Friday, February 22, 2008

Update on my Hearing Loss

I had a hearing test today and a visit with the ENT to discuss my hearing loss apparently caused by the mega-dose (4500 mg per day) of Salsalate, which I'm told is essentially a form of aspirin, my new rheumatologist put me on last month. The goal was to reduce my inflammation and hopefully get my pain levels down. (I have a history of developing severe stomach ulcers from more conventional NSAIDs, even the ones that are supposed to be gentle on the stomach like Vioxx and Bextra.)

I really had only very small positive results from the Salsalate. My joint pain decreased ever so slightly while I was on it, and some of the swelling on the pads between my knuckles appeared to get very slightly smaller. It was such a minor decrease in the swelling that I was never entirely sure whether I was imagining it or not.

So I wasn't experiencing great benefits from it, and I ended up having very major side effects in that it made me *very* hard of hearing to the point that I couldn't understand anything my 3-year-old daughter, Ellie, was saying. Dr. Wernick had told me that the tinnitus and hearing loss that are common side effects of the drug would be mild and fully reversible when I stopped taking it.

But my hearing loss was pretty severe. (See here for my post on how bad it was getting before I stopped taking it.) And then my internist, who I have immense respect for, told me she wasn't sure the hearing loss was reversible like the tinnitus. My Uncle Doc then expressed the same concern.

So when my prescription ran out, I didn't immediately refill it and went in to discuss the issue with my internist again. She agreed the med hadn't done me much good and said that since it simply treated a symptom of my illness, not the disease itself, there was no harm in stopping it. In the meantime, she scheduled me for a hearing test and an appointment with the ENT I've seen occasionally before.

Within days of stopping the Salsalate, my hearing improved. Complicating matters, I got that horrible bug going around and ended up with a diagnosis of a double ear infection (and bronchitis and laryngitis).

Anyway, I had the hearing test today. I had my hearing tested about a year ago and was told it was very, very mild then and was technically within the range of some people's normal hearing.

Today, I was told that my hearing loss had increased significantly and I now had moderate hearing loss. The audiologist said my hearing loss is concentrated on the frequencies people speak at, which is why I find it so frustrating. She also said the pressure in my left ear was negative and the ear drum was barely moving.

Following the hearing test, I saw the ENT. He said that the issue is complicated by the fact that I still have a now mild ear infection (which I pretty much knew since I still have ear pain at night and often have to sleep propped up). I'm on day 6 of a 10-day dose of Levoquin, which is my second round of antibiotics, and he told me to continue with that and also continue with the same dose of Prednisone I'm on (10 mg per day).

He wants me to come back in June for another hearing test and office visit, at which time he hopes to be able to determine if my current level of hearing loss is permanent or if there's more improvement once the ear infection is completely gone. He also told me to stay off the Salsalate because it can cause permanent hearing loss at the kind of dose I was on in people who are sensitive to it, as I apparently am.

On a side note, he said that the polyps he discovered in my nose when I first saw him over a year ago have gotten even bigger. They initially shrunk enough while I was on high doses of Prednisone last year that he decided I didn't need surgery to have them removed. But he's now concerned about their size and says they contribute to the frequency that I get colds and sinus infections. He did note, however, that I "have a lot going on right now" and that they are not an urgent matter that I need to take care of. He also said I have a severely deviated septum, which I have no memory of him telling me previously but he says he did. For whatever that's worth. It probably means I'll eventually have a minor outpatient surgery, but I have no plans of doing that anytime soon. Maybe in a year or two.

1 comment:

Stef said...

Here is Aahz's web page about communicating with people who have hearing loss: