Anxiety and disbelief over sudden hearing loss and tinnitus

Posted by chuckm @chuckm, Jun 2, 2019

About 20 years ago I developed very mild tinnitus. I habituated to it and rarely noticed it except in a quiet room. I was careful to protect my hearing so it never worsened. On May 9 this year I went to see my dentist to start the process of getting a crown on a molar. As soon as he began working with this drill. to remove the old tooth I experienced a very loud painful screeching noise in both ears. I stopped him and told him what was happening. I don't recall what he said but, stupidly, I allowed him to continue working despite the painful noise. I had to stop him several times because it was unbearable. I remember gripping my belt as he worked. At one point he offered me little rolls of cotton to put in my ears but that didn't help. It wasn't the noise coming into my ears externally I was hearing but noise from vibration being carried through my skull to my ears. It was so intensely loud I can't even explain. It sounded like the noise was coming from inside my ears. I don't know how long this went on. Ten minutes or so I guess. Why I allowed the dentist to continue is something I will never understand. Immediately after he was done I had extremely loud tinnitus. Within a couple of days I was having throbbing pain in both ears. I went to see my PCP who prescribed a steroid pack. About a week later I saw an ENT where I did a hearing test showing major loss of hearing in the high frequencies. The ENT continued the Prednisone for another week. I now have very noticeable hearing loss. It's like there's a "dead zone" in my hearing. I am having difficulty understanding what people say on the phone, on TV and even in person. Voices sound flat. If there's any background noise whatsoever it makes it even harder to understand. I've noticed many things just don't sound the same. At night the loss is very noticeable. There are environmental sounds from around the house and from outside I either barely hear now or don't hear at all, unimportant sounds that I used to just take for granted and ignore. Now it bothers me that I'm not hearing them. I heard a slow police siren in the distance a couple of nights ago. When the siren reached the highest pitch the sound disappeared completely and then I could hear it again as it was falling. The tinnitus is very loud. I'm having anxiety through the roof, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping. I found a support forum for tinnitus where I learned about "tinnitus distress", of which I have every symptom. So at least I have a name for it, but in that forum they are focused more on tinnitus than on hearing loss. While the tinnitus is driving me crazy I am actually even more upset about losing my hearing. Before this happened I could very clearly. I did not have difficulty understanding people talking. It's just hard to believe and accept I lost so much hearing so quickly because of dental work. This didn't have to happen. I'm more angry at myself than at the dentist because I could have and should have stopped the whole thing. Why I allowed the dentist to continue I will never understand. I have to see a mental health professional because I'm not functioning very well. My life has kind of ground to a halt. All the normal problems I was focused on before have kind of flown out the window. I'm still able to work, but concentrating is very difficult. Sorry for the long post. I just wonder if this has happened to anyone else? The whole thing is unbelievable.

Liked by joangela

I'm sorry you are going through this (and really traumatic as it happened to you). I don't understand how the dental work triggered the event, but I can empathize with your initial reaction as well as your beating yourself up now. I hope you can let that go – it may be that even if you had asked the dentist to stop, you would have had the same result.
I experienced Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) several years ago at about age 50. I woke up a little dizzy and feeling like my ear was a little plugged, but attributed it to allergies. The dizziness became unbearable that morning and long story short, I was referred from minor emergency center directly to an otorhinolaryngologist (ear+ doctor), evaluated & taking steroid & antiviral by that evening. I also had tympanic steroid injections. In the end, they don't know what caused it and I have severe/profound hearing loss in one ear. I now have a bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) which helps but isn't great in noisy environments, etc.
Since you are having problems with both ears, but also have some hearing in both(?) I suspect you will not have a BAHA – has your specialist talked to you about hearing aids or possibly cochlear implant? Also I understand there is treatment for disabling tinnitus – so ask your doctor about that. Aural (hearing) rehab is also a "thing," and that may be something that is beneficial for you.
Despite my outcome, anyone who experiences sudden hearing loss should seek immediate evaluation and treatment by a specialist. It is frightening, but from what I've read the chance of a repeat event is rare (~2%). My suggestion would be to share your anxiety and questions with your specialist, and try to figure out if your doctor has expertise in this area or if you want to seek a second opinion. Good luck.

