Friday, April 5, 2013

Hearing Loss and Pregnancy

Today as I write I think about my life just two short years ago.  I was a full time working business owner and single mother with a husband at war and an undetected change going on with my hearing. 

But the noise of my life hid the silence in my ears. 

The noise of my life hid the silence in my ears. 

Hard to imagine but reality all the same.  I remember coming home after work haggard, lonely and burnt out.  I would sit on my couch after feeding and caring for my seven year old wondering how in the world I would have enough energy for the baby that was growing inside of me.  I would worry about my husband and his safety daily never letting on to anyone that fear hovered ever so neatly at the top of my mind threatening at every turn to topple over and come flooding out.  At some point I would receive a call regarding our business and they would need my problem solving skills and then that was all there was.

It was impossible for me to worry about myself.  I was the last thing on a long list of priorities. 

Here is what I know, facts that I can look back and record.

My hearing loss started at some point while I was pregnant with Chase.
I do not remember the exact time frame in the pregnancy that it began to change.
I feel like it had to have been gradual or I would have noticed it more quickly.

So now that I have revealed that I am once again carrying our third child I thought it time to talk about the elephant in the room....hearing loss and pregnancy.

There is a lot of speculation on this topic.  So much information and so many different points of view.  But by in large, the most common occurrence of hearing loss while pregnant is sensorineural hearing loss.  In an earlier post I defined what this specifically means.  I am going to repost that definition here.

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is a type of hearing loss in which the root cause lies in the vestibulocochlear nerve (Cranial nerve VIII), the inner ear, or central processing centers of the brain.

When hearing loss is caused by problems within the inner ear, it is called sensorineural loss. The problem may be with the cochlea (sensory) or with the hearing nerve (neural). It's also sometimes incorrectly referred to as “nerve deafness.”  Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. If you feel like you can hear fairly well, but have trouble understanding what people are saying, there is a good chance you are experiencing this type of hearing loss.

There are several cases of SNHL during pregnancy HOWEVER these usually resolve shortly after the mother gives birth.  Most of the research credits pregnancy hormones and pressure on the inner ear as the culprit.  

As all of you know for me, the change was permanent.

Up until a week ago I feel like I had a very positive outlook on the issue but then my hearing changed again.

It is interesting to note that I felt the loss in my brain before I heard it in my ears.  I don't know how many of you understand how draining hearing loss can be on your mind but because it is a major sense, as it drops off the rest of your body attempts to compensate for the void.

For example, immediately I will find myself thinking harder about what people say.  There are two methods I employ when attempting to understand what I cannot hear.  #1 - I will start to play the context game that they teach you in grade school when you are learning to read.  I begin to think about where I am, what I am doing, what the conversation is about and what makes the most logical fit in the blank that is what I do not hear.  #2 - If I cannot piece it together by that then I begin to study their mouth intently reading their lips as to gain inference and reference which will hopefully lead me on the path of rejoining the conversation for real.  I say for "real" because quite often I will continue talking to someone but have no clue about what is truly being said. 

After context and lip reading I then lean in to the person and ask them to repeat.  Oddly enough I limit my asking though.  Somewhere in my mind I find myself an annoyance and so I will count how many times that I must have someone say the same thing twice and stop after I feel it is too many.

My stomach is affected because not being able to properly follow the flow of a conversation is stressful.  Instead of enjoying what is being talked about I am straining and struggling which in turn stresses me out and I will begin to get fatigued. 

I am assured by my hearing specialist this is all a normal response to my type of loss. 

And so with my brain I hear the loss. 

Deciding to return to the Dr. for a hearing test was an easy decision.  It's free where I bought my hearing aids so why not? 

Sitting in the tiny box once again, I realize that this is now familiar.   No longer am I filled with anxiety as I wait, instead more of a routine feeling consumes my thoughts.  As the series of beeps and tones begins to vibrate through my ears and I realize that it is crystal clear to me when I cannot hear a something because she repeats the last sound I beeped on twice.  Yes, my mind would answer her thoughts, that was the last sound before the drop.  Then she begins to read and I can't see her lips.  They are two syllable words that I am to repeat back to her.  She reads around six I think I get about two.  I realize then just how much I have been reading lips over the last few weeks.

After the testing is complete she walks me into the Dr. who begins to adjust my aids to my current hearing.  She mentions that I do have some more loss and most specifically in the volume that I hear at.  It was at that moment that I tell her I am pregnant and that I knew there was no direct relation proven about hearing loss and pregnancy.  Her reply surprised me, "Yes there has been.  We will need to monitor you more closely.  Come in whenever you think there has been a change."  Her tone so offhanded and matter of fact struck me more than the words that she spoke.  You see what was more monumental than the change she was speaking of was that there was nothing I could do to stop it. 

I am at the mercy of this journey. 

With every ounce of my body I want this baby, this 3rd miracle in my life.  Whatever it brings will be well worth it.  I don't know where I will end up at the end of it with regard to sound but no matter what I will push through.

I thank everyone who has daily patience with me as I walk the path of unknown and uncertainty.  It is what it will be, this hearing loss and pregnancy. 

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