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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Disease Of The Eighth Nerve

Okay, so it's day seven on the antibiotics for my ear infections and the ringing is still with me. The doctor had told me that if day seven (today) rolled around and my ears were still ringing I needed to see a specialist (an ENT). To top it off, the paper he handed me had two boxes checked: one for infection of the middle ear and the other for tinnitus. I can make jokes all day long, but the reality is I don't want to spend the rest of my days with ringing ears.

Knowing that today was nigh approaching, I did what every good patient shouldn't do and went looking for information about tinnitus on the Internet. Do I need to admit right now that I wish I hadn't done that? Apparently, everything from high cholesterol, vitamin B deficiency, high blood pressure, ear disease, aneurysm, some constant meningeal fluid, and lets not forget insanity can be the cause of tinnitus. This is another one of those "ignorance is bliss" moments. I should have just taken that referral slip, made my appointment, and walked in saying, "Yeah, my ears are still ringing," and let him look with his ear scope thingy. But no, I thought I'd go look up symptoms and causes and see which ones I could rule out. I know which ones I want to rule out, but seeing as how most of them are silent killers, unknown to you without proper testing and exams, yeah... I did myself no favors here.

The best and most terrifying description came from a book titled, _Text-Book of Nervous Diseases_ by Charles Loomis Dana:

The disease attacks adults in middle or later life. Men and women are alike affected. Neuropathic constitutions and an unstable circulation favor it. The arterio-sclerosis of old age, cerebral aenemia and congestion, sunstroke, tobacco, and alcoholism lead to it. It occurs often in melancholia and in neurasthenia. Some local disease or congestion in the middle ear is usually present. Tinnitus also occurs in Brights disease, gout, and dyspepsia.
...Tinnitus accompanies insanity, sometimes, and may be the source of aural hallucinations. ...Despite the long list of causes, the chief factors may be summed up as neurasthenic states, local ear disease, humoral poisons and irritants, reflex irritants, arterio-sclerosis.

So, yeah... All of that was written under a large section titled "Diseases Of The Eighth Nerve" also known as the acoustic or space sense nerve. The best part about it, now that I've scared all of you (hopefully just as much as I scared myself, though I doubt it), I stopped giving that portion too much credit the moment I realized the book was published in 1898 (which explains the creepy Dr. Frankenstein tone of the writing, though I doubt he was a Mary Shelley fan). This is not to say that Dr. Charles doesn't have some points, I simply mean that I can't equate late 19th century medicine to early 21st century medicine. I will also say that the information I found aside from this had a little less fear attached to it.

Most made reference to possible cardiovascular causes, but in those cases the tinnitus is a pulsating sound (which I don't have) keeping up with the heart beat indicating something wrong with the carotids. The other possibilities are related to head injury (which I don't have), neck problems/pinched nerves (which is a possibility for me, since I refused to take the advice of the ergo guy at my office), jaw joint trouble, and middle ear infection/disease (which I have right now). The only one that truly scares me would be the cardiovascular case, but given the circumstance I'm in and that my blood pressure two seconds ago (no joke, I checked) was 104 over 69 I think I'm good.

There is, of course, the possibility that I'm one of the thousands of people that go the rest of my life with ringing ears and no one can figure out why. All of the sites, however, assure me that it isn't due to insanity. The tinnitus associated with insanity is the constant sound of voices talking to you. Of course, I take that with a grain of salt because if I ever publish any of the books I plan to, and if I happen to turn out to be the writer no one reads until after I'm dead, one of the things they will probably write in the "background about the author" section was that she was overcome with tinnitus sometime in her mid thirties and it was said her inspiration to write came from long bouts of insomnia and the constant voices in her head.

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