comments:

Herrad said...

Hi Cranky ,
Horrible the constant ringing noise.
Thinking of you.
Love,
Herrad

zoomdoggies said...

Lucky you! "The music of the ears" -- one more thing to make your life interesting. Scarecrow and I both have tinnitus and some hearing loss (Scarecrow more than me), which makes our conversations kind of entertaining. My dad, who is 88, finally got hearing aids last year, after many years of just turning up the TV and making people shout at him. It was a real relief -- for all of us!

Cranky said...

Herrad - thanks for your support.

Zoom - two in the house with ringing and partial deafness. Oy! Glad your dad got the hearing aids. My dad just got two new ones and the technology has improved such that it seems he hears a bit better than with the old pair.

Diane J Standiford said...

I just can't understand why, in 2009, they still haven't made more advances in hearing loss. Poor aunt Vi 102, can't see or hear but fine otherwise. I look at my mom and wonder---is that me in a few years, my brain already shrinking, less for Alzheimer's to take over...is it better not to know? Hmmm My wishes for silence in your future. (I know, careful what you wish for)

Diane J Standiford said...

I just can't understand why, in 2009, they still haven't made more advances in hearing loss. Poor aunt Vi 102, can't see or hear but fine otherwise. I look at my mom and wonder---is that me in a few years, my brain already shrinking, less for Alzheimer's to take over...is it better not to know? Hmmm My wishes for silence in your future. (I know, careful what you wish for)

thedailydish said...

Cranky -- have you tried cutting out salt?? Your symptoms really fit meniere's. A low sodium diet has made all the difference for me. TRY IT!! Best of luck.

http://www.thedailydish.us

Have Myelin? said...

Well- I am deaf and have a cochlear implant. I know several with M's disease. Two of my friends now have cochlear implants.

The problem with M.'s disease is you have variation in hearing loss for awhile usually...

My neurologist was just diagnosed with M's disease as well. She is wearing two hearing aids right now.

Cranky said...

Dish - I missed your note when you originally posted it. I did try reducing salt and caffeine when I had extreme vertigo attacks last November but neither seemed to have any effect. It was my Meuniere's that caused me to find your blog, which I heartily enjoy.

Have Myelin - greetings! Does the cochlear implant help you hear? I have heard that M's disease can cause deafness, so I am not too thrilled with that potential. I can just see it now with Skip trying to get my attention when I can't hear her at all! :-)