Preventing Hearing Loss

It can happen overnight. You go to bed with normal hearing and wake up nearly deaf. Within weeks you may lose your hearing altogether. There is no cure for autoimmune inner ear disease, but there may be a way to slow it down.

Lisa hears the same tone we do, but it sounds different in her ears. In her right ear she hears constant static. Her left feels like she’s under water. Much of her hearing vanished overnight.

Lisa says, “I just thought maybe there was wax in my ear, or maybe it was pressurized, and eventually it would pop.”

The damage is deep within her ear. Lisa has AIED, or autoimmune inner ear disease. Her immune system is attacking her inner ear. It mistakenly thinks there’s a virus or bacterium there.

Jennifer Derebery, M.D., an otologist at the House Ear Clinic, Inc., in Los Angeles, Calif., says, “It starts to attack normal tissue, and it will release a lot of inflammatory chemicals. They can damage the tissue.”

Lisa’s best hope is the chemotherapy drug, methotrexate. She and others nationwide are participating in testing of the drug on AIED. Cancer patients were the first to notice an added benefit.

Dr. says, “Many of those who had other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis had those symptoms improve while on it.”

The three-year study will include blood tests that may explain what brings on this disease virtually overnight.

Lisa and her husband, Don, know this drug may not improve her hearing. Yet even if it saves what little she has left, it will help them keep communicating.

Researchers say the drug can potentially cause liver toxicity, hair loss and loss of appetite, but they say these are reversible when treatment with the drug is stopped or decreased.

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