A couple of months back — on what happened to be my 33rd birthday — I noticed the hearing in my right ear was wonky. Everything sounded muffled and far away, similar to what it’s like when you’ve been swimming and haven’t gotten all the water out.
But I hadn’t been swimming. In fact, even though I am a member of Aqua Studio in Tribeca, I hadn’t been to a class that week. The only body of water I’d been near in about ten days was my shower.
I wasn’t dizzy, but I did have the occasional twinge of pain. I feared an ear infection — I used to get them a lot as a kid — but the pain wasn’t that intense, and I didn’t have a fever or any of the other accompanying symptoms. So I did what I always do when I have a minor medical concern: I called my father.
What? He used to teach anatomy.
Dad suggested it could just be plugged from allergies or a sensitivity to the fact that they turned the heat on in my building and its only temperature is “broil.” On his recommendation, I took a decongestant. It didn’t help.
So I decided I’d give it a few days to clear up, which it did not do.
The following Tuesday morning I was at my parents’ apartment because I had been dogsitting. My mother had a medical test of her own that morning, and she didn’t want the added worries about how the pups were faring, as one of them had only been a member of the family for about six weeks at that point, and they haven’t been home alone very long yet. My ear situation had not improved and it had been 5 days.
After my folks were home from Mom’s appointment, I had my dad look in my ear with a flashlight. It’s not as involved an exam as a doctor could do, but he could at least see well enough to determine it wasn’t inflamed and there wasn’t any excess wax. It was at this point that my mother suggested I visit her ENT.
Did I mention she was diagnosed with Ménière’s several months ago? I believe her exact words were “I hope you don’t have what I have.”
I’m on Medicaid (thanks, Obama!) so naturally her ENT doesn’t take my insurance. I decided to pay out of pocket, because trying to find a decent specialist who DOES take Medicaid can take months, and I like hearing things. Fortunately, the doctor was able to see me that afternoon.
Random factoid: this doctor’s office is in the same building as Hillary Clinton’s campaign office. Security was not as tight as I imagined it would be, but she was in Florida.
The doctor did a physical exam of my ears, declaring the left one “perfect” and seeing nothing amiss on the right. So I went for a hearing test. It determined that I have great hearing in the good ear, but that my low end was knocked out on the right. I had actually noticed that my dad’s speaking voice sounded weird and bothersome, so this didn’t surprise me.
As it turned out, I do, in fact, have what my mom has. It’s a less advanced case than hers, which is why I was not experiencing the dizziness or vertigo. I was prescribed a week-long course of Prednisone (which cleared up my symptoms within a couple of days), and advised to begin a low-sodium diet. I am supposed to stay under 1500 mg per day, which is really low compared to what most people eat. Which means no takeout, no stopping for a quick lunch, no more of my beloved hint of lime tortilla chips. No more salty snacks. Which meant a very salty Liza.
I’ve been doing my best to stick to this since October, and to be honest, at first I was a little obsessive about it.
I monitored my sodium the first day after a big order o’ veggies arrived from FreshDirect, and even if you consider the possibility that I was underestimating, I was still way below the 1500 mg cap.
What’s a girl with perfectionist tendencies to do? I can’t completely ignore the dietary recommendations my doctor gave me, but I also have to be mindful of my brain.
I worked really hard to move away from the restrictive dieting mentality. And while I know this isn’t exactly the same — my goal is not to temporarily manipulate my body size — many of the actions are similar.
In the weeks since I was diagnosed, I’ve worked to limit my sodium intake. I don’t order takeout as often, I choose snacks that aren’t salty (and eat limited amounts of the rest), and I choose low sodium varieties of foods when available. I also try to cook at home and not use much salt.
(My best find was coconut aminos, which replace soy sauce and actually taste BETTER.)
I’m not allowing myself to be too restrictive. My doctor’s advice is important, but she didn’t know my history with dieting when she recommended it, and I have to look after all of my needs. So I’m staying in a middle ground and trying to be healthy as well as happy. I guess I’m restricting my restrictiveness.