Sudden sensorineural hearing loss and sound distortion

I am a long time hearing aid user with profound hearing loss at frequencies over 1000 Hrz. I have developed a number of coping strategies to manage including live transcription, cell phone captioning, lip reading and use of noise canceling headphones (Bose)

I also track my audiogram history over the past 30 years to monitor the decline. The audiogram shown in my profile is more or less unchanged for the past 10 years. Despite that stability, I have noticed small subtle changes (loss) like more reliance on captioning in situations I was able to manage without.

Recently (last 2-3 months) however I have begun to notice a much more dramatic change. All sound in both ears has become distorted, like a radio dial between stations or a broken speaker. I was never aware of Tinnitus before, but it is quite apparent now.

I visited my ENT who I have not seen for the past 5 years (I visit my audiologist annually) and shared by audiogram history including the one done 3 months ago and described what I am experiencing. I was concerned it might be the result of a viral infection (had a period of a lot of nasal mucus 4-5 weeks ago, now gone) or some other manifestation of SSHL.

His belief (without any further testing) was that I am getting near the end of the line and this is just a normal outcome of progressive loss at my stage. A CI was his recommendation.

I am unconvinced because of the rapid change and considering a second opinion including more testing (ABR and OAE?) to check. I am throwing this out to the group to see if anyone else has had similar experience. The distortion is now constant and very unnatural sounding. It is especially noticeable after wearing the headphones (sound volume limited) for an hour or more.

Thoughts?

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You have my extreme sympathy @jcech… Distortion is so very frustrating! I had distortion during the height of my Meniers Disease years, thankfully the distortion disappeared after MD had destroyed most of my vestibular, I usually got distortion after a MD vertigo attack, but not always, sometimes I was fine, on other occasions, I could not understand anyone, sometimes for days! I assume you have been checked out by ENT, and you don’t have any other MD symptoms, like vertigo, sickness, nausea, visual distortion, severe fluctuations in your residual hearing, and balance problems? Good luck in finding a solution, but if the distortion is permanent, unfortunately you may be forced to look at the CI option, a second opinion from ENT should help to clarify your predicament, and hopefully they may have an alternative solution? Cheers Kev.

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Getting a second opinion is always a reasonable thing to do. Looking at your audiogram makes me suspect that a cochlear implant is your best option.

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I have no doubts that there are benefits in understanding speech with a CI. However, what I have read is that CIs are most effective when the loss is due to loss of hair cells since these are bypassed anyway. If the loss is neurological then success is problematic as the CI is connected to this.

Given the rather sudden change, I am concerned that my issue is neurological even though I have a long history of decline >1000 Hrzs. That history would suggest hair cell decline. I don’t know about the past 2 months and the CI procedure is one way and will often destroy or seriously degrade your residual hearing in the adapted ear.

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I have bad distortion in my left ear. Same sound, broken speaker.
I was told it’s nerve damage and it is was it is.
It can’t be fixed.

@jcech i was in the exact same position as you back in 2016/17. I had a SSHL R ear, tinnitus and speech distortion. The distortion was absolutely horrid topped by the tinnitus. My SSHL dropped from around 40 db at 500hz down to 100db at 1000hz.

I went for a second opinion, but I got the same answer I needed a CI if I wanted any sort of speech clarity. I went for a CI evaluation, I got told my loss would be suitable for a CI. From then I sat on the fence until July 2019. So do I, don’t I, sort of thing, getting more and more frustrated and cranky with my capacity to not hear or understand conversation anywhere.

For me a CI has been the best thing ever, no regrets at all. It’s not an easy 12 months post op learning how to hear again through the processor. I did hours upon hours of rehab. But going from WRS 28% to WRS 94% in that 12 months in my R ear has been a life saver.

I highly suggest you go for an evaluation to see if your a suitable recipient for a CI. After the evaluation no one puts any pressure on you to move forward with the CI surgery. It’s left entirely up to you to decide yes or no, not for me…

Good luck to you whatever you decide.

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Thank you for your update and glad to hear you are pleased with the result and this has worked for you. I gather from your post that you went with this in 2019. That’s 3 years ago. From your audiogram (much like mine), it would appear that both ears are clear candidates for CI. Did you do the left ear and if not, why not?

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I am an audiologist - OAE and ABR testing will not provide you any helpful information at this point. You will not have OAE responses due to the degree of your loss, and because you are able to participate in a behavioral (booth) test, ABR will also not likely give you anything more than you already know.

Go for the CI evaluation - you don’t have to actually sign up for surgery, just get the information. I bet you’ll be a good candidate.

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I’m still bimodal as yet N7 & Resound Enzo… No doubt the day will come that I need to go bilateral though. I saw my surgeon 18 months ago now. Because my L ear is congenital deafness of over 70 years ago. My surgeon couldn’t give me any sort of guarantees that this ear would be successful.

I had a very small SSHL a month ago, it’ was just 10db drop. The only reason I picked it up was the tinnitus started in that ear. But still I’m holding on to what I have for the time being at least.

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You mentioned a bad bout of mucous a few weeks ago. I have issues with my eustachian tubes blocking up and water/liquid becoming trapped in my middle ear. Allergies and mucous will cause this. The result can be distortion, as well as muffled hearing, etc. The broken speaker on a radio analogy is exactly how I describe it to my ENT. taking Sudafed to open the eustachian tubes can help, but this condition often lasts quite a while–months. Not just for me, but for others who get this issue. All this may be unrelated to what’s happening with you. But it’[s worth investigating, and actually would be good news because this always resolves eventually. ENT’s can’t really always tell from observation if you have fluid, but somtimes can. Best wishes!

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A cochlear implant evaluation is the most logical thing to do.
It will answer most questions you might have about your hearing loss by professionals.

You may or may not be a candidate but don’t know until evaluated.

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I also thought about that (water/infection in the middle ear). Might try sudafed to see. I can hear gurgling every time I swallow and a puff sound when I exhale after a yawn. It doesn’t feel like closed E tubes, but maybe it occurred back then and hasn’t cleared.

Also have experienced something very odd. While my speech doesn’t seem loud to me (just distorted), i have discovered if I speak while facing down in my bathroom sink, that the sound of my voice is very loud, almost painfully so. At first, I thought I might be experiencing hyperacusis, but it only happens then.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

If you google around you can find info on this, with better descriptions. again, best of luck!

I also experienced the same thing, but I overcome it in my own way, setting the hearing aid in the best way I did, by far the most efficient way for me to reduce the faceback as low as possible , in order to use the hearing aid to be more comfortable .

I have thick mucus. When my tubes clog, threshold of hearing goes from 40, 50, 60, 70,80 to 70…80. If I do not wise up and increase the volute, there is a major shock when the tubes clear. Try decongestents, chewing gum and hard swallowing to clear the tubes.

The acoustic tubes of your devices is another place to check for clogging, also for a wax impaction in the ear canal. My right ear was dead for several years due to an impaction.