(reposted due to problem with first post)
I suffered many bouts of vertigo over the next couple of years, events so sudden and violent that they would cause me to fall to the floor. Some of these ‘drop attacks’ were quite scary. Following an episode, I would sleep for 12 or more hours, waking up exhausted and foggy the next day. I tried medication, but the Meclizine made me groggy, the diuretics had no noticeable effect, and the Valium only seemed to take the edge off of the anxiety I experienced with an attack. It was miserable and frightening and hard to explain. One MD patient described vertigo like getting really drunk and then getting on a carnival ride. Sounds fun, huh?
My equilibrium was in constant flux; some days I would walk holding the wall to keep me from tipping over, and some days my horizon would shift and I had to tilt my head to the side to compensate. Even on days with no vertigo, I never felt ‘right’ – it’s hard to explain, but it was almost like I was always in suspense, waiting for my next round of extreme spinning and nausea. My drop attacks had been coming around once a month for quite a while, but it was unnerving when I didn’t know what to expect, or when.
Meniere’s disease can go into remission for weeks, months, or even years; unpredictability is its nature. Finally, just as suddenly as they had begun, the vertigo episodes stopped. It is an uneasy pause, though, because I don’t know if or when it will return. I still have what I call ‘the woozies,’ where I get what feels like the precursor to a vertigo attack, but the vertigo never comes. My eyes stop focusing, my balance seems to leap, and mentally, I fade. Sometimes my ears feel full, like I need to yawn to make them pop, but they won’t clear. These symptoms are very common with Meniere’s sufferers.
Hearing loss associated with this disorder is generally at low frequencies, or sometimes at both low and high frequencies. Couple that with my existing mid-range loss, and I knew I was in trouble. I began to worry about total deafness.
I found myself struggling more and more to hear people talking to me. I hated to use the phone, I tried to avoid crowds, and I relied on the closed-captioning option on my television. I complained to no one in particular that people were mumbling; and I started to rely on the ‘smile and nod’ to get me through conversations I couldn’t hear, rather than continually asking the speaker to repeat himself. I’m sure that sometimes I appeared uninterested in a group conversation; people who didn’t know about my hearing might have thought I was rude or not paying attention to them.
I knew I was missing a lot of things: my husband and sons would summon me to the porch to hear the frogs, or crickets, or owls, or coyotes in the night. Rarely did I hear them. The rain would have to be coming down in buckets before I could hear it from indoors. I missed a lot of jokes and conversation because I could not keep up, and I didn’t want to ask and expose my disability.
Sometimes, I just wanted to be by myself with my silence; it was so much easier than straining to hear, and mis-hearing anyway. Often my mistakes in hearing were pretty funny; the difference between what I thought I heard and what was actually said could be quite amusing. I remembered Pa doing the same thing, and suddenly, it wasn’t as funny as I thought. We would all laugh, but he was doing the best he could, and now, so was I.
Continued in Part III…