Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hyperbaric Oxygen update

I have finished about 25 sessions of hyperbaric treatments so far . One of the problems I have had just had my ears cannot equalize properly under pressure. So I have had difficulty clearing my ears, and if your ear drums become compressed too much they will tear. So, the technicians at the hyperbaric Institute will not let me dive sometimes. This has sent me to the ear nose and throat doctor twice. We examined my ears, and did an audiology exam to check my hearing, and I had a consultation about the possibility of getting "ear tubes" installed in my ear drums. These allow the pressure to equalize easily, by allowing the pressure to pass through the tubes instead of through the eustachian tubes that are in your head. Interestingly, the insertion of ear tubes or grommets is the most common surgical procedure performed on children nowadays. It is a treatment for children who have chronically infected middle ears, which causes pain and often causes decreased ability to hear in the classroom, etc.

We also talked about the possibility of hearing loss as a result of the ear tubes. There is a possibility of low-frequency hearing loss, and also a possibility that the air holes, the holes in the ear drums, will not close completely after the tubes are removed. This can result in a inability to swim without earplugs, for fear of getting an infection in the middle ear.

All in all, this did not sound very exciting to me, because I am very attached to my hearing, being a musician. This is especially true as I am a musician who currently cannot play music, due to the effects of Lyme disease. I used to play piano quite a bit, and I can barely muster it now because of loss of dexterity in my right arm. So all I have left in the way of music is the ability to listen to it and appreciate it. The audiologist to get a baseline test of my hearing, and noted that I have a 32 dB or 30 dB reduction at 6000 Hz. This is a serious drop off. It comes back up at about 8000 Hz, but they do not test above 8kHz so I do not know what my hearing is about that. But I can report that since I started the hyperbaric oxygen treatment I have experienced the loss of high frequency response. This may be due to fluid in the middle ear, and occasionally I experience clearing, and the frequency response seems to come back. So I am hopeful that this is a temporary effect.

Ironically, hyperbaric treatment is used in cases of hearing loss to help repair hearing. However, little is known about the inner ear, and how it works. It is possible to incur barotrauma, and since the inner ear is a self-contained unit, it is possible that pressure could build up in the inner ear, causing loss of balance and the loss of hearing function. It is not common, and I have difficulty finding anything about this on the Internet. So I am assuming that it is not likely. But I can only report at this point that I have experienced the loss of high frequency sensitivity, I am very aware of this being an audiophile and listening to music and being very aware of the sounds of nature, ambient room sound, the sound of the rustling of cloth, paper, running water, etc.

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