Smoking Cause and Cure???
My personal fight with vestibular issues and Smoking.
I should start the disclaimer early in this post. I am not a doctor. I have no formal training in vestibular issues. My writings are only observations of what I have had to live with. Cigarettes are an addictive substance and have many proven drastic side affects. I do not promote or recommend anyone to smoke.
My reason for this post
I feel my vestibular issues are caused by lack of blood flow to my inner ear. Any help would be appreciated.
Sorry for the long post but I hope my information may help someone someday so I am trying to be as descriptive as possible.
I am a 50 year old male living in Western Canada. When I was young it was a different world than what people live in now. Smoking was common. When the first McDonalds appeared in our town each table came with a small tin ashtray. During my high school some of the classes allowed smoking right in the classroom. When Elevators were built they sometimes came with ashtrays. The local bingo hall was always a cloud of smoke.
When I was an early teen I started smoking. I can still remember paying about $2.20 for a pack of 25 smokes and trying to hide it from my mom. You could go to the corner store and buy a single smoke for 10 cents. They had them in a jar beside the candy on the counter. By my mid teens I was a pack a day smoker. This went on for a little over 30 years.
As I reflect on my life with my 51st birthday right around the corner I know…I hate smoking!
The first time I attempted to quit was 2009. I went to the doctor and got a prescription to help me quit. I didn’t have a smoke for over two months…things were going well. Then my family had a couple of sudden losses from auto accidents and I was away from home for close to two months. When I was away it snowed and snowed and then snowed a lot more. My first night back home the snow was so heavy on my roof that the rafters collapsed in on our living room and kitchen. Lets just say I fell off the wagon and started to smoke again.
The second time I quit was February 1, 2016. It was hard but I replaced my cigarettes with a root beer flavoured puffer. I only used the puffer when I would normally have a smoke. At that time I used to smoke outside of my home, business, vehicle etc. When it came time for a smoke I just substituted the puffer instead of the smoke. Small side note…not all puffers worked for me but once I found one that did I found it was a big help.
After a couple of months of reducing the nicotine levels I was no longer puffing with nicotine. I was still going out for a smoke break with smokers. I still loved getting the odd whiff of second hand smoke. Being around smokers did not bother me in the slightest. This was great. It was wonderful. I started to feel the amazing affects of not smoking. My smokers cough was almost gone. My breathing was better. I had more energy.
Life Altering Experience
April 2016, Three months after I quit smoking. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting with my lovely supportive wife on a Sunday night after a great weekend. It was getting close to bedtime and we were winding down for the weekend by catching up on some TV shows. All of a sudden every noise I heard was like someone crunching a chip bag beside my ears. It was horrible. I just thought I was tired and turned in early. I remember sleeping well that night.
When I woke in the morning I did my normal routine. Ran a bath. Turned on the morning news. The TV was quiet so I turned it up and went on with my day. When I got into the truck my radio was on low so I turned it up. I still hadn’t realized anything was different. When I got to work the staff and noises around me were muffled. Similar to going swimming and you put your head under water. I have had wax build up in my ears before but never in both ears at the same time. Working with that theory I picked up an ear cleaning kit on the way home. I told my wife about it and cleaned my ears. There was no change but the box said that it could take 3 days to properly clean the ears. So I continued with the treatment.
Walk in clinic
By Thursday I still had no change to my hearing issues so I stopped by an after hours walk in clinic after work thinking they could flush out the wax buildup. I was greeted in the exam room by a lovely doctor. She took a look in my ears and told me my ears looked very clean. She asked if I was on any new medication or if I had a cold recently. I had started a new medication about 4 days prior to the hearing loss but had no signs of a cold or flu. She asked me to wait for a few minutes as she excused herself from the room.
About 5-10 min went by before she came back. The doctor said there were no physical signs of blockage and the issues must be behind the ear drum. She said it was probably a fluid buildup behind the ear drum and probably nothing to worry about. While she was out she had called for a consult with an ENT(Ear Nose and Throat). The doctor told me to stop a medication I had started taking. She gave me a 10 day prescription for prednazone then told me that it should help reduce swelling in the inner ear. I was also asked to have my hearing checked by an audiologist. She put on a waiting list to see an ENT.
