Lamb's Sudden Hearing Loss Page

I just had one of the strangest couple weeks of my life, so I thought I'd share.

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The Journal

Monday August 23 2004

On Monday August 23, 2004, I flew from Halifax, Canada to Parkersburg, West Virginia to work with the Marietta Ohio Schools. There wasn't anything unusual about the flight, except that when I got off the last plane with a sudden hearing loss in my right ear. Other than a little tinnitus (ringing in my ear), I heard no sounds at all from my right ear. At first I figured that it was just the noise from the small plane, but as the day went on my hearing didn't return.

Tuesday August 24 2004

Happy birthday to me. I've still got ringing in my right year and no hearing. At the workshop the next day, it just felt like my ear was filled with wax. It was a real hassle because I couldn't answer audience questions. I bought two kinds of ear drops at Walmart.

Wednesday August 25 2004

When I go home on Wednesday, I did some web searching to determine possible problems and solutions. I seemed to have Sudden Hearing Loss, but figured that it was probably wax in my ear. Something like "glue ear".

Larry and I discussed whether or not it was really "sudden." While on Prince Edward Island, I'd noticed that my ears were waxy and itchy. They may have even been bothering me while I was on trips to Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana in late July, but I hadn't really thought about it. I figured it was just allergies. Once we moved to Nova Scotia, my ears seemed okay.

Thursday August 26 2004

I bought more ear drops and tried flushing out the wax. This didn't help. I'm tired from my trip and frustrated by my hearing loss.

I spent some time on the Internet.

Keywords - hearing loss, airplane learning loss, ear wax hearing loss

I also searched for doctors in Nova Scotia. I emailed an audiologist from the area to see if she had a suggestion.

Friday August 27 2004

On Friday morning, I went to the Family Focus walk-in clinic in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. The doctor said that my outer ear was squeaky clean and he couldn't find an external problem. He did say; however, that my ear was a little irritated, maybe the two different types of drops, repeated warm water irrigation, and Larry's peroxide treatment weren't such a good idea. Oh well, at least my ear was clean. He diagnosed "Sudden Hearing Loss." It seemed very accurate.

Our hope of an easy solution was gone. He said there wasn't anything he could do, but that a specialist might have a suggestion. He tried calling the hospital, but the specialists were in "theatre" which I figured out was surgery. He said that he or the specialists would give me a call. After paying a $60 Canadian medical bill, we went to the motorhome to wait.

Of course, I got right online to start exploring the other possibilities.

Keywords: sudden hearing loss

A little after noon, a otolaryngologist called from the hospital and they told me to come right in. We grabbed our map and drove to Halifax.

After a short wait, I was called down the hall to see the audiologist. They wanted $125 in cash, so Larry headed to the ATM machine.

The audiologist (Jillian Ryan) gave me three hearing tests (tone, speech, and impedance). She did an excellent job explaining the procedure. The impedance test was done at the desk. The tone and speech tests were done in the booth.

She concluded that my outer and middle ear areas were fine. Hearing in my left ear was excellent. However, I had a severe hearing loss in my right ear at 80 SRT dB.

Next, I saw the otolaryngologist, Dr. Hart. He was a cute, young resident. It was fun watching him interact with the senior doctors and nursing staff. He did a check of my ears, nose, and throat.

The diagnosis was Sudden Hearing Loss and SNHL (Sensorineural Hearing Loss). It happens in about 1 in 1000 people. They don't know the cause, but it's probably viral. There's a 1 in 3 chance I will recover completely, 1 in 3 that it gets worst (although going from serious to profound won't make much difference), and 1 in 3 that it's a permanent, total loss. Not great odds, but they don't know much about the cause, so it's a guess as to whether any treatment will work.

He advised me of the possibilities and options, then recommended corticosteroid treatment (prednisone) for a couple of weeks. He also recommended that I get an MRI when I get back to the US if my hearing doesn't improve. The MRI may be able to detect abnormalities such as a tumor on the inner ear.

He noted that at my level of severe hearing loss, a hearing aid would be no benefit. As long as I have hearing in my left ear, a cochlear implant would not be useful.

