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Bettina Turnbull, an audiologist, professional development manager for Connect Hearing and vice-president of the Australian College of Audiology shared her frightening experience of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) with Hearing HQ magazine.
As a hearing person who works with hearing-impaired patients it was a particularly eye-opening experience and I now have a much better understanding of how you “feel” when you have compromised hearing.
Surrounded by audiologists, I had my hearing tested to confirm I wasn’t imagining the hearing loss and promptly took myself off to Melbourne’s Eye and Ear Hospital emergency department. I was totally surprised at how difficult it was to hear in a noisy place, even with one good ear. I was also terrified that my hearing may not return and anxious to investigate further what may have caused the hearing loss. Once home I contacted my ENT who organised an immediate MRI to check my inner ear structures were normal, which they were thankfully. Bettina’s story originally appeared on pages 25 – 26 of Hearing HQ magazine, which you can read online by visiting their homepage and clicking on the Hearing HQ cover featuring Jodie Foster.

Tinnitus is constant, abnormal ear noise when there is no corresponding external sound present.
Thankfully it has returned but it was frightening as there was a possibility that I could have ended up with permanent single-sided deafness. One of my ears blocked up and I started to hear an intermittent “chirp, chirp” sound like crickets at night.
I was seen by an ENT who diagnosed idiopathic SSNHL (“not sure why” hearing loss) but she suspected the causes was a virus. Taking steroids at such a high does was quite an experience – it’s like having your blood rush around your head at 20 times the speed it should and the side effects include anxiety and insomnia. I felt disoriented, frustrated and my brain had to work ten times harder to concentrate on hearing what was being said. He then injected another steroid – dexamethasone – into the middle ear space to be absorbed through the round and oval windows.

I still get ‘overload’ twang when sounds are quite loud but otherwise all sounds normal now. It was a very busy period and I thought a quiet weekend and sleep would sort it out, but a few days later the same thing happened at another training meeting.
I was prescribed a fortnight-long high-dose course of the oral steroid prednisone and was advised not to fly for two weeks other than to get back home to Sydney (as flying stresses the ear and body). Only this time it was much worse with nausea and light-headedness where I couldn’t focus my thoughts. I was told to go home and lie on my good side for maximum absorption of the drug into the cochlea.

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