I Can Hear You Better Now

I stopped eating toast and cakes and pies, and I can hear you better now.

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Deafness runs in my family. My younger brother suffers considerable hearing loss. He has one daughter who is profoundly deaf and had to attend a special school. My older brother has been wearing hearing aids for twenty years. My “deafness” began quite abruptly.

We were on vacation, halfway between Tampa, FL and Ft. Worth, TX. I awoke in the hotel room on the second day of our vacation with a terrible ringing in my ears. I was alarmed. I wasn’t sure if it signaled high blood pressure, an inner ear infection, or . . . what?

After three hours and numerous tests in the local emergency ward, I was informed I had a condition known as tinnitus. Chronic ringing in the ears, for which the world of medicine had no known cause and no treatment or cure. I was devastated.

That was 15 years ago, when I was 45. Since then, I’ve learned to “ignore” the ringing, although sleeping can only take place if there is some kind of background noise (a fan or the like) to distract me. Last year I went for an official hearing test, and the audiologist concluded I had 40% loss in my right ear, and over 60% loss in my left. I was, very nearly, deaf.

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I resisted hearing aids (insurance won’t cover them) until my older brother donated his old ones to me when he upgraded. He took me to his audiologist, who tested me to adjust the aids to my deafness pattern. When I escaped from the “tank” where they test folks, I asked, “Did I pass?”

“You did fine,” he replied.

“So, I don’t really need this hearing aids?”

“Uh, no. You really need them.”

Hearing aids suck. They are uncomfortable, and amplify noises you don’t need to hear, while the sounds you want to hear remain muffled and too loud. The first time I wore them in a restaurant, I couldn’t make out what my brother was saying across the table. When a busboy dropped silverware into a bin across the room, my eardrums threatened to explode.

But when I stepped into the outside world, a wonderful realization hit me. I could hear birds tweeting in the trees. I hadn’t realized it, but it was a sound I hadn’t been able to hear for years.

I froze at the foot of the steps when I heard what sounded like a gigantic bee buzzing. In the next moment, a bicycle whizzed by on the street. I would never have heard that bicycle if not for the hearing aids.

Fast forward about a year. I will confess, I only wear my brother’s donated (and professionally adjusted to my hearing loss) hearing aids when I absolutely have to. They are still uncomfortable, and far from ideal when it comes to amplifying what I want to hear.

Four weeks ago, I started the Keto Diet. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is Atkins on steroids. The science behind the diet is sound and impressive (see www.drberg.com). The diet is based on the fact that our brains are fueled, not by sugar or carbohydrates, but by ketones. Ketones are the byproduct of metabolized fat. Just like our caveman forefathers, if we feed our bodies sufficient fat with a moderate amount of protein, we will thrive.

It is a proven fact that sugar (and elevated insulin levels) produce inflammation. This diet, bizarre though it may seem (to those, like me, who were sucking down fat-free, artificially sweetened treats back in the 1980s and 90s), is scientifically sound. The National Epilepsy Foundation is recommending this diet to those suffering from the syndrome: it reduces the occurrence and severity of seizures. It has been known to cure diabetes. The advantages go on and on.

But hearing loss? Can hearing loss possibly be reversed by eliminating carbohydrates from our diet?

I have found little, thus far, to substantiate my claim. I can only tell you that this week, while unlocking the door to the lab where I work, I took pause. What was that noise? That high-pitched sound I don’t usually hear (without the hearing aids)?

Bird song. I could hear the early morning bird song in the trees. No hearing aids.

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I came home that day and plopped down in my office chair. There are two aquariums in my office, the bubbling sound of which I am completely unaware of. Usually.

Absently, in the process of trying to read my email, I began the attempt to snatch the hearing aids out of my ears. The high-pitched bubbling whine was driving me crazy.

I wasn’t wearing my hearing aids.

In a few months, continuing on a low-carb diet, I intend to test my hypothesis by returning to my brother’s audiologist. I will have him retest my hearing loss pattern. Will it have improved? I guess only time will tell.

Our caveman ancestors survived to evolve. Without Wonder Bread or Twinkles or Coca Cola. I sometime wonder if we’d made it this far with these elements in our diet.

~~~

Claire Gem writes romance and supernatural romantic suspense. She imbues her characters with real-life challenges: her heroine in The Phoenix Syndrome goes deaf. Available in ebook, paperback, and coming soon in audiobook. Visit http://www.clairegem.com.

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