He noted that I shouldn't have any major difficulties adjusting to the hearing loss. However, I might have difficulties related to monaural listening. For example, I may have trouble figuring out where sounds originate.

He indicated that the prednisone might increase my appetite, make be emotional or aggravated, and some people experience heightened energy and sleeplessness.

We thanked the doctor and paid $220 for our clinic visit.

We stopped at CostCo pharmacy and were shocked at how cheap the prednisone was at only cost $6.50. We now understand why people are coming the Canada for prescription drugs!

Since I needed to eat before taking my drugs, we celebrated the 33% change of regaining my hearing with a Dairy Queen chocolate sundae.

Time for more Internet exploration.

Keywords: sudden hearing loss, inner ear, audiology, prednisone

Annette SketchingSaturday August 28 2004

We went ahead with our plans to visit the Atlantic coast for the day. We stopped in Peggy's Cove, Chester, Mahone Bay, and Lunenberg. However rather than spending a night away, we decided to drive back to the motorhome. We were mentally and physically tired.

We're not sure if it's the medication or the hearing loss, but I'm irritable, anxious, and just feel strange. I'm snippy, a little depressed, and very frustrated. At least I'm aware that it's a problem.

We spent the day trying to figure out where I should sit and walk for optimal hearing. For example, Larry needs to walk on my left side. However this is a problem in a restaurant. If Larry sits on my left, then I can't hear the server approach the table. I decided I'd rather hear Larry, so I'm going to have to get better at speechreading (lipreading) so I can answer the server.

Sunday August 29 2004

Larry and I are becoming morbid and silly. I think we're past the denial and anger phase and have moved on to acceptance. We're cracking hearing loss jokes. Larry pretends to whisper in my ear, but doesn't say anything so I think I'm starting to lose it. My mom and sister are even getting into the act. My brother-in-law recommends the purchase of one of those long horns that old people used in the "olden days" for hearing. I prefer humor to sadness any time!

After catching up on work and email, it was time to check out the Internet again.

Keywords: SNHL hearing, speechreading

I found out the cause of my exhaustion. According to many studies, being hearing impaired is very tiring. I can see why! They say that we must pay attention to the world around us much more than hearing people. We have to watch for gestures, lip movements, and sounds. All of this is tiring.

I also wanted to get background information about the field, terminology, diagnosis, and treatment.

Most interesting findings:

In the article Just how noisy are those restaurants?, Dennis Hampton describes the frustrations of hearing in restaurants. He states that noisy restaurants are one of the common hearing problems.

Go to Assistive Listening Devices for ideas on things to help such as a vibrating wristwatch. I'm concerned I might sleep through my alarm.

Monday August 30 2004

It's been a week since I lost my hearing.

I've taken my fourth dose of drugs. I think I may be getting a tiny bit of hearing back! Yeah! My tinnitus is not as loud and annoying. I also don't feel as numb around my ear. When I tap on the inside of my ear, I can hear faint noise. Not much, but there's definitely something happening!

We spent the day driving from Nova Scotia through New Brunswick to northern Maine.

Tuesday August 31 2004

Larry dropped me off at the airport to fly Bangor-Boston-Salt Lake City to work with the Jordon School District in Sandy, Utah. I definitely have some hearing. I can hear faint music in my right ear through my headphones.

My hip is bothering me. This can be a serious side effect of the medication. On the other hand, I have arthritis in my hip, so maybe it's just the weather. Let's not worry about it and do a little Yoga!

Wednesday September 1 2004

Although I still have trouble distinguishing voices from different directions, I can hear voices in the cell phone.

The drugs make me sooo hungry, I'm going to gain a ton of weight over the next couple weeks. During the day I ate a big breakfast (i.e., eggs, bacons, tomato juice), donuts, lasagne, and cookies. A group of teachers took me up Big Cottonwood Canyon to a great outdoor restaurant where I had beer, ribs, fries, and salad. I'm still hungry!

Thursday September 2 2004

Another day on a plane was making me nervous. I was concerned about my ear, but I think things are okay. I'm very tired, but I'm not sure if that's the work, travel, drugs, or virus.

