Did you know you can go suddenly deaf? I'm serious. Suddenly. Like you wake up one morning and one of your ears has gone completely silent. Except for the ringing.
For once, this health crisis wasn't mine.
A few weeks ago my husband, after having suffered no sign of illness whatsoever, awoke one morning to find that he could hear nothing in his left ear. Nothing. Not my ever sonorous voice, not the dog begging him to play, not the car alarms that steadily ring out in front of our house. Assuming it was an infection he called his internist and saw him that afternoon.
The possibility of never fully hearing music again devastated Hooper. It was days before he would turn on the stereo. Even longer before he dared put on a pair of headphones. With no directional hearing, he felt lost in the world and a little unsafe. Imagine standing on a street corner surrounded by the whoosh and hum of traffic, crowds of chattering people, the insistent sounds of construction, without the ability to place the source. Worse than the lack of hearing was the tinnitus, an incessant cacophony of whining, whirring, and "fax machine" screams that often overwhelmed what he could hear.
What revelations about his condition were revealed to us, doctor after doctor? Not much. It's one of the apparently many things that can happen to the human body about which little is known. You just have to throw things at it. He was given anti-virals as there's a possibility the condition is caused by HSV-1, oral herpes. Since the majority of Americans carry this virus, the majority of us may be at risk of SSHL. He was also given Prednisone to quickly knock down the swelling in an attempt to reintroduce blood flow and restore his hearing, but it had no effect after a week of treatment - another fact that left the docs doubtful.
And then I watched them stick a needle in his eardrum and inject cortisone. I am not in any way squeamish about blood, guts, or the like, but Ew.
After several days, his hearing started to return. He hid this at first so as not to raise my hopes too high. Then he told me, and I didn't believe him. I made him cover his good ear as I spoke at different volumes into the bad one. He began to make out words, and as the days passed, he continued to improve. Another audio test revealed that he was still deficient in some frequencies, but much of his hearing was almost normal. The doctors were pleasantly surprised, finding each other in the hallway to share the news and clap Hooper on the back.
It's been two weeks since the injection, and he still has some deficiency and some ringing, but he's worlds better off than he was. There will be more tests to search for the cause, and he may get another injection in his eardrum.
I think I will sit this one out.