August 26, 2011

Earthquake Helps Man Regain Hearing... Perhaps Not!

Fox News reported on Aug 25, 2011 about Robert Valderzak who suffered conductive hearing loss for a few months... until the earthquake shook him and the rest of the East Coast after which he was able to hear.

Though this may sound miraculous, conductive hearing loss is one of those reversible type of hearing loss. It is not permanent. Example of conductive hearing loss include:

• Fluid in the ears
• Ear infection
Eustachian tube dysfunction
• Problems with the middle ear bones

All these problems can be "fixed" and the hearing loss reversed. Permanent hearing loss is due to nerve damage and a reversal of a nerve type of hearing loss could be considered "miraculous."

Now how could an earthquake conceivably reverse a conductive hearing loss? Without benefit of having examined Mr. Valderzak, perhaps he had a lot of earwax and the quake "shook" the earwax out or free (kind of like when a person goes swimming and gets some water in the ear that requires head-shaking to get it out).

It could also be coincidence. There are thousands of people who suffer conductive hearing loss every day for one reason or other. Often, this type of conductive hearing loss will spontaneously resolve one day after days or weeks or even months go by even if not aggressively treated medically. That's why in kids who have fluid in the ears (which causes conductive hearing loss), we sometimes wait 3 months before we put ear tubes in. Quite a number resolve on their own spontaneously.

Now if there are thousands of people with conductive hearing loss and we expect a few to spontaneously recover their hearing each day... and the earthquake was felt by millions throughout the East Coast... I'm surprised that this particular patient is the only one who regained his hearing after the earthquake. I suspect there's at least a dozen that probably regained their hearing that day that the media has not heard/reported about... as well as the day before and the day after. I also suspect that there's probably a few hundred that "lost" their hearing during the earthquake due to earwax, fluid buildup in the ears, ear infection, etc.

Read the Fox New article here.
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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