More alternative therapy: Part 1 – skin popping included!

My consultation with the maxillofacial doctor, which by this time was 6 weeks previous, had concluded with her recommending some treatments for me to try. One of her recommendations was that I embark upon some craniofacial rehabilitation. This is a form of physiotherapy that can help temporomandibular (TMJ) (jaw joint) disorders, by using a variety of methods; understanding the relationship between the neck and shoulders, and the head and the TMJ.

This would be yet another alternative method I would try, to see if the pressure in my ear could be reduced, by addressing issues with my jaw. At this point in my story I was continuing to see my chiropractor, who was also doing jaw adjustments. I was also wearing my new night guard to help with my teeth clenching and grinding, whilst sleeping. Maybe this new therapy would complement the other things I was trying.

I had come to terms with the fact that the hearing in my left ear wasn’t going to return, and I was developing strategies to manage my life with unilateral hearing. However, I wasn’t prepared to accept that I would have to live the rest of my life with the constant discomfort of the feeling of pressure in my ears. The doctors had been unable to provide me with any medical-based relief, and so there was nothing to lose by seeking alternative help.

I arrived at the clinic on a Tuesday morning in May, and quickly found myself sitting in yet another waiting room. It was early in the day and I was the first person waiting. The clinic had a clean feel to it. There where white walls, and a light coloured wooden floor. In front of where I was sitting was a light wooden coffee table, with a white candle placed in the middle. Also on the table was a small metal tray in which sat an ornament of a Buddha, alongside some incense sticks. On the wall opposite me was a circular logo, with an outline of a head pictured sideways-on. Above the head, were the words ‘Integrative Craniofacial therapy’. To the right of me, hung a small print of one of Picasso’s paintings; adding a slight touch of lively colour to the otherwise sterile-white wall. Around the room were a variety of different sized leafy pot plants; some small, and perched on top of shelves, and some bigger and nestling into the corners of the building. The feeling of serenity was complete when the music speakers were turned on; initiating the low and warm tones of Nina Simone singing jazz, that floated around the clinic.

First I met the main specialist. I immediately recognized him from the website, and I believe it was he who had originally set up the practice. He asked lots of questions. This initial meeting was conducted at swift pace and with seemingly professional efficiency. He asked me questions about my general health, my diet, whether I was stressed, and about my sleeping patterns. He didn’t seem surprised when I told him about my sudden hearing loss. He scribbled down notes in scrawled handwriting. He felt around my neck and jaw and asked me to open and close my mouth a few times. He said I have issues with my TMJ muscle. He then took me to the room adjacent, where I met another practitioner, this time a woman.

The woman spoke in English and gave me a lot of explanation about what my treatment would consist of. She explained how first she would work on my lower back, and then gradually work upwards towards my neck and face. She began by massaging outwards from my spine. I sat in my underwear, on the edge of a massage table in front of a mirror. I watched as she worked her way up to between my shoulder blades. The therapist was very friendly and seemed to be using her time with me as an opportunity to practise her English speaking skills; which I was very happy about, as it meant that I was able to relax and forget any language-based stress. Whilst I was gazing into the mirror, focusing on nothing in particular, she told me she could see (without touching me) that there was inflammation on the left side of my jaw. I glanced up and looked at my face in the mirror. I could see the inflammation too. I had seen it in my reflection since the day I’d lost my hearing. Yet I couldn’t recall if there had been swelling there before my hearing loss.

I was then asked to lie down on my stomach, on the massage table. She started pulling at my skin around the base of my spine. As she pulled there was an occasional loud popping sound. This was a new experience that no amount of massages enjoyed and endured whilst living in Thailand could have prepared me for. It was quite a painful and uncomfortable experience, yet was also quite satisfying – like tension was being forced away from my back with every pop. The practitioner explained that she was releasing my skin from the bone.

I asked the practitioner if she’d ever seen anyone who’d suddenly lost their hearing. She said she had. She said she had seen people with all sorts of problems: problems with facial muscles, problems with senses, neck problems etc… The walls around the small massage room were decorated with posters. The posters were diagrams of the mouth and teeth. The posters showed the connection between the ears, nose and throat. The posters showed how issues with the neck can affect other parts of the body and face. Hmm, these were all familiar issues.

I then asked the practitioner more directly if she thought my jaw problems could be connected to my hearing loss. She immediately replied, “Yes”, as though it was a question that didn’t require any thinking time to answer. She then quickly added, “But obviously I don’t know what’s going on inside the ear…” When I told her that my MRI scan results had been normal, that there was no virus, that my blood tests had been normal, and that the doctors couldn’t explain my hearing loss, she said, “Well, if they don’t know, then 99 percent I think it could be connected to your jaw.” She also mentioned some other possible attributing factors including stress, serotonin levels, and hormones.

After about half an hour of massage, the woman left the room and the original guy returned…

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Action On Hearing Loss Fundraising campaign

Hello blogging friends!

I am taking another short pause from my story to share something with you all that I am so happy about.

