Week 16 – My very first physio (VRT) and steroid shot

Yesterday I had my first Vestibular Rehabilitation Training session – hallelujah. I was eager for this appointment as so many people have told me they started getting better once they started VRT exercises. I gave up waiting for the NHS because life is just too short to be waiting so long for these essential appointments. It turns out that physiotherapy is actually quite affordable in the UK so I just went private – I so wish I had done this months ago.

When there’s been damage to the vestibular nerve in the inner ear, the brain receives faulty signals about our location in space and our movement. That’s why the slightest movement can cause our world to spin, shutter or shake. Whilst there is no known way to fix the damaged inner ear, VRT helps to retrain the brain so it can work around those faulty signals.

I was hoping for some high tech exercises to make everything okay again and wanted to race ahead as quickly as possible, but my physiotherapist stressed to me that since I have NO vestibular function in my inner ears now (as determined by the tests at the neuro-otology department), this would take a LONG time and progress would be SLOW.  Gulp. Not exactly what I needed to hear.

I’d love to hear from anyone else who has lost vestibular function on both sides. Obviously I’m pretty much begging for good news stories but I also don’t want to be lied to! Let me know how things have worked out for you. How long did it take for you to get back to ‘normal’ after starting VRT?

For the past few weeks I’ve been doing various exercises at home which I found online but she said that its important to start with the basics and get them perfected very well before moving on to anything more advanced. These are my tasks for 3 weeks:

1. Gaze stabilisation exercise – Look at something stationary (I put a post-it note with a written word on the wall but you could just use your finger) and stay focused on it whilst slowly moving my head side to side (30 secs to 1 min).

2. Do exactly the same but this time move your head up and down. (30 secs to 1 min)

VRT gaze stabilisation exercises
VRT gaze stabilisation exercises

As these get easier you can make it harder by a) increasing the time spent doing it, b) speeding up the pace (stay focused, don’t rush) and c) by doing it where there is a busier background (i.e. in front of a window, loud wallpaper or the TV).

3. Balance. Roll up a towel and put it on the floor. Stand on it for 30 secs to 1 min. Our brain now needs to learn how to rely on our senses of sight and touch in order to balance and interpret our place in space and time. When we are on unstable ground this is made much harder.

Then today I had my first Intratympanic steroid injection. Wow I really thought this would be a simple injection but (here in the UK at least) they treat it as a minor surgical procedure. After 4.5 hours of waiting (!!) dressed in a surgical gown I finally got it. I have to say it’s much more uncomfortable than I thought it would be but then its not really natural to have anything pushed into that part of your ear. But if you are about to have it, don’t worry, its bearable. It is worth the mild discomfort for the possibility of hearing again.

Initially I was in two minds as to whether to bother with the intratypanic steroids. This was mainly because of the logistical nightmare of getting myself to the hospital which is far from my house, so early in the morning. But also because its not conclusive that steroid injections to the eardrum are any more effective than oral steroids. But the deal breaker for me was the study below which shows positive statistics in favour of the injections. Also when I asked on the Sudden Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Forum on Facebook, a few people said that their hearing improved after the shots. Basically as my doctor advised, there is nothing else they can do so we have to try it. I have another one in a few days and next week. Wish me luck!!

Did anyone else’s hearing improve from intratympanic steroids? I’d love to hear some good news stories so I can have positive belief in this working!

intratympanic shots for hearing loss