Liked by chuckm

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@devay

I'm sorry you are going through this (and really traumatic as it happened to you). I don't understand how the dental work triggered the event, but I can empathize with your initial reaction as well as your beating yourself up now. I hope you can let that go – it may be that even if you had asked the dentist to stop, you would have had the same result.
I experienced Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) several years ago at about age 50. I woke up a little dizzy and feeling like my ear was a little plugged, but attributed it to allergies. The dizziness became unbearable that morning and long story short, I was referred from minor emergency center directly to an otorhinolaryngologist (ear+ doctor), evaluated & taking steroid & antiviral by that evening. I also had tympanic steroid injections. In the end, they don't know what caused it and I have severe/profound hearing loss in one ear. I now have a bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) which helps but isn't great in noisy environments, etc.
Since you are having problems with both ears, but also have some hearing in both(?) I suspect you will not have a BAHA – has your specialist talked to you about hearing aids or possibly cochlear implant? Also I understand there is treatment for disabling tinnitus – so ask your doctor about that. Aural (hearing) rehab is also a "thing," and that may be something that is beneficial for you.
Despite my outcome, anyone who experiences sudden hearing loss should seek immediate evaluation and treatment by a specialist. It is frightening, but from what I've read the chance of a repeat event is rare (~2%). My suggestion would be to share your anxiety and questions with your specialist, and try to figure out if your doctor has expertise in this area or if you want to seek a second opinion. Good luck.

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Thank you for replying. I don't know what's worse, knowing or not knowing what caused the hearing loss. At least yours isn't the result of something stupid. When you wake up is your hearing loss still the first thing you notice? How often do you think about it? I wonder if possibly a tiny blood clot cut off blood supply to you cochlea resulting in cell death? I mean I can't imagine what else could just spontaneously happen to damage your inner ear. Maybe an autoimmune reaction, but seems like that would affect your whole body. I don't know, but I would have a hard time letting that go. I'm scheduled for a follow-up in about a month. I might have that injection. The doctor will decide then. She told me studies about the use of steroid injections are related to idiopathic sudden hearing loss, not hearing loss from acoustic trauma. I'm going to call tomorrow, though, because my ears are still burning constantly.

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@chuckm

Thank you for replying. I don't know what's worse, knowing or not knowing what caused the hearing loss. At least yours isn't the result of something stupid. When you wake up is your hearing loss still the first thing you notice? How often do you think about it? I wonder if possibly a tiny blood clot cut off blood supply to you cochlea resulting in cell death? I mean I can't imagine what else could just spontaneously happen to damage your inner ear. Maybe an autoimmune reaction, but seems like that would affect your whole body. I don't know, but I would have a hard time letting that go. I'm scheduled for a follow-up in about a month. I might have that injection. The doctor will decide then. She told me studies about the use of steroid injections are related to idiopathic sudden hearing loss, not hearing loss from acoustic trauma. I'm going to call tomorrow, though, because my ears are still burning constantly.

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I agree, it is a little worrisome, not knowing what the cause of my SSHL was. But it may have been "stupid" in the sense that autoimmune/stress are related and I let myself get into the position of feeling a lot of work stress at that time. I try to keep balance and "live healthy" – not easy! I had very much a grief reaction at first, and that has gotten better with time. So yes, I thought about it a LOT in the beginning (especially since you are still having severe tinnitus and possibly other symptoms, that may resolve to some degree). It is good you are seeing a counselor to help you get through the acute period. The main impact on my life now is that it is difficult for me to hear in noisy situations. Whereas I can manage this more in my personal life, I have business/ client meetings where I cannot control the environment, and they are fairly frustrating and exhausting. I am lucky that I am in health care and have a great client so there is some understanding/patience. Though of course I would prefer just to be able to enjoy the conversation! But I try to dwell on the positive – which is pretty much my nature. I hope that – with time – you will be able to get to find peace, too.

Liked by chuckm

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@devay

I agree, it is a little worrisome, not knowing what the cause of my SSHL was. But it may have been "stupid" in the sense that autoimmune/stress are related and I let myself get into the position of feeling a lot of work stress at that time. I try to keep balance and "live healthy" – not easy! I had very much a grief reaction at first, and that has gotten better with time. So yes, I thought about it a LOT in the beginning (especially since you are still having severe tinnitus and possibly other symptoms, that may resolve to some degree). It is good you are seeing a counselor to help you get through the acute period. The main impact on my life now is that it is difficult for me to hear in noisy situations. Whereas I can manage this more in my personal life, I have business/ client meetings where I cannot control the environment, and they are fairly frustrating and exhausting. I am lucky that I am in health care and have a great client so there is some understanding/patience. Though of course I would prefer just to be able to enjoy the conversation! But I try to dwell on the positive – which is pretty much my nature. I hope that – with time – you will be able to get to find peace, too.

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"I have business/ client meetings where I cannot control the environment, and they are fairly frustrating and exhausting."

That's how I feel now about my work. I have to interview people all day long, and I very frequently now have to ask people to repeat themselves (sometimes multiple times!) whereas before I could just focus on what information I needed, data entry, and the decisions I had to make. As you said, it's incredibly frustrating and exhausting in a way I can't explain. It's like it takes more mental "energy" to focus on understanding what I'm hearing.

