In 2017, I encountered a problem with my hearing. I didn’t pay much attention until it led me to partial deafness within months. It took a long time before I was accurately diagnosed in 2018. Credits to Christian Goodman of Vertigo and Dizziness Program and all medical specialists who had done a great job in my Meniere’s disease treatment. With their constant help and tremendous support from my family, I got my hearing back.
Hi, I am Jaime Miller, a mother of two beautiful sons. Meniere’s disease has been a persistent companion for me and I am going to share my eventful journey about it.
What Is Meniere’s Disease?
If you are unfamiliar with Meniere’s, it is a disease in the inner ear that affects the hearing and balancing systems in our body. You will often be affected by dizziness and gradual hearing loss. Meniere’s is accompanied by a ringing noise in the ear that is called tinnitus in medical term. An unpleasant feeling of fullness in your ear worsens the situation. The unbearable dizziness caused by Meniere’s is termed ‘vertigo’. If it is not treated on time, it can cause a permanent loss in hearing. In most cases, only one ear is affected by Meniere’s disease. But there are cases where both ears were affected too.
The symptoms may not be the same for everyone. Some people complained about incapacitating dizziness but did not experience any loss of hearing (Vestibular). On the contrary, some experienced severe deafness without any dizziness (Cochlear). Every year, a considerable number of people fall victim to Meniere’s disease. But the irony is, this chronic disease has yet to get proper media attention. As a result, not many people know about our affliction. No known cure for this disease has yet been found. But the doctors have discovered ways to control its symptoms, thanks to the continuous medical research.
How My Symptoms Started
It began after giving birth to my younger son in September 2017. About a month or so, I began to feel something disturbing in my right ear. It was a strange but annoying crackling noise. It occurred periodically, so I would not know when is it going to happen next. Every time, it seemed like my head was full of fluids. Sometimes when I blew through my nose, my ear would pop and the pop would not go away for a few days. At that time, my entire family got affected by the bad weather due to the cold season. I wasn’t feeling any pain at that time and hence ignored the symptoms. I assumed that they were just a result of the cold. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t.
A couple of months went by without any deterioration in my situation. Then, one fine afternoon as I was taking a rest in a couch, I got off balance when I stood up. I could not look down because my feet seemed longer than usual and I thought I would fall from quite a height. When I tried to walk, I lost my balance even with the support of the railings. I was taken aback, but I did not tell my husband about it. I could not sleep properly that night as I was terrified, did not know what was happening to me.
The next morning, I told my husband about what happened the previous day. He was alarmed and sent me to the nearest clinic immediately. After undergoing a series of tests, the doctor told me that it was just some fluid in the ear that caused all those troubles. I was then advised to take Sudafed for about a week to see if I feel better. I followed his instruction and began taking the prescribed medicine. It was useless though, but I did what I was told. More days past and there was still no sign of improvement. Instead, my condition got worse and by the end of May 2018, a humming noise got glued to my right ear. It was getting difficult to hear with that ear. I was frustrated, thinking that I am done and I need a vacation.
I Became Partially Deaf
At the beginning of June, we planned a vacation and sat out for the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. But this vacation wasn’t enjoyable as I thought it would be. My hearing issue was getting worse than ever and I could not even distinguish properly what people were saying around me. The crackling noise was with me all the while. My frustration built up as I called my doctor, seeking a piece of quick advice. He told me to visit a local ER as soon as possible if it escalated to hearing problems. I hurried to the nearest hospital immediately.
After a regular hearing test, I was informed that my eardrum could not function properly as the ear fluids were overflowed. The nurse practitioner suggested to me some samples of decongestant and assured me that I would be normal again after getting rid of the fluid. It was a quick comfort to me for the time being. But, I was still thinking that I need an accurate diagnosis to find out what was happening to me.
After two days, I visited the hospital again and met with a senior physician. He conducted a series of examinations to my ear. His hypothesis concluded that I was suffering from a condition named “glue ear”. He further explained that my ear was infected, and the chronic infection had accumulated the fluid into a sticky build-up. The news was not pleasant at all. I asked him how to get rid of the sticky substance. He suggested some strong decongestant such as Benadryl and Drixoral but concluded that Drixoral might be more effective in this case.
