Monthly Archives: February 2016

This Week in Aging Not So Gracefully: Now see here! No, that’s not it, now Hear Hear!

This was not my first visit to the Otolaryngology Department at the hospital complex but I’d never been to this particular hallway before.

I was there to see an audiologist to have my hearing evaluated in an effort to determine why/where the causes of my dizziness/vertigo lay.

The audio doctor directed me into a small sound proof room with beige perforated walls that are dampened from outer walls. In my room was a small computer monitor, some sort of testing gadget and a big window looking into another room. I sat in a chair that faced away from the window. The audio doctor entered/exited my room through two sets of doors into the room with the window which I assumed to be some sort of control room.

This is supposed to be a sound proof room but I could hear and feel a low volume rumble. I’m assumed it’s HVAC but then I also assumed I shouldn’t have been experiencing this rumble.

The audiologist told me to follow the instructions on this first test and then shoved some rather uncomfortable ear plugs which were attached to hollow surgical type tubing into my ears and I heard the voice of a man tell me I will hear a word and I’m supposed to repeat it.

“Say the word, ‘testament’” said the man then I repeated the word.

“Say the word, ‘vehicle’”

“Say the word, (blah blah blah)”

“Say the word, ‘_____’, c’mon, dumbass, say it, just say it!”

The volume raised/lowered and both ears are tested. This recorded voice is probably decades old and I’m sure is used repeatedly throughout the day, however, I know I heard him express nothing but hostile impatience towards me.

A bone conduction “headphone” is placed on my skull behind/below my left ear and I hear the same voice and am given the same instructions, at various volumes. I was  amazed how clear the voice is considering I heard this through my thick skull bone.

Anyone ever have the Bone Fone?BoneFone

Then a series of tones/beeps were played at various frequencies and volumes. I had to press a button to signify when I heard the tones/beeps. This happened in both ears. Judging from how I heard things, I figured out I have some hearing loss and it’s a disturbing thing to have to acknowledge to myself.

Next a middle ear measuring device is used. Some hollow tubing and wires from a testing gadget near the wall were attached to a rectangular gray felt pad that was placed on my shoulder and then some earbuds were shoved in my ears. The earbud closest to the felt pad is filled my ear canal with air pressure, a tone is played and then in the opposite ears a bunch of tones/beeps/whatnot are played. I thought I may have heard some of the soundtrack from “Thief” by Tangerine Dream.

ThiefI didn’t have to respond, my job was to sit and observe what was happening to me. I equated this to the same air pressure test used on your eyeball to measure glaucoma. If you’re thinking I need to get my eyes tested, that’s already done and it seems my aging body is repairing my eyesight; my prescription could be weakened a wee bit.

 

Let’s dip our toes briefly into the vast ocean of human biology for minute or two. Sound is the movement of air. Of course, that is terribly simplified.

Your ears are the mechanical apparatus that translates that air movement into electrical signals that your brain can then decode as that awesome song by ABBA or your significant other/spouse/partner/whatnot passing gas in the middle of the night.

Doesn’t everyone enjoy an occasional Dutch Oven?

So that’s your outer and middle ear and then there’s your inner ear with it’s hoops and loops containing special crystals and those are your body’s built-in gyroscopes, giving your brain information about where and how your body and all it’s pieces and parts are oriented and moving through space.

All the miracles your brain performs and how much thanks does it ever get from you? I had a great uncle who had a prosthetic lower leg. His brain was continually punking him, telling him his missing foot was itching.

At various times my mind wondered and I found myself dwelling on one of my favorite movies as a kid and the soundtrack to that awful cheesy and campy 1960’s space movieMarooned_(1969_film_poster)  with Gregory Peck and David Janssen “Marooned” lodged itself in my brain.

Is that was space sounds like? How do they know? There’s no air or ears in space. Richard Crenna can act? That’s so cool…

That test concluded my appointment with the audiologist and I have some permanent hearing loss in a notch around 4K frequency. I blame my job. I probably need some custom ear plugs for my job. Screw that, I can only blame myself for continuing to put myself in that occupational hazard.

My next appointment was with an otolaryngological doctor and I was led to an examination room which I am certain I was in not but 18 months prior to endure some sort of nasal procedure/torture episode that the nose doctor felt sure would help my sinus issues.

The pain and smell of burning nasal tissue easily lend themselves to the feelings of discomfort.

There was minor chit chat and I fumbled over an explanation of my dizziness/vertigo and how it manifests itself; I found this explanation exceedingly difficult. I wonder if it’s that way for everyone. Unlike a broken bone or a ruptured spleen, something that is purely physical and can be observed as such, how much of dizziness/vertigo isn’t actually psychological and not physical?

The doctor looked in my ears with some sort of video device and I saw my ear drums on a video screen on the wall. Fascinating. And gross. All of it. There’s a reason I can’t and don’t want to see things like that.

 

The doctor moved my head around, moved my body around, used a tuning fork on my lower leg to test for a recently found syndrome where one might “hear” sounds via bone conduction from their lower extremities. In laymen’s terms, it depends upon if the brain has gotten lazy and is resting on some of the ear structure.

“The Eyes are the window to the soul.”

“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.”

“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”

“TV is chewing gum for the eyes.”

“The Eyes have it.”  Well, maybe not so much that one.

It would appear your eyes will also tell the experienced observer what is happening in your inner ear, depending upon the position of your head. The big examination chair was flattened and at one point, I was told to twist my head all the way to the right and focus straight ahead while the doc positioned me on my back, then he observed how my eyes reacted. This was done looking left as well.

To understand why the eyes reflect imbalances within the inner ear involves a deeper biological discussion of our inner ears than I am prepared for so as I can barely tell time or perform simple arithmetic, see the cursory biology lesson above. All I can say is when the little gyroscopes of our inner ears decide to take a vacation, we experience dizziness/vertigo.

Through some discussions and observations, I don’t have the classical definitions of vertigo, but I might suffer from anxiety. Well, I have to ask, who in the hell doesn’t!?!

Next up; Videonystagmographywhosits?