I’ve written before about the ringing in my ears and the vertigo I have been experiencing off and on since July. Actually, I’ve had the ringing as long as I can recall – but it really ramped up in July. I was referred to an otolaryngologist (say that 5 times fast) – an ear, nose and throat specialist.
After confirming that I have some hearing loss and an office exam, he decided that more tests were needed. So last month I had an MRI. I assume the only thing we learned is that I really do have a brain sitting inside my skull. If there had been a serious problem, I surely would have heard sooner.
This past Friday I had what they call an ENG test. It’s short for electronstagmography test and I’m sticking with the short cut. They say this is done to evaluate the function of the inner ear balance organ. The instructions say the testing, which is non-invasive, consists of three parts:
- Following a moving light target
- Moving into different positions
- Having the ears stimulated with cool and warm air.
They add that most patients feel fine after the test, however they do recommend that someone be available to drive in case you feel a little unsteady when the testing is over. They also tell you not to eat for 4 hours before your test.
So bright and early Friday morning, my husband and I set out for Worcester. The traffic wasn’t bad and we were early – so we got started a little early.
The technician called us in and I sat at the end of a typical doctor’s examining table. She cleaned 5 spots on my face and applied electrodes which would record my responses. Then she darkened the room. Piece of cake so far . . .
The first part of the test required me to sit where I was and watch a light bar attached to the wall about 5 feet away from me. The lights ran at different speeds and patterns. The task was to follow them using your eyes only – no head movement. I think I managed okay.
The second part of the test was the ear stimulation with cool and warm air. I was on my back for this part of the test, with my eyes closed. As I “relaxed”, the tech put an ear probe (like the one the doctor uses to check if you have an ear infection) into my right ear. The difference is that this one was attached to a hose that went to a machine that controlled the pressure and temperature of the air that it pushed through the hose.
We started with the cool air into my right ear – it was loud and unpleasant, but not too bad. After a rest break for a few minutes, we did the same with my left ear and cool air. Again, no problem. I was beginning to wonder what the fuss had been about.
Then we switched to the right ear with warm air. Warm, as defined here, was about 122 degrees. Holy cow!!!!! After a few short seconds, I felt like the room was spinning and it took all my concentration to not vomit – which was definitely what by body wanted to do! I couldn’t believe how sick I felt. Nauseous and dizzy – like I was on the amusement park ride from hell. I tried controlling my breathing to ease the nausea, but that was useless. I was sweaty and shaky by the time the air stopped. When the air was done, I had to open my eyes, focus on a spot on the ceiling for a short time, then I could either open or close my eyes as I wished. What I really wished is that they’d removed my stomach before we started this test!! My reaction was so strong that the tech turned on the air conditioning and left for a while so I could try to settle my body down. Then we switched the warm air to my left ear. It may have been a different ear, but I still had the same stomach trying to leap from my body! It took every ounce of energy in my body to not toss my cookies on my husband, who was by now holding my hand and trying to help me cope. Brave man! I managed to hold on.
Then we moved on to the third and final part of the test. It would have been a piece of cake if I didn’t feel so sick from the prior testing. As I sat on the table, the tech turned my head to the right and then had me lie back as quickly as I could. Except for the pain in the neck from the stiff fibromyalgia muscles, I had no reaction. We repeated the routine, this time turning to the left. Again no problem.
The tech removed the electrodes and told me I was all set. Easy for her to say!! I still felt like I had a stomach flu. It was a darn good thing I had my husband with me to drive. On the way home, we stopped for a bite to eat and I did feel a bit better after putting something into my empty and tortured stomach. It took a mid-day nap and a good night’s sleep to really feel human again!