“We can’t do so much about it” said the female ENT doctor that I visited last June 28. Suddenly, it felt hard to swallow like there’s a lump in my throat. I couldn’t threw follow up questions as I could feel my tears were starting to swell, and I knew, once I talked it would effortlessly trickle down my face.
Although, I am fully aware that my tinnitus is irreversible, having heard what the doctor said somehow still broke my heart.
Though I tried to hide my emotions, my reactions might have betrayed me that the female doctor tried to console me by saying, “I have a lot of patients who woke up one day with tinnitus and not having any idea where did they get it. At least you know how you acquired it. Let’s face it. TB could cause death, unlike tinnitus.”
I appreciate her efforts to comfort me, but what she said hit me and reminded me the reality, that yes you have survived TB but you won’t escape this life-long treatment side effect.
What triggered me to consult an ENT specialist again after 5 years is my tinnitus which I noticed was getting louder the past weeks.
I first experienced tinnitus (a condition that causes you to hear ringing sounds that can only be heard by the person affected) when I was given streptomycin as part of my TB treatment in the later part of year 2003. The occasional ringing in my ears started to manifest more often when I was started to be administered with Amikacin in June 2005 and eventually became constant after nine months of receiving this drug as part of my treatment regimen.
The last ENT specialist that I consulted in 2009 said that if my work does not require me to communicate to other people most of the time, I may not wear hearing aids. Further, he said that our ears do not function like our eyes which would continue to deteriorate if we do not use eye glasses. I relied on what he said.
Before my husband, Stuart, and I left the clinic, the female doctor prescribed me to take Vitamin B-complex thrice a day and gingko biloba once a day in hope that my auditory nerves could benefit from these. She also asked me to undergo a pure tone and speech test audiometry.
I had my audiometry test the following Saturday, July 5. My last audiometry test in the same hospital that was conducted in year 2009 was no longer available in its database so we did not have any reference for comparison, thereby, we could not determine if my hearing loss progressed. However, the result of the test was a stand-alone and clearly indicated the little that is left of me:
Right Ear: Profound mixed hearing loss
Left Ear: Moderate sensorineural hearing loss sloping towards the profound level at the high frequencies
Speech discrimination score: 56%, left ear; cannot be determined due to severity of hearing loss, right ear
That same day, I discussed the result to a senior ENT specialist. Based on the test results, I am having difficulties in understanding and recognizing the letters S, F, T, H and struggles in hearing high frequency sounds. He said that I must wear hearing aids now because if not, there’s a great possibility that my hearing loss will progress.
He compared my ears to a muscle that if remained to be unused, will eventually shrink. I need hearing aids so that my auditory nerves could be stimulated again. He referred me to 3 different hearing aids centers in Makati. I asked the doctor what I could expect from the vitamin B-complex and gingko biloba that his junior ENT fellow prescribed to me.
He said, “It could slow down the progress.”