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Bells are Ringing in My Ears

Posted Oct 22 2009 10:05pm
I don't often talk about any maladies that effect me, but today I want to talk about my ears. They ring.

I know they've been ringing for over 30 years because I clearly remember speaking to a doctor about them when I was 21 or 22. In my late 20s, the ringing was accompanied by loss of hearing in my left ear such that if I was speaking on the phone with the handset to my right ear, I had little awareness of ambient noise in the room. And what I could hear in my left ear was blurry.

The partial deafness and working in a good job with medical benefits prompted my first significant exploration into my ear problems. I went to Mass Eye and Ear, a part of Mass General Hospital, and had all sorts of tests. These essentially determined there was no clearly definable reason for the deafness or the tinnitus.

The hearing loss in the left has come and gone over the years. I have learned to accomodate it by strategic seating in settings where I'm in a group, such as large, in-person meetings and restaurants with a group of friends.

In my mid-30s, vertigo joined in the fun, so I now had a trio of ear issues. This led to the identification of Meuniere's disease as a likely culprit of these issues. My father has Meuniere's, though he hasn't had any vertigo attacks in 15 years or more. (This is lucky for him since his mobility is now impaired by Parkinson's.)

The hearing loss is always there to some degree, the vertigo is a very infrequent visitor, but the tinnitus is always with me. I'm writing about it now because it's really spiked up over the last week or so. Over the years, the loudness and the tone have varied significantly, even varying by ear. With the recent increase in volume, I now have a pulsing, high-pitched ringing shriek localized slightly to the left of center in my head. This is also accompanied by distinct ringing sounds located directly in my ears. When the house is wonderfully quiet in the mornings, like right now, it's presence occupies a fair portion of my consciousness; later in the day, when the activity level and noise increases, competing with the tinnitus, it will fade into the background.

In addition to all of this in the present day, I look at my dad and worry about the future of my ears. He is 84 and has two hearing aids, having worn them for at least a decade. Despite this, he needs to be spoken to in a fairly loud voice and dialogue often needs repeating. I suspect this is in store for me. D'oh!
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