When you have a hearing loss, the doctors like to have you take a hearing test every now and then to check up on your hearing and ear health, right? Well, I just had my most recent hearing test a month ago… and the findings had me very confused, especially with what happened over the next three days. These events occurred between July 9 and July 13 or so.
For those of you who may never have seen this blog before, hi! Welcome! I talk about more on this blog than hearing loss, though I will admit this particular subject has dominated a lot of my posts recently. Feel free to check out my other posts, whether about hearing loss or otherwise. For now, though, let me give you a bit of backstory for this post:
I was born 3 months premature, via c-section. Because I was born so early, I remained in the hospital for 70 days following my birth. Many premature babies have various health problems that pop up, and although I was a better case than some, I was no exception. I had various eye problems, which led to me wearing glasses by the ripe old age of 6 months. I also had various sensory issues common to extremely premature babies. I had to go to occupational therapy as a baby in order to strengthen my stomach muscles, because I was primarily depending on the muscles in my back. One thing that I had, however, that we didn’t discover until later, was hearing loss.
I was diagnosed with mild low frequency hearing loss when I was 7. I have some high frequency loss in my left ear as well. However, the audiologist who originally tested me advised against hearing aids because I was speaking well, and the audiologist felt that hearing aids might cause other kids to tease me. Add to this advice the fact that hearing aids are EXPENSIVE, and my parents decided against.
Fast forward 7 years, I went in for another hearing test at the age of 14. I don’t remember if my hearing was said to be the same or if it got worse, but this visit was to a different audiologist, and they recommended that I get hearing aids. My dad wasn’t sure about the idea– until he tried hearing a song the way I heard it (he basically used media technology to plug in my audiogram and play the song with the sound adjusted). As soon as he heard the difference, he was fully on board with getting me hearing aids… except various things kept popping up that used up our money, so the HA’s were put on the back burner. I’m 19 now, and still no hearing aids… but we are working on it. In any case, it was another 3 or 4 years before I had another ear appointment. Long story shorter, my hearing hasn’t changed much over the last few years. As far as I know it’s pretty stable. So, when I scheduled my latest hearing appointment for July, I didn’t think anything of it.
On the day before my appointment (a Sunday), my right ear started ringing loudly (I have had tinnitus for a while, but it’s usually pretty mild), and I noticed that I couldn’t hear as well out of that ear. I hadn’t been exposed to loud noises, I wasn’t congested, it just sort of happened. Music played on instruments sounded strange, and my family’s voices sounded muffled and distorted. Here’s the thing, though… this has happened before, though not often. I’ll randomly have my right ear start to ring, and suddenly I can’t hear as well out of that ear. So, I thought it was just a normal occurrence, and put it out of my mind, hoping the tinnitus would recede by the next day.
Come Monday morning, I woke up and got ready to go. I had a dentist appointment that morning too, so I brought earplugs just in case, to prevent my ears from gaining a temporary hearing loss from the dentist tools. Noticed that I had a LOT of trouble hearing and understanding my mother, but I put that off to the tinnitus, which was still ringing loud and strong. Went to dentist appointment, caught lunch, and checked in to hearing appointment.
I told the audiologist that my right ear was ringing really loudly that day; I think that’s why she gave me warble tones that time (a common practice that is supposed to help tinnitus patients distinguish the test tones better). We did my hearing test… and the right ear’s results showed a very significant decrease in hearing ability– up to a 40 dB difference in one of the frequencies! In fact, where my left ear had always been the worse one before, now it was showing up as the better ear! I was shocked, confused, slightly upset. I knew for a fact that I’d been hearing (relatively) fine a couple days before and it was only the previous afternoon that I had noticed any difference in hearing.
I asked if the dentist’s tools might have caused a temporary hearing shift, the audiologist said no. I wondered if the tinnitus caused it, but somewhere between my confusion and the audiologist’s trying to impress upon me the importance of hearing aids, I didn’t ask anything, and we were led into another waiting room so we could see the ENT… Then, after probably a half hour or so of waiting, the ENT came in, and did the usual check-up stuff, then proceeded to tell me that my ears showed “no significant difference” from the last check-up, and I should come in for my next appointment in two years.
I was freaking out about this for the next two or three days. Had I actually lost that much hearing overnight? Was it just the tinnitus? Was there some fluke? I checked online for evidence of tinnitus affecting a hearing test, but got a bunch of “no’s” on most of the websites. There is a website I like to use to check up on my hearing– it gives you an “audiogram” but it’s not completely reliable as an actual hearing test because of differences in sound quality between different headphones and stuff… However, it is useful for testing your hearing for changes, if you keep the same settings, and that was exactly what I needed. I checked and recorded my hearing results every day for the next week or so.
I found that between Tuesday, the day after the appointment, and Thursday, three days after the appointment, my right ear’s hearing improved by a whopping 20 decibels over those two days (which is a LOT). This corresponded to my everyday hearing abilities, too– everything still sounded strange, but it was a lot better than before. I believe that my hearing is now officially back to the usual, based on the most recent online check I did… But now I have a research problem.
Everything I’ve found on the internet describes this as a temporary threshold shift. But I can’t figure out what could possibly have caused it. Exposure to loud noise is the most common cause, with congestion being a possible alternative. However, as I stated earlier, I was not congested (mom checked), I was not exposed to loud noise, and it has happened before. There was no ear pain, the ENT said my ears looked fine, and I don’t take any medicines.
Basically, unless I ate some sort of ototoxic food or, as a friend suggested, it was caused by blood pressure changes or something, there is nothing else I can think of. I just know it’s ridiculously inconvenient, having something like that happen on THE DAY of your hearing test.
If you have any suggestions, questions, or stories about your own experiences, feel free to comment. 🙂
Have a great day! God bless!