Running derailed by an ear

Last August, my running was delayed by a health issue, I’ve been reluctant to discuss it. Wasn’t sure how much, if any information I wanted to share….

I was training for the Beijing marathon last summer. I was feeling good, felt pretty fit and on the edge of starting my training segment of the long runs (LR), runs greater than 14 miles. On August 18th, I ran a standard hour, 6ish miles, early in the morning. I clearly recall, taking a shower after this run and suddenly feeling intense pressure in my ear canal. Felt like my ears needed to ‘pop’, like when traveling on a plane. I tried but could not pop my ears. The day before I had felt like I was getting a cold but didn’t have a cold on this day.

A few hours later, the pressure continued. I discovered I could not hear, with my right ear. Figured it was just the pressure. The pressure was still pretty intense so in the late afternoon, I called a local doctor and made an appointment for the next day. I was hoping I had a strong build up of wax and the doctor could quickly solve this riddle by removing the wax.

The next day the hearing loss and pressure continued and at the appointment, the doctor could not find any wax build up. He tested me several times with a variety of strength tests. We shook hands, had me squeeze his hand, pushed his hand against my hands and also did some balancing tests. I passed all the tests. No problems, which is good because he explained sudden, severe hearing loss is sometimes related to a stroke. And since my strength was normal, I “likely” had not suffered a stroke. He didn’t have an answer to why I lost my hearing and suggested seeing an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor asap. My level of concern rose when he offered to make the appointment for me, the next day. The MD also suggested seeing a second ENT since the ‘better’ ENT doesn’t work weekends.

So, the next day I saw the first ENT. She wasn’t sure what caused the hearing loss and started a treatment of steroid via an IV. The likely source of the issue was a virus. The last thing she discussed was, “if you develop dizziness or nausea, get to the ER.” Since I had neither symptom, I didn’t worry about it.

In attempt to shorten this potential long story, here is a summary of the next few days and weeks:

  • the next day developed severe nausea, dizziness, vomited in neighbors car as they drove me to the ER. Fortunately, i asked for a ‘bucket’ before getting in the car. 🙂
  • Saw 2nd and a 3rd ENT in the next three days. Diagnosis remained severe sudden hearing loss (or Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL). Continued treatment of steriods, chinese vitamins via daily 3 hr IV treatment, for two weeks.
  • brain CAT scan found no blood clots.
  • Within a few days, the treating ENT first mentioned, “this is the most severe case I’ve seen, your hearing may not return”. WTF??? The next day, I booked a flight to Seattle and scheduled an appointment with a highly recommended ENT at the University of Washington.
  • Nausea cleared up quick, thank god. Dizziness started to fade but took over a week until my equilibrium was back to normal. Slowly walking around, by hanging on the wall, so I didn’t fall,  gets old fast.
  • No appetite led to rapid weight loss. After 7 days and loss of 10+ pounds, KW said “you’ve lost enough weight, you will eat.” Baked me a chocolate cake for my birthday, and I did eat it.
  • Traveled and spent 10 days in Seattle for treatments. After second treatment, this ENT agreed that the complete hearing loss in my right ear “likely” would not improve. Suggested look into hearing aid devices. WTF!!
  • On the positive side, the absence of dizziness encouraged me to start walking, then very slow jogging while still in Seattle. ENT granted jogging the green light, as long as it didn’t cause any dizziness. First snail pace jog around Green Lake, with no side effects was a true kodak moment. Back in August, when I couldn’t sit up without getting dizzy, didn’t think this day would happen so soon, if ever.
  • Returned to Beijing with my new hearing aide behind each ear and two new pairs of Brooks running shoes.

November first, was my new target day to get back on some kind of regular training schedule.




About Scott

Training to qualify for the Boston Marathon and simplify our life, as a stay at home dad.
This entry was posted in Beijing, marathon training, Medical, Seattle, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Running derailed by an ear

  1. Tim K says:

    Yikes. I was excited to see the 1/2 marathon posts from KW, but I didn’t know anything about your ear issue. What a bummer. Hope everything continues to get better. Take care!

  2. Scott says:

    Hello Tim. Thanks. How is the family? You all should come visit. btw, The extracycle is a huge hit here. People stop and stare.

    • Tim K says:

      We’re all good. Next year it’ll be two high-schoolers in the house, which is awesome on many levels. I won’t say no to a trip, but it’s not super likely with schedules these days and our big trip last summer (did I tell you we did some biking in Utrecht?). Say hi to your lovely fam!

      • Scott says:

        High schoolers? holy cow. Best of luck with all that. We’ll visit in July, hope to grab a pint and hear about your latest biking adventures. Fam says hello.

  3. Whaaaaaaat?!? That is crazy!! How common (or rare) is this???

  4. Scott says:

    This impacts about 5-20/100,000 persons per year. Mostly one ear. It is crazy but some people literally wake up deaf.

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