“HEAR”‘s to 2020!

Throughout the years, I’ve shared more than a few stories of pushing through injuries or putting them on the back burner until they couldn’t be ignored any longer. I guess I can file this post under the same category as I’m finally addressing a health issue I was diagnosed with back 16 months ago. Today marks day number six that I’m wearing a hearing aid.

Rewind to the summer of 2018, and that’s when I woke up one morning with what felt like a huge ball of cotton in my right ear. After a day of straining to hear out of the ear and several unsuccessful attempts at “popping” it like I would during a flight or an elevator ride in a tall building, I assumed I had a wax buildup and made an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist. To my surprise, the doctor found no wax and sent me down the hall to his audiologist for a hearing test. My next surprise was learning I had significant conductive hearing loss in my right ear. A few days later, a CT scan confirmed what the doctor already suspected to be the cause: a rare condition called otosclerosis.

WebMD offers the simplest definition of this condition that affects a little more than three million Americans:

“Otosclerosis is a condition that causes hearing loss. It happens when a small bone in your middle ear — usually the one called the stapes — gets stuck in place. Your stapes bone has to vibrate for you to hear well. When it can’t do that, sound can’t travel from your middle ear to your inner ear. That makes it hard for you to hear.”

In addition the main symptom of hearing loss, I also experience tinnitus – which alternates between roaring and ringing sounds in my right ear. (Click here to learn even more about otosclerosis.) With a definitive diagnosis, I had to figure out what to do. In full disclosure, I initially found myself a bit depressed and more than a little scared about being diagnosed with significant hearing loss at the age of 44. So, I did what many of us do when faced with unpleasant surprises: absolutely nothing.

My Newest Accessory

Fast forward to December of 2019, and I’d had about enough of straining to follow conversations in crowded places (which is practically everywhere when you live in New York City!) and asking people to repeat themselves. During a very informative consultation with another ENT -where another hearing test indicated my hearing loss had deteriorated since my initial diagnosis- I learned I had two options:

  1. Stapedectomy: a surgical procedure where an ENT removes the non-working stapes bone and replaces it with a micro prosthesis or
  2. Try a hearing aid.

I decided I had nothing to lose with giving the hearing aid a shot. Now my only regret is not having tried one sooner. The very first day I wore it, I attended a Church dinner for a volunteer group I joined last year. Halfway through the evening, I nearly started crying when I realized I was having a conversation with two women sitting to my right and I could hear them despite the din of the crowd and music playing in the background. Since then, I’ve had easier conversations with friends in a crowded wine bar; watched TV at a lower volume and even heard whispers in movies without much difficulty.

I am sharing this particular story in the hopes of preventing others from suffering in silence. If you’re experiencing  any of the symptoms I described, talk to your primary care physician or see an ENT. Getting a hearing aid can be a an overwhelming experience, and I realize I was fortunate on many fronts. My journalism background definitely helped on the information-gathering process, but I also had the guidance of a dear family friend who happens to be a retired ENT; advice from a childhood friend who has worn hearing aids for many years and I also found a very patient and compassionate audiologist. Now I have a 60-day trial period with my hearing aid and can make adjustments if needed. I’d like to think this will do the trick and that I won’t need surgery down the road. For now, it’s one day at a time.

If you have any other questions about my hearing loss journey, please don’t hesitate to ask. While I never expected to be wearing a hearing aid 20 days shy of my 46th birthday, I’m optimistic it will continue to have a positive impact on my quality of life. As I approach the start of a new year on this planet, I look forward to seeing and hearing more of what this crazy life has to offer. So, when life throws you a curve ball, don’t be afraid of getting the facts you need to take control of the situation and get back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

 

About LauraLovesFitness

After spending more than 10 years in the communications industry, this lifetime fitness lover and newly certified fitness professional wants to share my passion for health and well-being with others.

Posted on January 21, 2020, in Health, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Thanks for your testimony ! I suffer from otosclerosis myself, and have finally decided to act on it as well, because this disease really affects work and social life. It’s not easy to ask people to repeat all the time, and following conversations is a real struggle when people are talking softly. I haven’t tried hearing aids but will undergo a stapedectomy in a few weeks on my right ear. I’m grateful to have the option.

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, Sara and share your story. I wish you the best with your stapedectomy and look forward to hearing all about it! Good luck to you!

      • Hello again, Sara! Just curious if you’ve had your stapedectomy and if so, how are you doing? Wishing you nothing but the best and good health!

      • Hello and thank you ! It went very well and I don’t regret it at all. It took me more time than usual to recover my hearing because I had blood stuck behind my eardrum. Now I can hear perfectly fine, and better already than before the surgery ! Some sounds are still a bit loud so I’m wearing a kind of single headphone from time to time. My next appointment with the surgeon will be end of may – we will really know at that time at which level my audition is back. I’m planning to do my other ear next year.
        From my experience so far, I would recommend the stapedectomy. Unless you like parachute and deep-sea swimming: these two are forbidden for life after the surgery. But be careful when you pick your surgeon : I’ve heard at the hospital stories of many people who had issues after the surgery (complete hearing loss, worse tinnitus…) and came to see my surgeon to see if he could do something. So pick someone who is used to this surgery and has experience with it.
        Wishing you all the best !

      • Oh my goodness, Sara! I am SO sorry I am just replying to this helpful comment. I am so glad to hear your surgery was a success – good for you! It sounds like you found a great surgeon, which as you mentioned, is key. I am very confident in the surgeon I met with, but at this point, I’m still going to stick with my hearing aid. I do see surgery in my future – but not quite ready to pull the trigger yet. Wishing you continued good hearing and good health during these difficult times. Stay safe!

  3. My 11 year old lost her hearing in one ear at age 8 from a virus. It was a year full of specialists. She is currently a very happy middle schooler rocking her hearing aid! All her friends support her 100%. I don’t think most people even notice it blends so well with her hair. I’m so proud of her and all she’s overcome at such a young age! Good for you, Laura!!! Great decision! xo, K

    • Hello Kristine! My apologies for this belated reply to your kind message. I am SO happy to hear your daughter is happily enjoying her young life with help from a hearing aid. And how wonderful she has the support of family and friends, too! Thanks again for taking the time to write. Cheers to a healthy 2020! 🙂

  4. My husband had significant hearing loss in both ears and had the stapedectomy. It was successful in one ear but not the other due to nerve placement. He is so happy he did the surgery and can hear so much better. Good luck

    • Hello Susan! I am so sorry for this late reply to your message – thank you for taking the time to chime in! I’m so glad to hear to your husband had success with the stapedectomy in one ear and is enjoying better hearing. I’m still on the fence on whether I’ll stick with my hearing aid or go through with the surgery at some point, but luckily, I still have time in my trial period with the device. Stay tuned! Thank you again for your good wishes and support!

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