Hearing Loss


Visual Thesaurus publishes a word-a-day and today’s word is “tinnitus”. (If you don’t know about Visual Thesaurus resource go there now and take a look. They produce fascinating 3-D tree-map descriptions of a word. Clicking on a linked word, or a node to that link will  explain what it means and take you deeper into the tree – or out to another tree for a different word. ) It is a beguiling and useful resource.

I was born hard-of-hearing and when I was about 5 an attentive GP discovered my hearing loss by crunching paper by my left and then my right ear. I turned to the sound on my left ear but I didn’t on the other side.  This discovery gave rise to a number of tests and along the way, it was discovered that I also had a slight discolouration (sort of a salt-and-pepper pattern) on the backs of my eyes. The eye doctor that discovered this was extremely alarmed and told my parents that they should watch me very closely as I would start to deteriorate into an Alzheimer-like state in the next 5 to 10 days and that in a year I would be dead. That was 45 years ago. Clearly, he was wrong but I imagine he gave my parents a few grey hairs along the way! However, every eye doctor I have had since has mentioned/commented on this colouring and I’ve learned to preempt their questions by telling them about this before the test begins.

Eventually everyone figured out that the damage to my hearing (and my eyes) could all be attributed to my mother having had a very mild episode of Rubella while she was pregnant, and everyone settled down. My hearing loss, luckily, never interfered too much with my ability to discriminate speech, although I have really never paid attention to any input coming from my “bad” ear.

How does all this connect with tinnitus you might be asking? Well I suffer from this malady although (again) my suffering isn’t nearly as acute as that of others I know. However the odd thing for me, when I get it, is that it is almost always in my deaf ear. The sensation is almost indescribable … how does one explain what the feeling of “hearing” something feels like in an ear that doesn’t hear? Could it be compared to the phantom limb experiences amputees suffer? Regardless, the mere occasion of it happening causes several spin-off sensations: dizziness, a feeling of vertigo and a sense that my world has suddenly turned inside-out. All these feelings are brief, but consistent, and I can never predict when it will happen or what triggers it.

Bodies –  my sweetie sometimes uses the term wetware – are strange things. The fact that we all work as well as we do most of the time is amazing.