Today was my audiology appointment with the new audiologist. When we started out, I asked if she had my audiograph from the first appointment, and she looked at me funny. I told her my DVR counselor sent it to her a week ago, and she went to her desk and found it, unopened, in an envelope on her desk. Awesome.
As she sat and looked at it, she kept saying it was “odd”. I asked her what she meant, and she said that for someone my age, it was not a typical sensorineural hearing loss presentation. It seems that a “normal” audiograph for sensorineural hearing loss will show normal hearing range in the low tones, and then gradually decrease as the tones get higher, making a downward slope on the graph as the loss progresses. Mine is the exact opposite, with the loss at its worst in the lowest tones, and gradually getting better and reaching the normal range in the high tones.
With that, she said she wanted to test me again, so she did. Her results were very similar to the first results with a few exceptions.
On the test of my conductive hearing, both graphs showed an increase in hearing ability as the tones increased. Both showed a hearing loss of up to 50 dB with the right ear being worse than the left. On a scale of minimal to profound hearing loss, that puts me at a moderate conductive hearing loss.
Here’s where they got different, though. On test #1 (performed by the first audiologist) she found my sensorineural hearing to be within 5 dB of the conductive hearing. That showed that there was no structural interference with my hearing, that it is at the processing level that the loss is occurring and therefore irreparable. Treatment: hearing aids.
Today, however, for test #2, she showed some differences of greater than 5 dB between the conductive and the sensorineural results. She said that this was indicative of a possible structural problem and her recommendation was to send me to an ENT for a CT scan of the inside of my ears.
Some frustration comes from all of this.
- She said that it could be from ear infections, which seems unlikely to me as I did not have them as a child and have had just one in my adult life, and that occurred long after the hearing loss began. Treatment: antibiotics, potentially surgery.
- Another possibility she suggested was otosclerosis, where the tiny bones of the middle ear get fused together causing conductive hearing loss. Treatment: surgery. The problem here is that the surgery can fix the problem and restore hearing… or make it worse, making hearing aids necessary. She said if that was what was going on, I’d have to weigh the pros and cons and decide if I wanted to try the surgery, or go straight to hearing aids.
That said, it appeared that my sensorineural hearing was still below normal, so IF I have a structural issue and IF that gets fixed, I am still not going to have normal hearing and will still likely need hearing aids. And IF I have the otosclerosis, I likely would not opt for a treatment that could leave me worse off and need hearing aids anyhow. She even said that RIGHT NOW, I would benefit greatly from hearing aids.
Why, then, do I not have hearing aids today?
She said she’d get her report to my doctor this week, and then my doctor would have to refer me to the ENT and then I could set up an appointment. At this point I was just crying… I went in thinking I was finally going to be relieved of this problem and now it’s more waiting. What else could I do, though, but thank her and go on my way. So that I did.
When I got back to work — after a good, long, post-audiologist cry that I am starting to think it just how it goes — I decided to call the ENT myself. Lo and behold, my insurance does not require that they have the referral before they schedule me, so I was able to set an appointment for next week. Small victory.
The biggest problem in all of this is if it turns out to be a structural problem, I’m on my own financially for the ENT, the CT scan and any surgery I may need because DVR only assists when the disability is permanent. If I have a surgery and my hearing is partially restored and I still need hearing aids, it could be that my loss is not considered severe enough for DVR to assist and I’m on my own for the hearing aids. back to square one.
And I thought my biggest worry of the day was what color hearing aid I was going to get. Little did I know.