A few months ago I was contacted by the UK charity Action On Hearing Loss. They wanted to know if I would be happy for them to use my sudden hearing loss story as part of a fundraising campaign. Of course I say ‘yes’! I spoke to them about my experiences and they asked me lots of questions about how I had lost my hearing and how this has changed my life. During the last few months, they have been writing a letter about me and my experiences, and also outlining the type of research the money raised will fund.

The aim of the project is to develop a new way of getting drugs into the inner ear more effectively than the current method of injection through the eardrum. With the injection, very little of the drug gets through, and the treatment is rarely successful. This is because the inner ear is very difficult to reach. The project is developing a ‘magnetic injection’, whereby tiny iron particles can be used as carriers to deliver drugs to where they are needed. The team has developed a system which uses a magnetic field to ‘inject’ drug-carrying particles across inner ear membranes and into parts of the ear that are not normally accessible.

This could enable effective treatment of people with sudden hearing loss, as well as other types of hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo.

Today the letters for the research appeal are being mailed to the charities supporters!

Here is a link to the webpage for online donations for you to take a look at:

https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/you-can-help/donate/sudden-hearing-loss-treatments/

I am so happy that I have been able to get involved with something that means so much to me. I really hope that enough money will be raised, and hopefully one day a treatment will be available for people who experience sudden hearing loss 🙂

Dentist mission: part 2

… A few days after my first Spanish dentist experience, I was back in the brown waiting room, waiting to be seen by the little dentist.

When I entered the dentist’s room, he greeted me again with a muffle. His younger assistant was also present, and looked keen to begin part 2 of my dentist journey. I had thought that maybe my mouth guard would be ready, but I was told they needed to take some more measurements before making it, in order to make sure it would fit my mouth properly.

The measurements were extensive. First I had to sit with a small cotton roll between my front teeth, and I was told not to close my mouth. I didn’t quite understand why I was doing this – something to do with my jaw muscles. I was accustomed to doing things by now, just because I’d been asked to, blindly obeying specialists’ instructions, unsure of what they were doing or why. I sat for some time with what was basically a small tampon between my teeth! My jaw muscles started to spasm, and my teeth felt like they were shaking.

The dentist melted some small pieces of blue mold in a metal heating basin. The basin was the size of a tissue box, and was filled with what I assumed was water. This blue mold was different to the pink putty which had been used previously to take impressions of my teeth, and was instead a soft plastic-type material with a texture similar to toffee. Imprints of my front teeth and back teeth on both sides were taken one at a time, in three stages. During each stage my translator gave me clumsy instructions in a mixture of American English and Spanish, as to what to do with my mouth. The blue hard gums were placed in my mouth and I had to bite down on them, and then cold water was sprayed from thin tubes into my mouth, followed by cold streams of air; to set the gums in shape. Next came more measurements.

I was asked to open my mouth as wide as possible, and a rectangular metal plate the width of my mouth was forcefully inserted so that it filled the whole of my mouth cavity. Attached to the plate was more gum-type substance, this time a red colour. An imprint of my teeth was made by me biting down onto the gums, and then the metal plate was removed. The next contraption featured stethoscope-style ear plugs that I had to insert into my ears, whilst the dentist moved the attached metal arms of the device around to my forehead. He used a screwdriver to slightly tighten the arms in place. My entire head was encased inside these metal arms. Then came the finale. For the final measurement I had to open wide again and the metal plate was again inserted. The ear buds and head-hugging metal armed contraption was also moved into place. I sat in the chair unable to move my mouth that was full of metal, and with my head imprisoned by the metallic arms. Yet another moment in my story of looking completely ridiculous! The buds were forced tightly into my ears and I bit down on the plate as they pushed it upwards. The dental technician lifted the ear part and the dentist used his screw driver at the same time to tighten all the screws in the device. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a more comfortable way of taking these measurements, such as using a laser… ‘Ya!’ I heard the dentist say – ‘finished’. I carefully removed the ear part of the facial device and handed it to the dentist, and he took the contraption to the side counter and wrote down all the measurements.

During my time sitting in the dentist chair, the dentist and the technician had been chatting continuously. It seemed like the younger of the two was trying to pursue a conversation about a trip he’d recently been on, whereas the older was intent on explaining the measurement procedures to him, step by step.

Oh, but they hadn’t finished. The doctor was concerned about my jaw. I hadn’t mentioned anything about my jaw to him, or the fact that I had suddenly lost my hearing nearly 8 months ago. They only knew that I was deaf in one ear and that I needed a new night guard. The dentist was explaining and gesturing to the younger, and was pointing to parts of my mouth as he mumbled insistently. I heard the Spanish word, ‘articulación’ – which I thought meant ‘movement’, but when I later translated it, I found it meant ‘joint’. The little dentist spent some time feeling my jaw joints again. He asked me to open and close my mouth, and to move my bottom jaw forwards. He then asked his companion to stand opposite me and I had to smile widely at him as he observed me. I felt a bit like an animal in a zoo, or some kind of unusual specimen to be prodded and observed. I think they were talking about the deviation of my teeth and jaw. I hadn’t previously told them any information about the maxillofacial specialist in the hospital…maybe next time I would tell them more of my story. But at the moment I was impressed with how thorough they were being with their observations. The little dentist seemed interested in finding out more, and in trying to help me. He was obviously extremely knowledgeable in his specialism.

