How I Lost My Hearing:
Just over a month ago I went to bed with a ringing sound in my right ear. In the middle of the night I was awoken by screamingly loud tinnitus in my ear. By the morning the tinnitus had replaced my hearing and I was completely deaf in the ear. It was frightening and baffling. I went straight to the doctors where they tested my hearing with a tuning fork, both air and bone tests confirmed that I had lost my hearing. I was given an emergency referral to an ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) department at the local hospital (incidentally this referral didn’t arrive for 3 weeks!).
What I Did Next:
Later that day I took matters into my own hands and contacted a friend who is a Registrar at a hospital in Essex. He spoke with some colleagues and told me that I shouldn’t wait around for a letter to turn up and that I needed urgent treatment that day. So I went to the hospital and the ENT department prescribed me Prednisolone (steroids) to reduce inflammation, Betahistine (for the vertigo and dizziness), Aciclovir (antivirals) and something to stop all the pills hurting my stomach.
I have been classified as having Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL). It is rare, only affecting about 4000 people in the USA each year. It varies in intensity of symptoms and only in 15% of cases can the exact cause be determined. I had a rabies vaccination on the day that the hearing loss happened. It seems that this was the cause in my case. Possibly a bad reaction to something inside the vaccination. I was meant to be working in Peru now, but had to cancel the trip.
After starting on the medication I became very unwell. The most acute symptoms lasted about four days with nausea, vertigo and fatigue. I spent a further three weeks in bed. It was extremely distressing and at points I felt very low. I was in and out of hospital for blood tests and I even had an MRI scan to rule out a tumour. Luckily all the blood tests and the MRI scan were clear. I was then referred to a specialist in London who gave me two steroid injections into my ear over the course of a week. This involved piercing the ear drum with a fine needle and injecting the fluid into my middle ear. It was very painful and uncomfortable but I’m glad I had the chance to undertake the procedure.
It’s now over a month since this happened and I’m starting to do half days at work. I’m off all the medication. Balance and fatigue are issues and I have good and bad days. On a bad day things spin and I have to lie still. I still have no hearing and loud tinnitus in my right ear and quieter tinnitus in the left ear. I’ve had four audiology tests and the left ear seems okay at the moment. For anyone going through a similar ordeal I would say that getting treatment as quickly as possible is supposed to increase your chances of recovering hearing. It does all depend on how serious the loss was to begin with, and in my case it was very severe. Only time will tell how my recovery goes. I know that some people live with the vestibular disorder (balance and vertigo) for months and in some cases years.
The best advice I have received is to rest, drink plenty of water and stay positive. It’s been a huge shock to the system and my family and friends, it takes time to recover from something like this and you need to give your body that time and space to recuperate. As a musician my hearing is very important to me and I’m currently uncertain about what this means for the future. All I can hope is that I keep getting better. I’ve learned that there are a lot of musicians who suffer from tinnitus (Chris Martin & Neil Young) and some who are even deaf! Beethoven being the obvious example. They are inspirational figures and whenever I feel a bit low I remind myself that things could be worse and that with positivity you can overcome adversity. Onwards and Upwards!
Click here to read my post Sudden hearing loss – one year on