My dad always offered some sage advice: “Things will rarely be as bad as we anticipate them to be.” This is very true as I can attest to going worst-case-scenario, even in the smallest of things. Nine times out of ten, my mountain could have remained a molehill.
After my second cochlear implant consult, which I did not blog about because it was fairly inconsequential, I opted for a vertigo test. This helps to gauge if you have balance problems in either one of your ears, because if you do, they opt to not implant that ear. Turns out, the test is the tenth circle of Hell.
19 years ago, I ended up in the ER with, according to the nurse, “One of the worst cases of vertigo I’ve ever seen.” Don’t you love being a medical outlier? It took me almost three months to fully recover. I’ve had tiny bouts here and there since then, but nothing too noteworthy until this past December when I woke with vertigo three days in a row. On the fourth day, I decided to try Doctor Carol Foster’s exercise to get rid of my vertigo, and thankfully, it worked. But I’m clearly susceptible.
When I’d met with a cochlear implant mentor a few weeks ago, she told me she’d never had vertigo but experienced it for 11 days post-surgery. ELEVEN.DAYS. Cue the shrieking violins. I was horrified. So I decided to forge ahead with the test.
Don’t consume caffeine for 24 hours. No food for 3 hours. Have someone drive you home. Okay, none of this was sitting well with me, especially the no caffeine part. I freely admit I’m a coffee addict and have no shame in my morning game. But I tried to heed my dad’s advice.
Test day arrives. At the clinic, the audiologist is very nice and sympathetic. She leads me to an all-white room with a monitor and a hospital bed, then tells me she is going to induce vertigo to get “an accurate reading.” Huh? I looked it up online, even watched a video. Nothing mentioned purposefully inducing vertigo, only that it might be a consequence of the test. Now I’m thinking of calling it off. But my husband encourages me, tells me it will help to make a more informed decision. I force back the eye daggers, because he’s my ride home, and I need him.
More instructions from the audiologist: my hearing aids need to come out because water will be poured into my ears. I will wear a heavy black mask and a light will shine in. When it does, I need to focus on it. The mask also has a camera that reads my pupils, which she’ll watch on the monitor. Since I will be both deaf and blind, she gives me some signals on my body that will tell me when to close my eyes, when to open them, when to relax. Yeah, right. I’ll be as relaxed as a cat getting a bath.
I lie back on the bed, safety rails up. Out come the aids and on goes the mask. This is slightly horrifying. But wait, it gets worse. So.Much.Worse. Cold water rushes into my right ear, the sound like a freight train stampeding past. Soon the vertigo comes. When I grab the rails in terror, the water stops. My eyes flick the darkness, trying to find some balance, trying to focus. Trying to stop the Hell. Er, dizziness. The light comes on, and I focus, focus, focus. This is a Sci-Fi film come to life. I’m goddamned Scully when the aliens abduct her. Finally, I’m given the signal to relax. Repeat with the other ear. Then twice more with each ear, this time with hot water.
45 minutes later, the test concludes. “That may have been one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced,” I say to the audiologist when the mask comes off. She says, “Really?” She’s actually incredulous. “Yes, really,” I say.
It was worse than I could have ever imagined, although vomiting would have topped it, I suppose. Fortunately, I was not dizzy after the test and could have driven myself home. My results showed good balance and my right ear is good to go. I’ll take that as a win. I have to. Because so far, everything else feels like a loss.