I took Friday off work so I could have my hearing checked by an audiologist and get an early start on spring cleanup. I didn’t understand the results at first. The audiologist explained the charts with X and > marks on it. He said my Left ear was Profound and Right ear was moderate to Profound. This meant that my Left ear could not hear any sounds below 90dB and right started at 50dB and dropped to 90dB half way through the speech areas. To be honest at the time I still did not know what most of it meant.
Spring time was in full swing so I had plenty of work to do on my acreage. I spent most of the weekend mowing the lawn, sawing up trees, clearing brush. My lack of hearing did not seem to matter outside.
On Monday during work I got a call from my family doctor. I found this quite strange as I have never had a doctor call me out of the blue. Not being able to hear him on the phone I had a co-worker help me with the call. He had got the report from the walk in clinic and wanted me to see him as soon as possible. I texted my wife and she joined me for the office visit. He went through the same questions as the last doctor. Told us not to worry he had an ENT appointment for Thursday at noon.
ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Specialist
By the time of the ENT’s visit I was getting very dizzy. I could not walk straight, I couldn’t look up at anything above 10 feet with out almost falling over. I had a horrible ringing in my ears that started the night prior.
Once we got into the ENT’s office the doctor looked over the reports that were sent to her. I gave her the results from my audiologist. She took a look in my ears and used a tuning fork to check my hearing. She had me stand up and close my eyes…I promptly fell backwards and she caught me. Then she sat us down with a sympathetic look on her face.
SSNHL and Vestibular Dysfunction
She started with the words Sudden Sensinural Hearing Loss. Meant nothing to my wife and I. She went on to say. This loss is probably nerves in my ear that are injured or dying. Action in these cases have the best results within the first 48 hours. She also told us that in many cases the cause of hearing loss and balance issues may never be known. The possible causes were a virus (similar to shingles), a side affect of the new medication I was on or an interruption of blood flow to the inner ears. I had no feeling of being ill with cold or flu. I had my first bout with shingles about 6 months prior. This did not make sense to my wife or myself.
She went on to say that this condition is not well know to family doctors. This condition in her view is an emergency situation and I needed further treatment immediately. Next treatment would be a steroid injection through the ear drum. There are few that do this locally but she would fit me in tomorrow during her lunch break the next day at a local hospital.
We asked about the dizziness and sounds in the ear. She replied that the Sounds were called Tinnitus and it should fade over time. The dizziness is because the balance organ is so intertwined with the inner ear it may have also been affected but that should return to normal soon too.
Steroid Ear Injection
My wife and I met up with her the next day. I had the injection (not a pleasant procedure). She setup another visit for the following Thursday for another consultation in her office. I had some type of reaction to the procedure about 2 hours after we left. My face felt like it was on fire and started to swell up. I just thought it was the local anaesthetic wearing off. I took a pic of my face and downed a couple of T3’s for the pain. My wife was asleep and with all we had been trough I wanted to wait until she woke up before considering we go to emergency. About 2 hours later the swelling was going down. The pain subsided and my wife woke up. Since I was feeling better we did not go to the emergency room.
By the next Monday I was so dizzy I could barely get out of bed. Certainly could not work. The company I work for was very understanding and we took it day by day. I called in every morning because even though I was feeling better than I was before. I was in no shape to drive. All I could do was sit at home and consult Dr. Google about my condition. What I found scared me.
2nd ENT office visit
The next meeting went almost the same as the first one until my wife asked if we were going to do another ear injection. I showed the ENT the picture of my face after the procedure and she said that having another injection could do more harm than good.
That is when we got the real shocker. We were told the damage to my hearing was permanent. As for the vestibular issues we would try to manage it with medication. She gave me no information on how to deal with the tinnitus except that getting hearing aids should get rid of it.
I was placed on betahistine and meclizine for the dizziness and she ordered an MRI and balance testing. Over the next three months the dizziness came in waves. There were times I was slightly dizzy good enough I could work but some days I couldn’t even stand up for more than a few minutes. This meant many days off work with no pay.
