Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hearing Loss Timeline
Hearing Loss occurred on January 18, 2013
It would have been great if I had started this blog when I first lost my hearing, but...  Well, we all have the things we wish we had done or should have done.  But this entry will cover the basics of the last three months and let you know how we got to the point of preparing for a Cochlear Implant to allow me to hear again.  So much has happened over this time, and some of it didn't directly relate to the hearing loss, but is a part of what we have been going through since the first of the year, so some of that will be included just to let you know some of the challenges I have faced during this time.
January 2013
For the most part, my husband Ron and I have been blessed with good health.  He had not seen a doctor in years and finally agreed to a physical on January 8.  While at the doctor's office, he probably caught a flu bug and became ill with it on January 10.  Ron rarely misses work, but was out of the office for over a week and on January 15, he was so ill, he gave up and went to a different doctor - a new one for us.  That doctor called an ambulance and had Ron taken to the Emergency Room because his oxygen level was very low.  The ER only kept him a few hours until they got his oxygen level up. 
It had been a challenging week for me as I ran the office alone.  On Friday afternoon, January 18, my grandson was helping me for the day, and I noticed that it was getting harder for me to understand the customers and I could not understand phone calls.  I had my grandson take phone messages and decided that my 8 year old hearing aid was dying of old age.  I'd had almost no hearing in my right ear for 10 years, and about 75% in my left ear (with the hearing aid).  When I got in the car to drive home, I turned the key to start the car and decided it hadn't started, but then realized it was moving and I just couldn't hear it running.  It dawned on me that it wasn't the hearing aid, it was me!
The hearing aid no longer gave me any sound and I spent a very quiet weekend, unable to hear at all, and having a husband still very sick with the flu.  He had a follow-up visit with the new doctor on Monday, January 21, and took me along to see if the doctor would examine me also.  The doctor quickly decided I was suffering from Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss and referred me to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist.
On January 23, I saw the specialist, but apparently did not communicate to him what was going on.  My husband was with me but very weak and not really able to help out in the situation.  The specialist didn't detect the Sudden Hearing Loss and thought I had gradual additional loss due to my age (66 at the time).  As we were being ushered out the door with appointments for a hearing test two weeks away and allergy testing 1 week away, I bolted back through the maze of offices, found the doctor and asked what he was going to do about the sudden loss.  He finally prescribed low dose steroids and an antibiotic.  His concern was my allergies.  He did not understand that I could hear at lunch Friday and could not hear at supper.
Frustrated, I returned to the office and continued research on line and found that at the rate he was going I would miss the short 2 week window of opportunity in which heavy doses of steroids might save the hearing.  I could hear slightly at this time, there had been minor improvement that day.  I called the specialist's office and cancelled those two appointments, the receptionist asked why and I told her I was going to find a doctor who was willing to fight to save my hearing.  Within the hour the doctor called back to ask what the problem was.  I started telling him, but couldn't hear him well enough and Ron finished the call.  Shortly I had an appointment for a hearing test the next morning.
The hearing test was on January 24 and after reviewing the results, the doctor called on January 25 and said to double the steroids and to come in on Monday January 28 for a steroid shot in the ear.  He finally realized I was right!  By Saturday, January 26, all gains in hearing from earlier in the week were gone.  I could hear nothing. 
On January 28 I got the steroid shot in the ear and was sent for blood work and an MRI was scheduled to eliminate any possible other causes for the hearing loss.  The blood work was done that day and the MRI on January 30
During this time, Ron had received results from that physical done January 8 and was referred to a specialist for a high PSA reading on some of his blood work.  He went to that specialist on January 29, and she decided to re-run the test since maybe it was off since he was coming down with the flu.
January 31, I began to notice that I could hear music in my head  and assorted other noises (like ringing in your ears, but mine were more rushing water type sounds or eventually, thunder storms).  The music became a great comfort as it was mostly old hymns which I love.  They started as mostly male quartets but eventually full choirs and some orchestra, harp, and banjo once in a while.  They are almost always there, even when the noise is there.  If you are interested you might "google" Musical Ear Syndrome.  During all this time, and since then I continued to work my regular hours at our office and would wait on customers as best I could.
February 2013
February 4, Ron and I both saw the G.P. in the morning.  That afternoon, I saw the ENT specialist again and he did another hearing test, another steroid shot in the ear, told me the results of the MRI were fine, but that he believed the hearing loss was permanent and that I should consider a Cochlear implant. 
February 7, I had been having severe chest pains for a couple of nights, so Ron took me to the G.P.'s office for an EKG.  It was fine and the doctor said it was gas caused by the heavy doses of steroids.  Since we had given up on the hearing returning, I decided to drop the steroids and the antibiotics, due to nose bleeds, bleeding gums, and the chest pains, so Ron called to let the specialist know.  The G.P. ordered a chest x-ray to be sure there weren't other problems, but it was fine.  While we were at the doctor's office, he said that the chest x-ray done on Ron in the hospital ER  when he had the flu showed a problem and he was referring Ron for a chest CT scan for the next day. 
