4/06/18

Sudden hearing loss leads to tech-aided transformation

Brenda Wagy at left suffered sudden hearing lossFor most, using a blow dryer isn’t a life-altering experience. But for Brenda Wagy (at left), it was. Last January, during her usual morning routine, Wagy realized she couldn’t hear out of her right ear.

“I panicked. My husband Scott took me to the emergency room that day,” said Wagy, who lives in Newton.

Rapid hearing loss can be debilitating. Without Carle’s expertise, Wagy’s story may not have been one of success. 

“Sudden hearing loss is a problem that requires urgent intervention,” said Carle otolaryngologist Ryan Porter, MD. “Early treatment leads to better outcomes. The patient is more likely to recover. If a patient calls us experiencing hearing loss like this, Carle tries to schedule them as soon as possible, typically within 24-48 hours.”

Often stealthy technology is part of the solution.

“With her diagnosis, conventional hearing aids would not be the best solution,” Porter said. “She opted for the Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA), an osteo-integrated hearing device. The implant carries the sound from the hearing ear to the non-hearing ear through bone conduction.”

Wagy discussed her options with Brent Pearman, PA, and audiologist Kristine Herrman.

Brenda Wagy in selfie with her husband“At a later appointment, I wore a portable BAHA to get a feel of what it would be like if I got an implant,” Wagy said. “I sat in the sound booth and cried because I could hear again.”

Wagy was thrilled to find a solution.

“Scott and I were so excited. When the Carle team told us the BAHA was an option, I asked, ‘How soon can I get it?’” Wagy said. “I was initially worried about insurance coverage, but they called the day after I submitted the claim. I was approved for the procedure, and we set a date.”

In May, Dr. Porter and his team implanted the BAHA.

“Patients can use a lot of accessories, like Bluetooth, because they’re often compatible with the implant. Some BAHAs also work with Apple’s iPhone technology. So if Brenda wants to listen to music, she can do so through her implant. No one can even tell,” Dr. Porter said.

Before the solutions, Wagy worked her way through several challenges.

Her local emergency room initially diagnosed her with a sinus infection and gave her antibiotics.

But then, her symptoms got worse.

“Within a few days, I started experiencing intense vertigo,” Wagy said. “It was scary because everything was spinning. I couldn’t walk very well, and I couldn’t speak normally. I also experienced nystagmus, which is rapid movement of the eyes.” 

Wagy, determined to get answers, turned to social media. She posted asking for advice, and one of her Facebook friends directed her to Carle.

“I called Dr. Porter’s office right away,” Wagy said.

Brenda Wagy with family and friendsAfter hearing and balance testing, Carle diagnosed Wagy with Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss, likely caused by a virus. She later learned her balance issues were a result of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a severe form of vertigo from a problem with the inner ear.

“It turns your world upside down when you lose your hearing, even if it’s only in one ear. But the technology was a Godsend,” said Wagy, a title company manager. “I have a couple of accessories to help with my hearing, so I’m better able to do my job. I can still enjoy things.

“I was worried about missing out on big events, like my son’s baseball games and my daughter’s wedding. But now, I don’t have to.”

If you have concerns about hearing loss, please seek help right away or call (217) 383-3130 so Carle can provide high-quality guidance and care.