Three months later I had a test for my balance issues. Result Bilateral Vestibular Dysfunction 50-55%. Again we went to the ENT. Her response…Your dizzy. My response…whell duh.
About a month later I experienced my first drop attack. I had dizziness before but nothing like that. I am lucky it happened when I was in bed. I would lift my head off the pillow trying to sit up only to have it fall back to the pillow like a lead balloon. I couldn’t tell which way was up. I honestly thought I was having a stroke. I tried calling out to my wife who was in the next room but no help arrived. I must have passed out at some point because when I woke up I was on the floor beside my bed with the garbage can on my head.
We went back to the ENT with the new symptom and she started talking about Menieres. She told me I was on the proper medication and we should hope for the best. I was to report back to her if I ever had 2 drop attacks within 6 months.
My MRI finally happened 6 months after my first attack. Every 3 months I would have a short appointment with my ENT to renew my medication. She took a couple of minutes looking at it. She told us it showed no masses in my brain and ruled out MS.
The next two years consisted of every day being somewhat dizzy some days and can’t even walk other days. I lost about 8-10 weeks of work each year. A day here afternoon there. Just a continuous vicious cycle.
31 Months of dizziness
I contemplated not continuing with my life many times since this all began. I bought a pair of hearing aids and started to learn sign language. I would have my good days and I would have my bad days. Thankfully only a couple of drop attacks in that time. I was always running debt because of the lost work. My medication would be as high as $200.00/mo when we would try different combinations.
In November 2019 I went with my Deaf Darts group on a fun filled weekend bender. I rarely get drunk but this time I let loose. For some reason I felt really good on that trip. I chalked it up to having fun with friends and may be drinking a little too much. One thing I did differently that I hadn’t done in almost 3 years is I smoked while on the trip. Not much I think I had about a half a pack in two days. When we returned I gave what I had left to one of the guys and quit again. The dizziness came back the following week. I didn’t see the connection at the time.
Winter was on its way. My worst time to be dizzy. With being dizzy I can’t feel icy patches. When dizzy every corner feels like I am skidding so I tell myself it’s not slippery I am not sliding. When am in a skid condition I can’t feel it. Also the dark sets off my dizziness more and top that off with the odd snow storm I am lucky to make it from A to B. With mounting debt I couldn’t afford days off. As I stressed I smoked at least when I was around people that smoked.
Smoke here Smoke there
About 2-3 weeks went by and I would bum a smoke from a friend while playing pool or darts. I strangely started to be well balanced for the night. Still I just thought my diet, exercise and medication were just right so I felt good that night. I started to fall back into the bad habit of buy a pack here and there. Especially since I was so stressed. Every week I watched as we went further and further into debt. Buying smokes is not cheep and wasn’t helping the crisis.
A weird thing started to happen
I was not dizzy. The more I smoked. The better my balance got. I kept telling my self I would quit but every time I stopped for a few days my dizziness came back. It would only take one smoke and within an hour my dizziness was gone…just gone.
I started to remember what it was like when I wasn’t dizzy. I could stand in the darkness without falling over. I could walk up and down stairs without holding onto the railing. I could take long walks without my cane. I could drive in the middle of a dark and snowy night and know if my truck was sliding or not. I could work a 40h work week and enjoy evenings out with others. I could work all weekend and not end up in bed for half of it.
The most amazing thing happened when I was out for a smoke in the middle of the night and watched the northern lights over head without holding onto anything!
I have tried the vape again and nicotine lozenges but they don’t seem help.
It has been three months of absolute bliss not being dizzy. In the middle of winter!
I have been to the doctor and of course he doesn’t want me to be dizzy but he doesn’t want me to smoke either. His explanation is that my body somehow may be supplying more blood flow to the inner ear while I smoke.
I DON’T WANT TO SMOKE!
I know smoking is not good for me. I know it is a habit. I know that if I continue I will have heart, lung and other issues. My wife doesn’t like the way I smell…I don’t like the way I smell. I hate that it discolours my teeth. I hate how my truck smells.
But now…I am afraid to quit.