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Complete & Sudden Hearing Loss - Right Ear

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Old 10-03-2005, 04:30 AM   #1
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carrspaints HB User
Complete & Sudden Hearing Loss - Right Ear

Hi everyone. I desperately hope someone out there can help. About 4 weeks ago, I lost complete hearing in my right ear about 5 minutes into a shallow Scuba dive (at 12 meters).

Just a bit of history to help ...I am certified but this was only my 12th dive. I have always had problems equilising ear pressure on decending and sometimes have pushed it when I shouldn't have, i.e. lived with the pressure pain. I sometimes suffered slight hearing loss but nothing major...usually just water in the ears and hearing returned to normal within a few hours.

On this particular dive, I did not experience much of a problem with equilising. Everything seemed okay, just slight pressure. About 5 minutes into the dive, I had a sensation of hearing a loud "buzzing" sound (not ringing or whistling) that increased in volume and pitch and then died away. I knew something wasn't right as that sensation or sound wasn't one I have experienced before. I carried on with the dive, as there was no pain associated with this, no dizziness that I was aware of. I kinda hought....we'll it's probably like previous dives...nothing to worry about.

When I surfaced 30 minutes later, I was stone deaf in my right ear. I mean stone deaf, not a sound. I was also very dazed....but not dizzy, no nausea or vomiting. Kinda similar to a concust or semi-concust feeling. That has improved, but 4 weeks later and I still feel a bit dazed. My balance has been fine throughout.

Long story short, I went immediately to an ENT specialist in Cancun (I was on holiday in Mexico at the time). He did various test with a tuning fork, headphones, that lamp gadget they use to look in the ear, plus an ear pressure test. He concluded that I had acute hearing loss in the right ear (less than 90db) and that the "prognosis was not good". He suggested I may have suffered a viral infection, a spastic nerve?, or a blood clot that restricted or shut down blood flow to a vital part of the hearing system. I am almost certain that my problem is directly related to barotrauma of some description and tried explaining this to him....he seemed to doubt my thoughts. I certainly doubt his.....too much of a coincidence with the problems I have always had with equilising on dives.

I was placed on drugs that included a steriod (Prednisolone 5mg) and hyperbaric chamber treatment to increase oxygen to all parts of the body (not to treat decompression sickness). No improvement.

4 weeks later and I'm back in the UK. There has been slight improvement in hearing over the 4 weeks but as good as useless. With headphones on, I can hear heavy base and drums but distorted and increasing volume seems disproportional to the increase in volume I get in my good ear...i.e., I get about 10% volume increase total in my right as opposed to 100% in my left. I cannot hear anything above no voices, no nothing except for deep, deep tones and they are faint and distorted.

If anyone can share any information on probable causes, or has had a similar experience, I would be grateful to hear from you. I'm convinced that pressure has damaged something .... that this is not a neurological or viral condition. ENT specialists seem quick to diagnose sudden hearing loss as "ideopathic" (i.e. of no known cause) and that frustrates me. Hearing is important to all of us and these specialists seem reluctant to actually work on the problem. By the way, I had a MRI scan done and the ENT fella called to say "good news, all clear with the MRI"

Desperate, please help.

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Old 10-03-2005, 04:52 AM   #2
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Lenin HB UserLenin HB UserLenin HB UserLenin HB UserLenin HB UserLenin HB User
Re: Complete & Sudden Hearing Loss - Right Ear

All I can say is that it isn't a donduction defect since you have no highs. Thus the ossible system is intact. Iusually with even the most extreme danmage to the mechanical system, decent perception of high frequencies is preserved through the cranial bones. Have they tried cranking up the high notes and feeding them onto your mastoid bone or cheekbone?

If I had to guess, I'd go with something like a perforated cochlea or some sort of burst artery around the auditory nerve or indeed a tumor or bone impingement on the nerve.

You need to see the best otologist in the UK and get your head into a good MRI machine. Something pretty traumatic happened. I hope it's surgically fixable.

Last edited by Lenin; 10-03-2005 at 04:56 AM.

Old 10-03-2005, 07:50 PM   #3
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Re: Complete & Sudden Hearing Loss - Right Ear

Just out of curiosity I decided to stop by this board. I dont normally. You see I am an audiologist by profession. What you have described is very symptomatic of a fistula. In other words an inner ear fluid leak. The pressure from your dive could have done it. An MRI is not going to detect it. There are fistula tests but after this amount of time it may not be reliable. The sooner you get it diagnosed and treated the better your chances for recovery. Surgical repair usually involves patching the hole with a skin graft. Do not take this lightly it could mean the difference between temporary and permanent hearing loss. Get to a certified audiologist and otologist ASAP. Good Luck.

