A Rare Form of Deafness or a Trivial Case of Congestion?

I chose doxycycline to treat Norman Starks Lyme disease. A week later he went to a walk-in clinic with sudden loss of hearing in his right ear. The PA who saw him suspected that the doxycycline had caused it and told him to stop the medication. Meanwhile, he needed at least one or two more weeks of antibiotics. He got amoxicillin.

When I saw Norman I asked what kind of exam they had done on him, he said “they just looked in my ears”.

“Did they do any kind of hearing test?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Did they put a tuning fork on your head?”

“No”, he said quizzically.

I pulled my tuning fork from a plastic basket on the counter. I have one in every room.

“So how is your hearing now?” I asked.

“I think it’s a little better.”

“OK, tell me, if I put this tuning fork in the middle of your head like this, where do you hear it the loudest?”

Norman looked like he concentrated hard. He seemed confused.

“It’s louder in my right ear.”

“And which of these is louder, on the bone behind your ear or in the air in front of it?”

“Behind.”

I put the tuning fork away and sat down next to him.

“Your hearing is going to be fine. You can hurry it along by using some cortisone nose spray for a while. This is not nerve deafness, you’re just congested. And the doxycycline had nothing to do with it.”

I love low tech medicine.

And just the other day I saw a new diabetic who complained of blurry vision. After a split second of worry, I excused myself and got several sheets of dark paper, stapled them together and pierced a small hole in the center.

“Come with me, let’s check your vision”, I said.

We went down the hall and I asked him to look at the eye chart through the pinhole, one eye at a time.

“What’s the smallest line you can read?”

“D,E,F,P,O,T,E,C”, he read.

“Perfect. The lenses inside your eyes are just swollen from your high blood sugars. Hold off a little before seeing the eye doctor, and don’t order glasses until your blood sugars have settled down.”

Another early lesson all the way back from medical school.

3 Responses to “A Rare Form of Deafness or a Trivial Case of Congestion?”


  1. 1 Mary Symmes September 3, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    Your story is a good illustration of why I stay away from doctors unless I feel seriously ill. I also look at the world around me and wonder what has happened to good sense and good manners, and doctors often reflect what is going on in the society around them.

  2. 2 meyati September 3, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    It’s hard to find a doctor like you. Often doctors want to prevent something, and they cause a few things to go wrong that normally wouldn’t go wrong at all. As a patient, not only do I have to be proactive for my health, but I have to do a lot of critical-education type critical thinking to defend myself and protect my well-being.

    I so hate population health. A new oncologist saved my bacon last week. I’m NED and in a survivor program-new doctor is in charge of that. I had breakfast and lunch, then I went in for my BUN-CREATININE and other labs, including a TSH. I was told that I needed to start taking insulin-NOW. I said that I felt well-physically active-I’ll think about it.

    My new oncologist asked why my BP was high. I told him that I was worried about the diabetic lecture-but I feel good. He explained to me that I had normal glucose for that time of day-my BUN-Creatinine are perfectly in the middle of the range-my liver is perfectly fine. I almost cried from relief. The new doctor explained this as pressure and demands in the name of population health by the feds. He and some other doctors feel that people are being rushed into having diabetes-some of which wouldn’t get diabetes at all.

    I came home, and I highlighted the BUN-CREATININE results and said that my oncologist feels that someone with perfect labs and a normal after lunch glucose isn’t diabetic. I also mailed them. I also told her that it wasn’t her fault that the lab tech listed this test as fasting. I don’t fast as I get nauseous and sometimes throw up

    I do hope that many young doctors and medical students read your writings.

    Thank you

  3. 3 summonzeus September 6, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Your story of Norman and his temporary loss of hearing reminded me of a story I tell in my Forensic Biology Class;

    A concerned husband went to a doctor to talk about his wife. “Doctor, I think my wife is deaf because she never hears me the first time and always asks me to repeat things.”

    •”Well,” the doctor replied, “go home and tonight stand about 15 feet from her and say something to her. If she doesn’t reply move about 5 feet closer and say it again. Keep doing this so that we’ll get an idea about the severity of her deafness.”

    Sure enough, the husband goes home and does exactly as instructed.
    He starts off about 15 feet from his wife in the kitchen as she is chopping some vegetables and says, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
    He hears no response.
    He moves about 5 feet closer and asks again.
    No reply.
    He moves 5 feet closer.
    Still no reply.
    He gets fed up and moves right behind her, about an inch away, and asks again, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
    She yells, “For the fourth time, vegetable stew!”


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