I took the oral decongestant Drixoral as instructed by the doctor. Few days past, but I still could not feel any improvement. I followed every instruction given but it was all in vain. I was almost half deaf and I began to feel helpless. I was on a brink of devastation. I called up my doctor in Portsmouth to inquire if I could get a specialist. He gave me a referral and I fixed the appointment instantly. Though disheartened, I was hoping that it would turn out effective and get my hearing back again.
Meniere’s Disease Treatment: I Got The Right Diagnosis (finally)
In the next two weeks, a pitch of the hush (shhh) sound increased drastically. After arriving at the doctor’s office, I was taken for an examination. The concerned audiologist, Janice, brought me to a room where I was plugged onto earphones and answered a few questions. The entire process was quite soothing. I was then led to a soundproof room for a further series of tests. After all the required tests were run on me, she gave a brief description of the traits and enquired about my dizziness. I said that I had occasional dizziness and off-balances when I woke up in the morning, but they would go away after a while. I also told her about the crackling sound inside me. Janice then gave me a brief idea about my test results and she was almost certain that I had Meniere’s disease, but told me to wait for the doctor’s consultation.
As I went downstairs to the doctor’s room, he read through my test reports and explained the traits again. The doctor asked me how I had been feeling lately and if I had similar encounters before. I repeated what I had told Janice to him, and that the dizziness was very frequent, coupled with occasional ringing to my ear. It all started last year after giving birth to my younger son. I also narrated what I had gone through with the previous doctors. He seemed startled with my previous visits but was certain that I am suffering from the chronic problem of Meniere’s disease. He wanted me to book an MRI scan for confirmation. He then went through a series of head to shoulder exercises with me and told me to watch my salt intake for the time being. Salt should be minimal, if not forbidden at the start to keep the symptoms at check.
This visit made me a little nervous but in a good way. The whole situation was too overwhelming for me as I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks. This was the time that I promised to take good care of my health and any abnormalities seriously. My room was still shifting as I lied down on the bed when I got back home. But I felt better by late afternoon.
My Conditions Improved
As days passed by, I did the head-to-shoulder exercise regularly for at least 15 minutes a day. I also changed my diet plan and excluded items that were high in sodium. This brought significant changes to my symptoms which were palpable before following the low sodium diet and the exercises. Hearing imparity and the constant ringing sound in my ear started fading away noticeably. This sudden recovery infused confidence in me when I went for the MRI scan. Being claustrophobic, MRIs tend to make me feel uncomfortable. But the recent optimistic results built some courage in me.
To my surprise, the MRI result showed little symptoms of Meniere’s disease when the technician explained to me. I was overjoyed! I went back to the specialist a few days later with the report and he told me that even though I suffered from Meniere’s disease, it didn’t look as severe as when I first visited him. Being curious about the reasons for my recovery and how was it being effective, I asked the doctor about it. It was nice of him to reveal that the exercises were adapted from Christian Goodman’s Vertigo and Dizziness Program. It improves blood circulation and cuts down turbulent flow in my head. It has also shown to reduce anxiety and stress. Together with a low sodium diet, they minimize fluid retention in the head, and thus explained for the speedy recovery of my condition.
If I had known earlier that my hearing and dizziness could be improved in such a short time through these simple steps, I would not have suffered from emotional exhaustion and physical hindrance earlier. But I am contented right now.
Finally, I Got My Hearing Back
It has almost been a year since the symptoms of Meniere’s disease popped up in me till the time I went through the proper diagnosis. Today I have almost recovered from my deafness and the terrifying tinnitus proved to be the actual contributor for my deafness. I am fortunate as the exercises and diets work well on me. The humming of tinnitus was almost insignificant now, being only perceivable at bad weather conditions. Even then, living with Meniere’s disease poses as a learning process for me. It taught me to adapt and take care of myself, as well as appreciating the loved ones around me. All of these aided me in lowering the risk of attacks.