Ron had the CT chest scan on February 8.  Starting on that afternoon almost all of my family was gathering for a weekend family reunion & 90th birthday celebration for my mother.  We all stayed at a local hotel and had a fun-filled weekend with about 39 people in attendance for all the events.
The next step in the road to a Cochlear implant was to try a powerful hearing aid so part of February 11 (my birthday), was spent at the hearing aid office for another hearing test and an order placed for a new, stronger hearing aid.  They supplied a loaner for the week of waiting.  I went to the G.P. that afternoon for a urinary tract infection.  The doctor decided to see if it would clear up without medication since I had been on such heavy meds for several weeks.
On February 12, my mom came down with a bad stomach bug that ended up putting her in the hospital for 5 days.  That was when the hearing loss hit me the hardest.  I couldn't help.  I couldn't hear her needs, couldn't call her doctors, couldn't even talk to her on the phone, etc.  It was a very rough time for her physically,and for me emotionally.
On February 18, I picked up the new hearing aid and it was better than nothing, but not much better.  Spent 2 hours trying to get satisfactory programing.  Went to ENT specialist in the afternoon and was given a referral to an ENT specialist/surgeon in Houston, Dr. Chang; the appointment with him was set for March 14.  On February 20, another two hours was spent trying to adjust the hearing aid and on February 25 another 1 1/2 hours.  Then that afternoon I had a follow up on my UTI (urinary tract infection) with my G.P.  Infection was not gone, check again in a month.
March 2013
On March 4 I had a mammogram appointment. On March 6, I had an appointment with my dermatologist.  Ron was not working for a few days following a prostate biopsy he had done March 5 after the second blood test showed a higher reading than the first, so I was back to running the office without him for several days.
On March 11 I spent another hour with the lady at the hearing aid office trying to get the aid adjusted.  As I said, it was better than nothing but not much better.  I had too little hearing to work with.
Ron and I went to Harlingen March 13 for results of his prostate biopsy and were delighted to get some good news for a change.  It was clear! 
We left early the next morning, March 14 to go to Houston to see Dr. Chang for our first visit with the surgeon.  They did hearing tests and then we met Dr. Chang.  He said I was a good candidate for a Cochlear implant, but the next step was to get an appointment with the Houston Ear Research Foundation.  They would need to confirm that the loss was bad enough for Medicare to pay for the implant.  We went to their office and filled out paperwork and got an appointment for April 8, and then drove home that evening.
March 18 I had an appointment at the hearing aid store to either return the trial hearing aid or buy it.  The lady who called and given me the appointment, was not available to meet with me, so I turned the hearing aid in, basically returning to being deaf.  I had bought an amplification device years ago that I started using at this time to have some hearing until the surgery. Ron had an appointment that afternoon with the lung specialist who was not overly concerned with the results of the CT scan and ordered a variety of blood work but no biopsy.  
March 25 I returned to the G.P. for another follow up on the UTI and things weren't better so he started me on an antibiotic and referred me to a specialist - the same one Ron went to for the prostate problems.  On March 30 I had an ultrasound at the G.P.'s office of the kidneys and bladder.
April 2013
On April 2, I saw the Urology specialist in Harlingen and she was not too concerned but didn't have the results of the ultrasound yet.  She scheduled me for a bladder scope on April 25.
April 7 we headed to Houston for our appointment on April 8 at the Houston Ear Research Foundation.  The appointment lasted about 2 1/2 hours and during that time there were more extensive hearing tests and then a conference with the audiology specialist, Ron and me to go over the results.  For Medicare to pay for the Cochlear implant you must have less than 40% hearing in the best ear with a hearing aid.  I have 10% in my best and 0% in my bad ear.  So I qualified.  Then she went over a lot of information about the implant and showed us two different units that I could select from for my implant.  I could select brand, color, accessories, and add ons.  She filled out the order form and we headed home.
On April 11 I was back at the G.P. for another follow up on the UTI and was told the ultrasound showed no problems.  After I got home Dr. Chang's office called to say I could go ahead and get my physical for the surgery and to be sure to get the Pneumovax 23 shot which is required before Cochlear implant surgery.  Of course I had just left the doctor's office a couple of hours earlier.
April 12 I went back to the G.P. for the physical for the surgery.  He did an EKG, blood work and ordered a chest x-ray.
The blog was started the next day, so I think this about sums up 2013 for us.  It has been a challenging experience as we have had to both be away from the office so often - separately and together.  God is good and continues to provide for our needs!  God is good , all the time!  All the time, God is good!