They would send my measurements to the laboratory, so that my night guard could be made. I was to wait for them to call me, and would return in about 10 days to have it fitted. They also wanted to do another x-ray of my jaw, which they described as a cross-section, so they could see what was ‘going on in there’. The dentist shook my hand, taking his mask off to say goodbye, and he gave me a friendly and almost a humble smile.

I ended up returning to the dentist before I received their phone call. About a week after I had been measured for my mouth guard, one of my back teeth broke, of course it was on my left side. It had broken due to my teeth clenching – a clear sign I was in need of the mouth guard. This was also strong evidence to the amount of pressure I must have been putting on the left side of my face.

Let’s see if wearing a night guard helps reduce some of the pressure in my ears…

Dentist mission part 1

I was sitting in a waiting room, waiting for an appointment to get a new night guard for my teeth. The type of mouth guard I needed was similar to the ones that boxers or rugby players wear to protect their teeth. This type of dental guard however is custom made, in order to fit individual mouths comfortably. I had been aware of grinding and clenching my teeth whilst sleeping, for at least 15 years, and had recently been waking up in the middle of the night with my teeth clenched tightly together. It was as though my subconscious was intervening and was now warning me when my teeth were engaged in this habit.

I already owned a mouth guard which I wore on my bottom teeth, and which had been made over 10 years ago, when I lived in England. I had worn this guard on and off for many years. In the past, when I went to the dentist, the only question I was ever asked about the guard was whether or not I had one. Nobody ever asked me how old it was. It had been expensive to have made, and I never thought about getting another one. It was only recently after my consultation with the Maxillofacial doctor; who seemed confounded that I had been using the same guard for over 10 years without having it adjusted, checked or replaced, that I realized perhaps I should get a new one. Of course, our faces change with age, as do or jaws and teeth.

The relationship between teeth grinding and clenching, and problems with the temporomandibular jaw joint (TMJ) causing problems with the ear are well documented. Curious that this connection was never mentioned by any of the many ear specialists I had consulted with. Typical symptoms of a TMJ disorder include ‘hearing loss, an earache, tinnitus, a sense of ear fullness, and vertigo’. Hmm I had experienced all of these, and continued to do so with all except the vertigo. I had even read stories of people who had suffered a hearing loss, and then after wearing a night guard for some months, their hearing had gradually returned. I was not hoping for this kind of miracle, but I did have some optimism that a new night guard could help reduce some of the pressure I was feeling in my ears and my head; this being the most difficult of my symptoms to tolerate.

The dentist surgery was in an old style apartment block. The waiting room felt as though it was probably once someone’s living room, many years ago. The room was square and dark padded sofa chairs lined three of the walls. There were no windows, and the walls were a plain dismal-cream colour. Around the bottom of the walls was dark brown skirting. There was a dark coffee table, situated in the space made between the chairs, with Spanish magazines arranged on top, in three piles. It was simply decorated, with two large framed pictures, one on each chair-lined wall. In the far corner, situated up high, near the entrance was a small box TV playing a Spanish soap opera with subtitles and low volume. As well as the low rumble from the TV, jingly-sounding elevator style music attempted to liven up the atmosphere. The surgery had looked so clean and white on the photos on the website. This definitely did not resemble the sterile and shiny images that had been advertised.

The receptionist called me to her office to speak with her. She had a confident, sociable and easy going attitude. I stumbled my way through the general health questions and she corrected my Spanish a few times, each time smiling with friendliness. She was the kind of person who made me feel like she immediately liked me. Perhaps it was the child-like Spanish I was speaking to her. For this appointment I hadn’t prepared any Spanish phrases or helpful vocabulary. I had become accustomed to meeting new specialists, doctors and receptionists, and the taking of basic details didn’t feel too scary anymore. I then went to sit back in the waiting room.

Shortly I was greeted by the guy with whom I had spoken on the phone, who had given me an appointment within 45 minutes of me phoning. He was younger than me, and spoke to me in a mixture of Spanish and American-sounding English, as he lead me to the dentists room. When I entered, I was met by a small old man, who was wearing a medical face mask, dentist overalls, glasses with magnifying mirrors attached, and whose bald head was covered in age spots. He muffled a greeting through his mask, and I wondered what he looked like under the medical disguise. He resembled a little mole, as he shuffled calmly around the room. He asked me why I was there and whether I had had a ‘ferula’ before. Ferula is the Spanish word for mouth guard – this was my new medical Spanish word of the day. He asked me to perform some jaw movements as he felt around my head and under my jawline. He also examined my teeth. He mumbled constantly into his face mask, directing his speech towards his companion. I could only hear and understand a little of what he was saying. The younger dental technician spoke to me in his broken American English and explained that they would need to do an X-ray to make sure the night guard would fit properly, and then they would be able to do the molds of my teeth. After that, the dentist left the room, and that was the last time I saw him during this appointment. The dental technician took me to a room to have the X-ray. Later he filled my mouth with pink putty to form the molds, chatting happily at me whilst my mouth was unable to move. I would return the following week…