Old 10-12-2005, 02:13 PM   #4
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Re: Complete & Sudden Hearing Loss - Right Ear

Hey, thanks so much for responding. It's been a week or so since I last checked this forum, as I had no previous responses to my post.

MizLiz, your post is very interesting and follows the lines of my suspicions, based on all of the research I have done on the internet.

Just to update you on where I am with this condition. It's now almost 6 weeks since the loss of my hearing in the right ear. After seeing the ENT specialist in the UK on return from holiday, I was placed on a few drugs that included a 10 day course of Prednisone. That was followed by a 2.5 week period of waiting to see the UK ENT specialist for the 2nd time, which I did yesterday. He has confirmed that my MRI scan has come back clear, i.e. no issues detected. He also carried out another hearing test and confirmed no improvemnet in my hearing. He was in the process of telling me to just wait and see...when I interjected and politely told him that this was my hearing, not a spained ankle. Long story short, he got the message and is now referring me to what he says is one of the leading neurolgist or neurotologist in the country, based in Cambridge.

The ENT specialist still doesn't hold out much hope but agrees a second opinion would be good. I tried explaining to him again that I am absolutely convinced this is Brotrauma related. I told him that I tried equalising at about 10 meters due to pressure on ears. I heard that sound you hear when the Eustacian tubes open up to allow the air to balance out. Within a second, this was followed by a buzzing sound that increased in pitch and volume, then died away. This lasted 2 to 3 seconds. From that moment on, I was stone deaf in the right ear. I asked the Doc if this could be a perilymphatic fistula, or damage to the Stapes, etc. He says "no"...he reckons that if this were the case, when he did the pressure test (when they apply air pressure to the ear), I would become disorientated, nauseous, dizzy etc. So that ruled out damage to the Middle Ear he says. I'm no Doctor but I'm just not convinced. I have done lots & lots of reading up on this.

He seems to believe this is either the result of a spastic nerve, a blood clot, a busrt blood vessel or damage to the Vestibular or Auditory nerve. He may be right but what worries me is that if this is Middle Ear damage and it can be surgically repaired, the longer this goes undetected, the less chance there is that surgery will be effective.

I have done my own hearing tests using headphones and a CD walkman. All I can hear in my right ear is very, very low frequency sounds that are distorted and become more distorted as I increase the volume. And the increase in volume is not proportional to that of my left ear. I.e., at 100% volume in my left ear, I probably get 15% in my right...and it's a blown hi-fi speaker. I cannot hear any mid or high frequencies at no voices etc, just Base guitar, drums and God if he ever spoke.

It is so hard and frustarting to try and convince some specialists, particularly when it comes to hearing, to probe further. It's not a well understood area of medicine and some ENTs seem quick to right you off. You have to almost fight with them to progress investigations.

Anyway, thanks both for your replies....I just can't wait to see this new specialist to see if he can do more than the 4 standard and primitive tests that both ENTs I've seen have done.... I could have done it at home myself!

Old 10-13-2005, 03:00 PM   #5
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Re: Complete & Sudden Hearing Loss - Right Ear

I got a notice that you responded to my post so decided to check in with you. I am glad to hear that you are pursuing this unfortunately I am disappointed that so much time is passing before seeing a specialist who will do more investigating for you. I am unfamiliar with the medical practices in the UK. This may seem far fetched but here in the US sometimes it is the audiologist that brings medical matters to the attention of the ENT. The doctors still order tests and such but sometimes the audiologist is able to spend more time with the patient and is more focused on the individual. It is my understanding that fistula tests such as the one you discribe (pressure test) may not produce dizziness after so much time has passed because your body has compensated for that unequal feeling (ie-less fluid in the cochlea on the deaf side.) I had a patient once who I referred to an otologist for emergency. She had significant sudden loss of hearing on one side. After I spoke to the doctor about how life changing this incident was for the pt., he decided on emergency exploratory surgery. Not only was the fistula found on the side of sudden hearing loss but one on the other side as well. He patched both sides and put pt. on dose of steroids. Her hearing returned to previous (she was already hearing impaired) state. ENT's are surgeons and behave as such, audiologists are people oriented and tend to incorporate their test results with the patient complaints. Of course I am a little biased here Hopefully someone will see the urgency of your situation soon. I believe that surgical exploration may be the only true way to diagnose your problem so be kind & well mannered with the surgeon. Explain your situation with all the tact you can muster. Hopefully, he/she will be willing to take it to the next level. Good Luck again. MizLiz

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