The continuing story of the Massachusetts school teacher on medical leave after 34 years at a job she loved.
Summer break came and Ann Lesky had quiet for 10 weeks. She tried TLP cloud a medical program for hearing, pink noise, messages and meditation. Ann believes the improvement was due to the silence.
September arrived and she went back to school. The principal and Ann had a plan, no meetings over 4 people, no extracurricular or special events, no lunch duty, she would be informed of all drills and could leave the building and a substitute was available if Ann could not handle any more for the day.
This was manageable until January when they had a real alarm (lock down due to a police request) and Ann was not told. It went off and Ann went down. Physically she passed out. The students whom Ann needed to secure away from the door and windows had to help her. They got the teacher next door as Ann tried to get up... she could not hear out of her left ear again and the pain was worse than the original incident in November 2011.
Ann called her doctor and he sent her to an ENT (Ears Nose Throat Specialist). The first ENT did a complete exam and she then sent Ann to Massachusetts General Hospital to see another ENT; who sent me to an Otolaryngologist. The appointment was in July and Ann was left waiting in pain wondering if this person would have an answer.
The school year was coming to an end. Ann had left every day after two or three classes. She was not functioning in or out of school, calling her doctor weekly if not more... she hurt; Ann could not live like this... Ann started to use earplugs consistently thinking escape from noise was the only cure. Everyone thought this was a great idea. Many even suggested the head phones used at gun ranges for protection. Ann found Bose silencing headphones blocked out all sounds. By the end of June she cannot tolerate any sounds. The earplugs were almost 24/7. (Using the earplugs was a bad idea she later learned from reading in an article she found on line.)
Ann was learning what she could and could not do. Which stores did not play music or use an intercom so she can shop for food. It would feel like she was getting better and then some noise would set her back. Ann stopped using a microwave and had the backup beeper disconnected in her car. Music is impossible to tolerate, she watch television with the clicker in her hand. Ann had gone to restaurants but only on off hours and only places she knew the volume was low.
July came and Ann went the Otolaryngology appointment at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. The doctor diagnosed what was going on and wanted an MRI to rule out the need for surgery. The names given to her illness were Hyperacusis, Autophony, Superior Canoa Deviscence and Tinnitus. Ann had no idea what she was talking about. She was terrified because the cure for one of these was brain surgery, but then she thought that would be ok if it would only stop the pain. To rule out brain surgery Ann would need an MRI. The doctor did not tell Ann to stop using the headphones but understood the need for them; that it was a tradeoff to function in the world.
During the MRI Ann used earplugs and headphones to protect herself from the noise but it did not work, Ann passed out. She came too after they pulled her out and the pain was again excruciating. Once again Ann could not hear out of her left ear and had the ringing in her head, which always sounded like a teakettle which now had added sounds like glass breaking. The technicians were frightened by what happened and called the doctor who ordered the MRI. Ann was sent back to the ENT for a hearing test, there was no change in hearing.
Ann went back to the Otolaryngologist for the follow up; the MRI showed she did not need brain surgery. Ann was told they could destroy her hearing totally so she would not be in pain. She actually thought about this for some time. Ann decided it was not how she wanted to deal with this.
The specialist then sent Ann to the head of the Tinnitus clinic at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. The first appointment available was in March of 2015 (date is correct). After talking to the Otolaryngologist; they were able to get Ann in three weeks later. Ann felt grateful all she wanted was someone to help. She wanted my life back.
Ann Lesky is living in Isolation. She is careful in everything she does. Ann says she never know when it will get extremely loud again. It seems with sounds (wind, cars, snow blowers, and people talking) the tinnitus rises. The pain response is similar it is at a tolerable threshold but goes up directly related to the sounds around or cold. The difference between the ringing and the pain is that the pain increases not only with sound but pitch.
If a woman’s voice is quiet but high pitched it hurts. It takes about two to three days to return to a tolerable level of tinnitus and hyperacusis pain after an incident.
Ann joined a support group online 'Hyperacusis Sufferers'. They share their stories and support each other when they are down, lonely, or having painful days. It is through this group she has learned that some with hyperacusis do get better and some don’t. Ann has also realized this is not a one shoe fits all illness; there are many levels of hyperacusis and tinnitus.
The exam with the specialist took 90 minutes. Half the time Ann could not hear and had to ask them to repeat what they were saying. It was recommended EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for a post-traumatic stress disorder, a change in anti-depression medicine, and physical therapy for the imbalance.
Time passed and nothing was happening, Ann contacted her doctor to find out what she should do only to find out that her doctor never received the reports from the specialists. The breakdown in communication has not helped her recovery.
Ann Lesky has gone back to the tinnitus clinic after 15 EMDR sessions. She describes herself as doing a little better but has up and down days or even hours; Ann questions if the counselor’s work is helping to heal her ears or is 6 months of quiet isolation and trying to retrain her ears to sounds the solution. Ann says she has learned what hurts and therefore avoids it.
For now this Massachusetts school teacher has ‘no peace of mind’. She is always thinking what noise will bother her and how do I avoid it.
The following are quotes Ann Lesky wrote in her journal during her first year without a diagnosis.
• People do not understand and think I am crazy.
• STUDENTS’ voices scream at me.
• I always can hear my heartbeat and my stomach, stop it.
• I cannot attend temple services.
• Cannot go to the apple store to get my computer fixed.
• Workout alone, I am lonely.
• No music at my daughter’s wedding ceremony
• No dancing
• No soccer games
• No graduations
• No movies.
• No plays
• No mall shopping
• No Boston
• No activates where people attend
• I leave the room after I turn on the dishwasher
• Selected TV shows.
• Power tools for the garden have ended.
• Hate leaf blowers
• No snow blowers
• Cannot visit daughter at work, pet store
• I cannot tolerate tapping,
• I am not a part of the school!!!
• Dogs barking, baby’s crying, daily noises make me cry.
• I stay away from young children their voice hurts so much.
• Friends I have given up, voices to high pitched
• My social life does not exist.
• Moving desks in the classroom sent me home.
• Fixing the intercom in the building sent me home.
• Family Passover dinner after the readings I had to leave the table
Ann leaves us with this one message, ‘Please do not join me protect your ears from pain!’
(This article is the sole experience of Ann Lesky a Massachusetts school teacher. Please keep in mind each case is different. Ann hopes to be returning to school to teach. We've asked her to keep us informed as we wish her all the best.)
To find out just what EMDR is you can click on the highlighted word we have provided. It's so important for people to understand the many different treatments people with hyperacusis go through. What works for one person suffering from hyperacusis may not work for another.
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