Thursday, July 24, 2014

Well it's not a banana

I had a very thorough hearing test today, and then saw the specialist. I knew something was up because I could tell during the hearing test that my right ear was just fine, clogged yes but working as intended. Not so with the left ear, and then I got to do some tests I’ve never had done before – things that measured the pressure in my ears, checked to see how well my ear drums vibrate, and then how well the nerves in my ears work to conduct the sound (that one involved vibration on my skull, which felt incredibly weird). The audiologist was almost happy running all his tests because as it turns out, I have a fairly rare kind of hearing loss: low frequency hearing loss or nerve related hearing loss.

Since I got home, I’ve been scouring the internet for more information, and here’s what I’ve found:
  • This article talks about severe reverse slope hearing loss – mine isn’t severe, but it’s most definitely reverse slope and as I read the author’s description about what he can and can’t hear, I just kept nodding. I hear some sounds remarkably well; they are all in the higher frequencies. Others get lost in the audio clutter for me. This helps me understand why I didn’t really hear the ambulance that nearly t-boned me the other day. It had one of those newer, lower sounding sirens. If it had been high and wailing, chances are good I’d have heard it.
  • This article has charts that show the various kinds of hearing losses as they look on an audiogram (figure 6 is spot on for mine).
  • My doctor told me there are generally three causes for this kind of hearing loss: Meniere’s disorder, a small benign tumor that presses on the nerve, and we don’t know. He’s leaning toward we don’t know for me since I have no other symptoms to support a diagnosis of Meniere’s. We could run tests to see about the tumor but if there is one, treatment options aren’t great and don’t have a good chance of improving things. Plus these kinds of tumors are very small and very slow and not life threatening. 
  • I can hear women’s voices better than men’s and children’s voices are also better for me. 
  • Typically those with my kind of hearing loss will struggle in crowded places with loud, ringing acoustics (think bars, airports, places like that).
  • Generally, people with this kind of hearing loss don’t have issues with their speech – they talk just fine. Speech gets affected when the loss is in the upper frequencies. 
  • And I found this section from another article to be really interesting – I may have lost this hearing a while ago and just not realized it:
"A low frequency hearing loss is not easy to identify because it tends to not have any symptoms. In fact, lower frequency sounds do not have as much information as sounds in the higher frequencies. Plus, people with hearing in the middle and high frequencies can use what they hear in those frequencies to make up for what they do not hear in the lower frequencies, thereby "masking" the hearing loss. One of the few clues to a low frequency hearing loss is that the person has difficulty hearing in groups or in a noisy place."
My hearing loss is fairly mild so far, so there’s nothing to be done except get checked periodically. I go back in six months to see how I’m doing.


Paula said...

Thanks for sharing this - I have the same symptoms and have had them for years - love my MD, but when my first hearing test showed no loss, the symptoms were dismissed! I think it is time to push on this one - i have told him my ears always feel full, my tinnitus is worse, I can not go to movie theaters because of how loud they are, and I do have some mild hearing loss - all of which i have attributed to "age" - so, thanks for helping me!!!!!

kittiesx3 said...

Sounds like you may have Menier's -- there's a lot of info online about it. I don't have it but know several who do and yes, it's real.