Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sensory Deprivation

Last week I got to experience four of my five sense suppressed at the same time! What fun!

Regular readers know that I've experienced significant hearing loss as a result of the Cisplatin chemotherapy. The first image in this post is the results of an audiogram (hearing test) on November 14th. The gray area is normal hearing in the population (although I'm not sure if or how it is adjusted for age). You can see that my hearing is normal up to about 2000 Hz. Then it drops of precipitously. That means I can no longer hear high-pitched sounds. An example I've mentioned before is the alarm on my wristwatch: I can't hear it all even if it is right next to my ear.

The hearing loss is caused by loss of outer hair cells in the cochlea (part of the inner ear). Apparently some patients recover part of their lost hearing, but from what I've read this is probably permanent.

Fortunately, mine is not a serious impairment. Music still sounds reasonably good. The main difficulties are hearing conversations when there is a lot of background noise, and difficulty distinguishing digraphs ("th", "ph", "sh", "ch", etc.) and other sounds in speech.

The latter leads to some pretty funny "interpretations" of things I hear Wonderful Wife and The Progeny say at home. I'll have to try to keep track of some examples. Here's one: at dinner Wonderful Wife usually asks The Progeny, "Tell me two good things about your day." One evening I heard it as, "Tell me stupid things about your day."

Now I ask them the latter question at dinner.

So that's one suppressed sense.

Two weeks ago I started having eye pain in the morning when I woke up. I tried to ignore it but four days into it I saw my ENT for a routine follow-up and he said "get thee to an eye doctor." When I did so, I didn't quite catch the diagnosis (the eye doctor has an unusual manner and speech patterns) but part of it was iritis. Sure enough, if you read that link I had all the symptoms.

It's not clear if the iritis is in any way related to recent cancer. It's possible that I still have slightly compromised immune function but who knows.

One of the symptoms of iritis is an irregularly shaped pupil. You can see that in the photo. That irregularity is caused by two things: excess tension in the iris (it is "clenched"); and inflammation that "sticks" points of the iris to the lens.

I was put on a week of two different drops and an ointment. One of the drops is the one they use to dilate your eye at the ophthalmologist. Yup, I had a dilated eye 24/7 for five days. A joy. The other drops, which I used 6 times a day, were a combination of a steroid and an antibiotic.

I went back for followup and he said the little scars pinning the iris had been successfully broken up. I was able to stop the dilating drops (which relax the iris).

So that's two senses.

The third is taste. You know the story there. Although I have to report maybe a very slight improvement.

Wonderful Wife makes a delicious cornbread. She says it might as well be called cake. It's sweet and wonderful. However, since my taste changes it has not been wonderful. It has tasted like chemicals. It was like all I could taste was the baking powder.

But tonight I tried it again and it actually tasted somewhat like cornbread! Of course, I had drenched it in butter and honey. But it didn't taste bad! In fact, I ate three pieces of it.

It's also encouraging that I ate something bread-ish. Most bread-like things are too dry (or have been). I still had to wash it down with plenty of liquid, but I was able to do so easily.

So, taste still seriously affected but maybe slightly improving.

Finally, the fourth suppressed sense: at the end of the week in which I got the eye infection I also came down with a cold. So I lost my sense of smell, too. That didn't do my sense of taste any favors.

The worst part was when my nose would become congested while sleeping and I would start breathing through my mouth. I would wake up with my mouth completely dry. It's already dry enough; I didn't need enhancement.

Yes, I was using a humidifier.

It's now 10 days since my cold started and I'm on the tail end of it. I still have some congestion but it's getting better. The cough reminds me of the cough I had during treatment.

I now have a couple of those senses back. My eye no longer hurts and I can mostly smell again. I'm almost back to "normal".

No comments:

Post a Comment