The tinnitus is totally gone. Voices are getting louder and clearer in my right ear. My ears are popping more than normal on flights, but maybe that's because I'm more aware of the issue.

Friday September 3 2004

It's been a week since I went to the doctor. I think I'm in that 30% who regain some hearing! I hope it lasts!


If you ever have a sudden hearing loss, seek medical attention immediately! It could save your hearing!

Update September 25 2004

I've been exploring the Internet again. My ears have been bothering me, so I'm a little nervous. However the more I read, the more I think my current problem is related to allergies not the original virus.

In retrospect, I think my Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) was caused by a viral labyrinthitis (infection of the inner ear) because the steroid drug prednisone seemed to recover my hearing fairly quickly.

Updated February 2 2005

I've got most of my hearing back. However I still find it a little difficult to hear when I'm somewhere with background noise. I've received many wonderful emails from people who have discovered this web page. In particular, I received information about a new treatment that sounds cool.

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Key Ideas


The human ear contains four sections: the external ear, middle ear, inner ear, and hearing processor of the brain. These four parts work together to conduct sounds from outside the hear through to the brain.

The inner area contains two parts: vestibular (balance) and cochlea (hearing part).

The cochlea is the hearing portion of the inner ear. It's shaped like a snail or spiral shell. The cochlea takes the vibrations of the middle ear bone and transforms them into nerve impulses that go to the brain.

The inner ear is very delicate and can become damaged with exposure to loud noise or certain medications.

Hearing Tests

Three tests are used to diagnose hearing disorders. Most are done with a sound treated booth.

  • Tone test. Air conduction and bone conduction are used to determine how softly a person can hear tones of different frequencies. The softest point is called the threshold.
    • Air conduction - Headphones are used to present sounds using an audiometer. The tester finds the softest sound the person can hear 50% of the time.
    • Bone conduction - A vibrator is place on the bone directly behind the ear and is used in evaluating the inner ear and the hearing nerve.
  • Speech tests. A speech test is used to determine how well a person can hear and discriminate speech. For example, you may be able to hear a word, but not understand it. Words are presented through an audiometer and checked for threshold (hearing) and discrimination (understanding).
  • Impedance/Compliance tests. This test evaluates the functioning of the middle ear.

Hearing Loss

There are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural.

  • Conductive relates to an impediment to the conduction of air preventing sound waves from transmitting through the outer and middle ear. This problem is often cased by ear wax.
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) is deafness caused by problems that affect the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve. About 90% of all the people with hearing impairments are SNHL. It usually involves a lesion of the cochlea, the auditory division of cranial nerve VIII or both. It is common among infants and aging, but more rare in the middle years. It is not medically or surgically treatable. Some people benefit from hearing aids.

Frequencies relate to pitches. Most sounds are 125Hz (hertz) and 8000Hz.

Sound (loudness) is measured in logarithmic units called decibels (dB).

Hearing loss at 71 to 90 dB is a severe loss and 91 dB or greater is profound.

Corticosteroid treatment can be used to fight a possible virus or other problem with the inner ear. From what I can tell, there are still a lot of unknowns about viruses.

Binaural effects involve the integration of auditory information arriving at two ears. When you can hear with both ears you can more easily localize sounds.

Tinnitius is a ringing or buzzing in the ear that often accompanies hearing loss.

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Sensorinerual Hearing Loss Audiogram. Shows how to read an audiogram.

Hearing Handicap Inventory for Adults - Screening. A quick hearing survey.

General Links Pages

AAC Hearing Help Library. Links to hearing and hearing aid information

Hearing Loss Help. Personal website on hearing loss.

Merck Manual: Hearing Loss

Infections of Inner Ear

Inner Ear, Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis and Neuronitis

Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis


Speechreading Laboratory. $190 for the set of 6 DVDs with handbook & scorecards.
DVD series to learn speechreading.

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Defeating Deafness

Sudden Deafness from Merck

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

RNID Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

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Created by Annette Lamb. 9/04. Updated 2/05.