Hearing can become too good

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Is there any help for people whose hearing is too good? I feel like I am constantly bombarded by noises that others don’t notice. Having to listen to people’s conversations, eating and crackling papers have been particularly stressful in the office. At home, lawnmowers, power tools and ice-cream trucks have left me in tears. I wear landscaper’s ear protectors at home, but I cannot do that at work. Is there any way to turn down the volume of the world? — K.F.

ANSWER: Hearing whose volume control has been turned to the highest setting goes by the name of hyperacusis. It’s a problem that you share with quite a few other people. Do you have ear ringing or other noises, too? About 90 percent of those with hyperacusis also suffer from ear noises. That’s tinnitus.

On the list of causes are head injury, stress and some medicines. For many, no cause is ever found. It might be that your brain has a defect in the way it regulates incoming sound.

Your first task is an examination by an ear, nose and throat doctor. If the doctor confirms the hyperacusis diagnosis, programs that desensitize your ears to sound are helpful.

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Listening to low-frequency sound for two hours a day turns down the volume of incoming sound. The two hours don’t have to be one entire block of time; they can be broken into smaller periods. Results take several months. This is something for which you must have guidance. The ENT doctor can direct you to programs available in your locale.

Earmuffs and other sound-dampening devices are fine, but you should not wear them constantly. Continual use worsens this condition. You have two sources of great help. One is the American Tinnitus Association, which also comes to the rescue of those with hyperacusis. You can contact it at www.ata.org. The second organization is the Hyperacusis Network at www.hyperacusis.net.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband passed away Nov. 3, 2009. On the day before, I took him to the doctor, and he was diagnosed with the flu. The doctor said his lungs were clear. (I must add that in 2001, my husband was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.) The doctor prescribed Tamiflu. At 9:30 that night, I found my husband on the bathroom floor. I called 911. At the hospital, he was put on a respirator and tested for swine flu. The test was negative. They were going to put him on dialysis, but they couldn’t because his blood pressure was so low. He died at 11:30 a.m. How does one go from clear lungs to pneumonia to death in 23 hours? If he had gone to the hospital right away, would he still be with me? — R.H.

ANSWER: My sincerest condolences on the death of your husband. The death certificate says he died of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest (a cessation of heart action) as a consequence of pneumonia and renal (kidney) failure, both of which were partly due to his chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The only explanation I can give is that this rapid road to death was greatly influenced by a failure of his immune system brought on by chronic lymphocytic leukemia. His body couldn’t deal with the lung infection, which progressed rapidly and led to a shutting down of his kidneys and his heart and a precipitous drop in his blood pressure. I don’t know if earlier hospitalization would have saved him. It might not have.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I received this advice from an Internet doctor. It said to eat fruit on an empty stomach and not during meals in order to detoxify your system. It said that if you eat two slices of bread and then a slice of fruit, the fruit stays in the stomach, the meal rots and ferments, turns to acid and spoils. What is your opinion? — K.H.

ANSWER: Huh? Makes no sense to me.

TO READERS: The booklet on vaginal infections provides answers to the many questions asked by women on this topic. To order a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 1203, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.

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