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I used to listen to NPR while driving to work every morning and then on the way home in the evening. Now I wear earplugs while driving because the road noise bothers me. Even at home I hardly listen to NPR anymore. I've kind of lost interest in the news. I'm actively avoiding music because I know it's going to sound terrible. I don't want to deal with that disappointment right now. At night I used to fall asleep listening to YouTube ASMR whisper videos. You think I can hear a whisper now? The tinnitus is too loud. So that pleasure and relaxation aid is gone. Part of me feels like destroying something.

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@chuckm I have tinnitus and audiologist suggest Lipovlavonod it does cut down the tinnitus It OTC I've had tinnitus along time and this helps me

Liked by chuckm

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@lioness

@chuckm I have tinnitus and audiologist suggest Lipovlavonod it does cut down the tinnitus It OTC I've had tinnitus along time and this helps me

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Thank you. I will give it a try. Why not? I've already tried something called NAC and a magnesium supplement.

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@chuckm

"I have business/ client meetings where I cannot control the environment, and they are fairly frustrating and exhausting."

That's how I feel now about my work. I have to interview people all day long, and I very frequently now have to ask people to repeat themselves (sometimes multiple times!) whereas before I could just focus on what information I needed, data entry, and the decisions I had to make. As you said, it's incredibly frustrating and exhausting in a way I can't explain. It's like it takes more mental "energy" to focus on understanding what I'm hearing.

Jump to this post

Chuckm, You are expressing every emotion that people with adult onset hearing loss have in common. We are 'hearing people' whose lives have been turned around. Some of us lost hearing gradually, while others had sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) Some had this start in their younger years, while many led lives w/o hearing loss until they were older. We all experience a traumatic loss. It would be fair to say that people who are introverts naturally, experience it differently than those of us who are extroverts. We extroverts feel this in every aspect of our lives; especially socially and in situations where we depend on typical communication to do our jobs.

There is no easy solution, but it does help to understand what is going on. Also that we are not alone in experiencing this. Misery loves company, so they say. The key is to get past the misery stage, and accept the invisible disability as a new norm, while figuring out how to minimize it. Exhaustion from the effort it takes to listen is typical. It's also something that people who don't have hearing loss do not understand unless we are able to explain it to them. Simply withdrawing, becoming depressed, and cranky, while complaining about what is going on doesn't help much. Yet, we do it all the time. Does it make us feel better? Probably not.

Very few people in this conversation are counselors, but most of us have experienced what you are going through. It has affected our jobs, our relationships and our well being. That introvert/extrovert thing is important to understand. That's often where the difference lies in our ability to cope. You sound depressed. I encourage you to seek help from a professional who understands the ramifications of adult onset hearing loss. They are not easy to find as very few psychiatrists have any background in this area. Yet, mental health is a huge issue among the deaf and hard of hearing population. I suggest you contact your state's Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing or state commission for a referral. Every state has an 'office' of some kind, but they have different names. I don't know where you are from, so cannot suggest specifically. Find out which providers work with the hard of hearing population, and ask for someone who speaks without using sign language. You are not a sign language person. When someone is using manual communication it can be a huge distraction to people who are trying to speechread and listen. (Many do not understand that, but it's related to that fatigue thing.)

Most likely you will benefit from hearing aids and assistive technology that goes with them. Some of it can be used independently. Your state office should be able to direct you on that also. Your employer should provide you with the technology you need as it is part of the Americans with Disability Act. That does not include hearing aids, but does include the assistive technologies you need, including those installed in large listening areas. Learn what will help you and ask your employer to provide it. There are apps that provide speech to text on cell phones to use in direct communication. There are phones that provide captioning. It's a different way of doing things, but it works if you let it.

Please seek help from someone who understands hearing loss from a personal perspective. Your state office for Vocational Rehabilitation may be a good place to begin. VR may also help cover the cost of hearing aids. You don't have to let this disability destroy your life.

You mention listening to the radio. Since having a cochlear implant, I've been able to enjoy the radio again, especially in the car. TV has been fine all these years because I, and my family have accepted the reality that I need to have the captions on. It really helps when your family and friends are willing to learn along with you, and will do what you need them to do. They don't know unless you can tell them, so you have to learn first. Same with your clients. I did similar work to what you describe as I worked with low income wage earners. I always explained my hearing loss to them, and I can say that nearly all of them were helpful and willing to adapt to my unique needs. In the unusual event that a client was resistant, I managed to have another case manager work with them. I sincerely hope that you find the same support I did when I opened up about my unique needs.

