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Hearing Recovery ‘like a miracle’

Posted on 10 October 2017 at 10:04am by Disabilities Resource Centre, Southland

A Canterbury mother of three who struggled with severe hearing loss for 12 years says an over-the-counter nasal spray has largely restored her hearing.

Therese Berg,39, said years of hearing loss and vertigo had battered her self-confidence, severely limited communication with her family, and forced her to quit her job.  The Kaiapoi woman had resigned herself to fluctuating hearing loss after being diagnosed with the inner ear disorder Meniere's​ disease.

She has battled with hearing loss for 12 years but says a simple nasal spray has improved her hearing significantly.  After a period without vertigo, Berg was struck by a severe bout in May this year. Another followed about a month later and lasted two weeks.   She said it felt like her whole house was rocking and swaying and she became violently ill.

Unable to work or drive, she quit her job as a merchandiser.  The symptoms became impossible to predict or manage and she developed anxiety.   Berg's GP prescribed a nasal spray and anxiety medication and referred her to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

She saw the specialist at Christchurch Hospital in August and was told she no longer had Meniere's disease but had another condition, eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD).  Berg asked if it would be safe to increase the nasal spray to twice daily, instead of once, and was told she could try it.   Two weeks later, her hearing had improved dramatically.

"It is almost like a miracle. I feel like a burden has lifted – I can listen to my favourite songs without struggling, it's the little things we take for granted . . . listening to the birds outside without the muffled sensation that I used to have."

Berg's hearing struggles began while she was pregnant with her eldest son, Ryan who is now 11.  Her hearing went "dull" without warning and was followed by vertigo, which made her nauseous.  A specialist diagnosed her with Meniere's disease and suggested she try a diuretic and reduce her salt intake to manage the build-up of fluid in her inner ear.

Over the years, Berg's hearing loss fluctuated constantly between bad and very bad. She struggled to hear her children, even with hearing aids, and gave up making phone calls. Berg often withdrew or pretended to hear to avoid aggravating people. "I've probably lost a few conversations with my children because I would pretend I could hear them sometimes, but now I can actually hear them and actually listen to what they have to say without struggling."

She was thrilled her hearing had improved but admitted feeling "a little bitter". "I feel a little bit annoyed no one picked up on this earlier that maybe my life would have been different now. "We need more research and maybe better ways to diagnose this so I don't feel like I'm lost in the wilderness here, having to fend for myself."

Otago University's Dunedin School of Medicine associate professor and ENT specialist Patrick Dawes said hearing loss disorders could be very challenging to diagnose as many had similar symptoms.  "The whole thing can get somewhat confused so quite a lot of people are told they have Meniere's by a doctor and the diagnosis is probably mistaken."

A diagnosis is made after an analysis of the patient's history and symptoms. There is no definitive physiological test to determine a diagnosis for many disorders.  Dawes said it would be unusual for Meniere's disease to be mistaken for ETD but it was possible for someone to have both conditions at once and for ETD to go undiagnosed.  He said a nasal spray could work to reduce swelling in the lining of the nose and increase air flow to the blocked eustachian tube at the back of the nose.

Southland Times, 2 October 2017. Taken from an article by Cate Broughton,

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