A Laughing Matter
There’s nothing funny about profound hearing loss or other life-altering ear conditions … unless that’s how you cope with debilitating ear problems.
“We laugh at it a lot actually,” says Sherry Hudson, of her family’s experience with her hearing loss and multiple inner ear conditions. “They call me by mother’s name. My mother’s name was Edna … and if I complain of different things, like my Tinnitus or my vertigo, they’ll say, ‘Oh, here she goes, it’s Edna again.’ So we do laugh at it.
“I do ask people to repeat a lot when I’m at home … I’m always asking, ‘What? What did you say?’”
A positive attitude – despite suffering from Meniere’s Disease, Tinnitus, Tensor Tympani, and hearing loss – is how Sherry and the whole Hudson family cope.
“I’ve always had issues with my ears and I’ve always had some form of hearing loss,” she says, noting that all her six brothers also have some form of hearing loss. “My mom was almost totally deaf and had Meniere’s Disease. She passed away at 89. She only had maybe 10 to 15 per cent hearing left in one ear. So I think I inherited all her genes.”
Rare Condition, Common Solutions
Sherry and her family are one of four families in Newfoundland known to have a specific type of genetic hearing issue called Otosclerosis, where bone tissue in the middle ear grows around the stapes preventing it from moving and sound travelling into the ear. She’s made several lifestyle changes to cope in her daily life with the Tinnitus – or ringing – in her right ear and the Tensor Tympani – a vibration of the eardrum – in her left ear.
About 12 years ago she had a stapedectomy (replacing a tiny inner ear bone with a plastic one) on her right ear. It improved her hearing significantly, and she’s hoping to have the same on her left. Sherry uses a special headset to hear when on the phone at work, has learned Brandt-Daroff Exercises to reduce the vertigo from Meniere’s, and sleeps propped up on two pillows; naturally waking herself up if she turns to the right in her sleep – preventing a Meniere’s attack.
“I’ve got so much stuff going on with my ears, but what do you do? You kind of have to learn coping mechanisms,” she says, offering advice to anyone who has their first, often sudden attack of Meniere’s. “Try not to be scared, because it is very, very scary. … I would tell them to research it and try and find what works for them.”
She’s learned to cut out the caffeine, reduce the amount of salt she eats, and get plenty of rest, as these can exacerbate the Tensor Tympani.
“When you have a buzzing on your right side, and you have a Tensor Tympani on your left side; that will drive you crazy, let me tell you!”
Turn Down the Isolation
Sherry’s also enlisted the help of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Newfoundland and Labrador, where she’s attended a couple meetings of the Meniere’s and Tinnitus resource group, and recently purchased a special headset for watching TV.
“That was one of the things that my family found difficult, I had to have the TV really, really loud and that’s annoying for them because I can’t hear it,” she says of the headset. “Not only do I love it, but my husband loves it too!”
Sherry knows there is no cure for her multiple issues, but the best medicine is her positive attitude and the learned ability to ignore many of the symptoms.
“I’ve kind of made up my mind that this is my thing to deal with, but there’s so many people out there that have way bigger problems than that,” she says. “If you have to make some changes, do some little things to make life easier for me and even the people around me, then that’s what you have to do.”
Sherry does worry her children will have some hearing issues because of the genetic disorder and her oldest son, currently 29, is going to be getting his hearing tested soon. She hopes if any of her children do have hearing loss, they’ll have learned from her experience.
“My mother was 89 years old and I learned from her. I think because she always had a positive attitude, even though she had hearing loss from when she was a small child, and she was almost totally deaf when she passed away and she never ever complained,” she says. “If you let it bother you, or let it get you down and you can – because hearing is such an important part of your life – … but I think you just got to work around it. Find what works for you, make some changes, stay as positive as you can.”
Sherry copes with her Otosclerosis day-to-day, but sometimes she’s willing to suffer a little.
“If I’ve eaten a chocolate bar I know I’m going to get Tensor Tympani. But if I focus on it, I know it’s going to get so much worse,” she says, adding that sometimes it’s just worth it. “I love chocolate. I love chocolate so much, and sometimes I break down.”
If you suffer from Meniere’s, Tinnitus or other hearing issues, the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Newfoundland and Labrador is there, offering support through groups, guest speakers, and awareness. Reach out to discover a positive supportive community.