Liked by mikepa, bookysue, chuckm

REPLY
@julieo4

Chuckm, You are expressing every emotion that people with adult onset hearing loss have in common. We are 'hearing people' whose lives have been turned around. Some of us lost hearing gradually, while others had sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) Some had this start in their younger years, while many led lives w/o hearing loss until they were older. We all experience a traumatic loss. It would be fair to say that people who are introverts naturally, experience it differently than those of us who are extroverts. We extroverts feel this in every aspect of our lives; especially socially and in situations where we depend on typical communication to do our jobs.

There is no easy solution, but it does help to understand what is going on. Also that we are not alone in experiencing this. Misery loves company, so they say. The key is to get past the misery stage, and accept the invisible disability as a new norm, while figuring out how to minimize it. Exhaustion from the effort it takes to listen is typical. It's also something that people who don't have hearing loss do not understand unless we are able to explain it to them. Simply withdrawing, becoming depressed, and cranky, while complaining about what is going on doesn't help much. Yet, we do it all the time. Does it make us feel better? Probably not.

Very few people in this conversation are counselors, but most of us have experienced what you are going through. It has affected our jobs, our relationships and our well being. That introvert/extrovert thing is important to understand. That's often where the difference lies in our ability to cope. You sound depressed. I encourage you to seek help from a professional who understands the ramifications of adult onset hearing loss. They are not easy to find as very few psychiatrists have any background in this area. Yet, mental health is a huge issue among the deaf and hard of hearing population. I suggest you contact your state's Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing or state commission for a referral. Every state has an 'office' of some kind, but they have different names. I don't know where you are from, so cannot suggest specifically. Find out which providers work with the hard of hearing population, and ask for someone who speaks without using sign language. You are not a sign language person. When someone is using manual communication it can be a huge distraction to people who are trying to speechread and listen. (Many do not understand that, but it's related to that fatigue thing.)

Most likely you will benefit from hearing aids and assistive technology that goes with them. Some of it can be used independently. Your state office should be able to direct you on that also. Your employer should provide you with the technology you need as it is part of the Americans with Disability Act. That does not include hearing aids, but does include the assistive technologies you need, including those installed in large listening areas. Learn what will help you and ask your employer to provide it. There are apps that provide speech to text on cell phones to use in direct communication. There are phones that provide captioning. It's a different way of doing things, but it works if you let it.

Please seek help from someone who understands hearing loss from a personal perspective. Your state office for Vocational Rehabilitation may be a good place to begin. VR may also help cover the cost of hearing aids. You don't have to let this disability destroy your life.

You mention listening to the radio. Since having a cochlear implant, I've been able to enjoy the radio again, especially in the car. TV has been fine all these years because I, and my family have accepted the reality that I need to have the captions on. It really helps when your family and friends are willing to learn along with you, and will do what you need them to do. They don't know unless you can tell them, so you have to learn first. Same with your clients. I did similar work to what you describe as I worked with low income wage earners. I always explained my hearing loss to them, and I can say that nearly all of them were helpful and willing to adapt to my unique needs. In the unusual event that a client was resistant, I managed to have another case manager work with them. I sincerely hope that you find the same support I did when I opened up about my unique needs.

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Julie, thank you for taking the time to write a thoughtful and informative reply. Fortunately my hearing loss is not so great that I need closed captioning on my phone. I lost a lot of high frequency hearing so the quality of my hearing has been diminished but I can still hear. Right now I'm managing without a hearing aid. It's just a struggle to hear clearly sometimes and I have to ask people to repeat themselves. If it gets worse then I will definitely look into a hearing aid. Also, normal sounds seem louder than usual for some reason, sometimes painfully so.

I have an appointment with a psychologist next week. I don't know if she has any experience helping people with hearing loss. The thing is I'm limited, financially, to mental health professionals who accept my insurance. Where I work my insurance doesn't pay providers all that well. I'll see how it goes with the psychologist and I'll ask her if she knows a psychologist who has experience with the hearing loss issue. I just did a search for state services for people who are hard of hearing. As it happens, Deaf and Hard of Hearing services is under Texas Health & Human Services. I'll call them and see if they have a list of mental health professionals who deal with this.

There's an extra "dimension" to my hearing loss experience that is probably not all that common. My hearing loss wasn't an "onset". It didn't occur naturally. Someone did this to me. My dentist. On top of that, if I'd been thinking clearly as it was happening I could have stopped the whole procedure, but I didn't, and I don't understand why. So in addition to my anger and frustration about the hearing loss, I'm also angry at the dentist and at myself. This shouldn't have happened. When I walked into the dentist's office on May 9th, I had excellent hearing. Within a matter of minutes he severely damaged it.

To be clear, I'm not seeking pity. I've made multiple posts here out of a need to express my anger and frustration about what's happened to people who can empathize. I haven't talked about it much to family members because a) we're not all that close, and b) none of them have had this experience.

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