Good Vibrations, Bad Virus
After Covid ravaged my hearing, Dr. Babak Sadoughi came to the rescue with his scalpel.
This is just a quick follow up to Sunday’s story about losing my hearing from a recent Covid infection as well as a cautionary tale about complacency, both on the Covid front and on the seeking-help-from-a-doctor front.
First, let’s deal with this newest strain of Covid: BA.5, to put it mildly, is not messing around. Some experts are likening it to coming down with viral meningitis. Eric Topol, whose missives you should definitely follow on Substack, calls it the “worst version of the virus we’ve seen yet” and writes, “With the extent of BA.5’s immune evasion and the recent trends of lowered vaccine effectiveness vs severe disease…it would not be at all surprising to me to see further decline of protection against hospitalizations and deaths.” Hospitalizations and deaths, people. Be careful out there.
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The NIH is warning that, like viral meningitis, BA.5 can cross the blood-brain barrier and damage the brain:
“SARS-CoV-2 infection can trigger the production of immune molecules that damage cells lining blood vessels in the brain, causing platelets to stick together and form clots. Blood proteins also leak from the blood vessels, leading to inflammation and the destruction of neurons.”
But back to my ears. For six days, I lived in relative silence. I say relative because after a day or two of being on a steroid, I could hear, if faintly, some stuff: voices on the phone, but only if I wore my AirPods; the bang of fireworks, albeit faint, even when they were blowing up illegal ones on my block; music, but only if I wanted to listen to it with intense static plus—this made me sad—every song was off tune. No matter how deep the singer’s voice, it sounded as if the song were being sung on a poorly tuned AM radio by a tone deaf chipmunk with laryngitis. Worse, the atonality of the notes was so bad, music wasn’t even worth listening to it. Music hurt my soul rather than soothing it. (If you’ve ever been to a five-year-old’s violin recital, you’ll know what I mean.)
Enter Dr. Babak Sadoughi, miracle worker. Dr. Sadoughi, the James A. Moore Clinical Scholar in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Weill Cornell, specializes in treating complex voice, throat, and upper airway disorders. He also helped build the Sean Parker Institute for the Voice from the ground up. He was the one who’d immediately sent me the prescription for Methylprednisolone, a steroid, which at least gave me back some hearing and cleared some of the blockage in my ears. Meanwhile, should you find yourself going deaf from your body’s immune response to BA.5, the faster you start taking the steroid, apparently, the better. Time is of the essence.
After undergoing a standard hearing test, I visited Dr. Sadoughi in his office. He blew air in and out of my ears with one of his many instruments and said my left eardrum was not moving at all. Would I be up for minor surgery? Anything, I said, to feel less pressure in my Eustachian tubes and hear again.
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