Audiology/Otolaryngology/side effects from sudden hearing loss
Five months ago, I woke up one morning with my left ear blocked. I had been struggling with an upper respiratory infection and had been taking antibiotics for what my doctor thought was a sinus infection. Eventually, I saw an ENT, who told me that I had suffered sudden sensorineural hearing loss. My audiogram revealed a loss in lower frequencies.
My hearing loss is considered mild, but the problem is that I'm experiencing extreme echoing from my own voice and others', a perception that I'm hearing two voices at once from many people, and a sensation of hearing music two different ways in both ears. The only way I can achieve a degree of comfort is to close my bad ear with my hand. I have worked with the audiologist extensively these past few months, but the hearing aid I tried only magnified the distortion. We have since that time tried a plug (made from a custom ear mold), but when I wear that, my own voice is so occluded that it's just as annoying as it is without it.
I'm really desperate at this point. Do you have any other suggestions that I might try to block these unwanted sounds? I can hear speech fine, mostly because my right ear is still perfect, so the problem is not that I can't hear; it's the WAY I'm hearing that's so upsetting.
Any advice you could give me would be much appreciated.
I am sorry to hear of your sudden hearing loss and resulting asymmetry in hearing and the distorted sound perception you are experiencing. Sudden losses are often very difficult for the brain to reconcile. In other words, this change is usually very upsetting not only from a auditory standpoint, but also emotionally. I have come across many patients who actually have a very difficult time accepting the diagnosis because they believe so strongly that something must be stuck in the ear plugging it.
I imagine that possibly the most difficult aspect could be the realization that the hearing is not going to return and that you may never feel exactly "balanced" again. But acceptance of this is positive and allows you to more effectively work towards the best possible solutions, which it sounds like you are trying to do.
Plugging the ear will not allow your brain to really adjust properly and "recalibrate" the way you need it to. It also has the additional unwanted side effect of making your internal voice/sounds louder due to occlusion (as you mentioned). Wearing a hearing aid can often be effective, but is yet another change for your brain to adjust to and if your word understanding is poor (what was your word understanding percentage in that ear?) then amplification may make that bad message worse.
If anything, I might have you try to provide more "training" opportunity for your brain to help with the adjustment. In other words, listening to as much sound in both ears together as possible throughout the day (or even night if you have a white noise maker or other sound generator) should benefit you as a true form of rehabilitation.
Depending on the level of hearing loss, I would not completely abandon that idea either, but obviously you need to take things in smaller steps for now.
This is just my opinion based on what information you have given me, but I do hope it is helpful to you in some way. Please feel free to post updates on what helped and what did not so that others may also benefit from your experiences.
Take care and I wish you well.