Why Self-Treatment and Diagnosis Can Be Detrimental
The internet has made everyone think they are an expert on everything, including their own health. One search on Google and suddenly you’re certain you have a rare autoimmune disease that only 1 in 1 million people get when you really have a common cold. Similar to how you shouldn’t rely on Google for a diagnosis, you shouldn’t rely on Google or friends and family for a hearing loss diagnosis or treatment. Going to an audiologist to have your hearing tested and then properly treated can be critical to your health. Sometimes, the reason for your hearing loss can be part of a bigger health issue that an audiologist can spot and recommend the best course of action.
A life-saving hearing test
Recently, I had a patient come in who was wearing hearing aids that were handed down from a friend. This, in of itself is something I do not recommend because not all hearing aids are the same, and they might not be the right fit for your condition. Hearing aids must be fitted and adjusted to each individual person. This patient thought he just needed these particular hearing aids adjusted. Of course, I did a full evaluation of the patient and found that he had moderate hearing loss in only one ear. He continued to tell me that he had been involved in a car accident prior to his appointment and attributed the hearing loss to the impact. He also mentioned he was having balance problems. It was then that I referred him to an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor (ENT) for an MRI. I adjusted his hearing aid and sent him on his way.
After 4 months of putting off the appointment with the ENT, he finally decides to go. The ENT found a huge acoustic neuroma, a tumor, that had to come out immediately. Normally, these neuromas are slow growing and don’t need to be taken out right away. However, in this patient’s case, it was larger than normal and was having an effect on his hearing, balance and sight, therefore, it needed to be removed immediately. The ENT referred him to a clinic in Los Angeles that specializes in removing tumors of the head and neck. What is typically a 3 to 4-hour surgery took 10 hours, and afterward, he ended up in the ICU due to additional complications. He is recovering now, but it was a lot bigger deal than he had originally thought.
The moral of this story? If this patient had not come in for a hearing aid adjustment and had continued to self-treat and self-diagnose, it could have been life-threatening. As an audiologist, I was able to detect something was off and refer him to the proper people to treat him, which ultimately saved his life.