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Deafness/Hearing Impairment/Pitch change associated with Viral Infection

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Question
I have been diagnosed with tinnitus after 20 years in the military. Other than the annoying high pitched sound like a ballast going out on flouresant lights my hearing has been good. I recently turned 50 and had what I believe was my first major viral infection in my right ear. I was treated with prednizone to take care of it. The oncoming symptoms were a plugged ear, followed by occasional chirping sounds, hearing lose and a pitch change to where if I covered the ear without the infection, the voices of people I am taking to sound like Mickey Mouse. It took about 3 weeks to clear the problem up. In the last year, this has happened 5 times; three times in the right ear and twice in the left. The second, third and fourth times were the worst. The hearing problem wasn't clearing up after about 2 weeks of prednizone. During each of these 3 infections, there was one night where I had a high fever, the sweats and body aches. This lasted about 12 hours. Over the next couple of days, the hearing problem cleared up and then I was back to normal within a week. It seems like the viral infection comes back about 6 weeks after the previous one cleared up. I have a couple of questions concerning this. The first is why is the pitch in my ear changing to where all incoming voices sound like Mickey Mouse. The second question is why won't the virus go away. My ENT doesn't seem too concerned at this time, but I enjoy music and am afraid I will loose hearing permanently one of these days.

Thanks.

Kirk

Answer
Kirk,

The changing pitch in your ears, making things sound like Mickey Mouse, suggest that the viral infection is involving the inner ear sensory hair cells.  Steroids are the sensible treatment for that.  We, audiologists, get really nervous when people experience a change in pitch because it is possible that those conditions can become permanent.  It sounds like your ENT is on top of things, but I, like you, am concerned that you continue to have issues with the viral infections.  If it were me, I would seek another opinion.  A good physician will not be offended by you seeking another opinion.  I would try to seek out an Otologist or a Nuerotologist.  These two professionals specialize in the disorders and especially the neuro-disorders of the inner ear.
Thank you for your question.  Please let me know if you have any further questions.  
Kelley Linton, AuD.     centerforhearing.net

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Dr. Kelley Linton

Expertise

I'm an audiologist in private practice in Arkansas. I graduated from the University of Florida medical school. I specialize in hearing loss; hearing rehabilitation; hearing aids; noise induced hearing loss; occupational noise exposure; OSHA guidelines and regulations; hearing protection; tinnitis; newborn hearing testing; children and hearing loss and diagnosis and etiology of hearing loss.

Experience

I've been a practicing audiologist for 20 years and have owned a private practice for 14 years. I am also an audiologist in the United States Army where I teach DOD hearing conservation regulations and manage 3000 DOD employees at an army industrial facility.

Organizations
Arkansas Academy of Audiology American Academy of Audiology Academy of Doctors of Audiology American Speech and Hearing Association National Hearing Conservation Association

Publications
Journal of the Academy of Audiology Southwest Times Record, Fort Smith, Arkansas Press Argus Courier, Van Buren, Arkansas

Education/Credentials
Au.D. - Doctor of Audiology, University of Florida American Academy of Audiology fellow member Audiology Board Certification American Speech and Hearing Association certification Arkansas State Audiology license-current CPT United States Army Medical Corps

Awards and Honors
American Speech and Hearing Association "ACE" award x 7 years United States Army Accommodation Award Arkansas Academy of Audiology elected board of director x 3 years Better community award, Fort Smith, AR for volunteer audiology service to free community health clinic

Past/Present Clients
Serving newborn to geriatric ages.....unable to provide specific names.

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