My experience of air travel in 2020
This is a diary of my experiences following a long-haul flight. Although I was in business class, I was sitting on the window side and next to the engine. This affected my cochlear and my balance – it may affect people with hearing aids too. The advice given to me was to sit in the main body of the aircraft where I would have less noise and vibration. I haven’t tried this yet. Always seek professional advice if you experience any problems as they could be something more serious. It is better to be safe than sorry. I hope you don’t experience this but also hope this information may be useful to you.
Since having my cochlear implants, the right in July 2017 and the left in May 2018, I have had several flights in both helicopters and aeroplanes, including long haul flights, with no untoward effects, however this was soon to change.
On 7th January I flew out for a business holiday returning on Monday 13TH January. Our flight was over 11 hours. All went well until we were about 5 hours from Heathrow. I began to feel very unwell. I got up to seek assistance but was very unsteady on my feet. I managed to reach the cabin crew but could not make the air hostess understand. Apparently, I was not coherent. I thought I was. I accepted a bottle of water and tried to make my way back to my seat but on entering the passenger cabin, the world began to spin, and I began to collapse. I called my friend who came to my assistance. Fortunately, there was an empty seat and I collapsed onto that. My friend and the cabin crew were marvellous. I was given oxygen but as I was already feeling sick that actually made me sick, which was horrible. I always carry a list of my medication with me. The steward took this and consulted a medic. After this I was given an anti-motion sickness pill which helped a bit. I slept for quite a while and although I still felt peculiar was much better.
The staff advised me in future NOT to sit on the outside of the aircraft but to sit somewhere in the middle of the plane where it was not so noisy and there was less vibration. I shall certainly take this advice in future.
On landing my husband and I waited until everyone else had got off the plane. I had assistance from the plane and was taken by wheelchair up to the airport and then, with my husband, by buggy through the airport and through a special lane through passport control to baggage reclaim. When our luggage was collected, I was taken by wheelchair to our car. The service was amazing, and both my husband and I were so grateful to the BA Crew and to airport staff for all their help.
When I arrived home, I had some tea and toast and managed to keep it down. I stayed downstairs Monday night as I didn’t want to risk going upstairs.
In the morning I still felt very disorientated and my balance was not good. Still no hearing in my right ear - just interference when I put my processor on. I ate a banana but was promptly sick – so no good trying to eat. By lunchtime I could barely stand and needed support to go anywhere. My husband made an appointment for me with our doctor for the afternoon,
On seeing the doctor, she tested my Co-ordination and it was OK. She confirmed what I suspected. It was either an inner ear problem or a virus. She prescribed me some anti sickness pills used to treat migraine. She also said if I felt any worse to either come back or even go to A & E. We returned home and I took my first pill. By the evening I was feeling a little better and able to eat a little food. A good first step.
I now had to sort out my cochlear and hearing! I am lucky to have my tutor as a friend and I emailed her and my audiologist with the details of my problem, no hearing in my right cochlear. I am lucky to have a second processor and I tried that but that didn’t work either. Still feeling dizzy but not so sick.
NB. The advice I was given was specific to my model of cochlear implant and may not work on yours so always seek advice from your audiologist or consultant.
The advice was that there was probably an air pocket interfering with my cochlear. This can happen during a flight due to the pressure in the aeroplane. I had to put the coil on the magnet in my head, without it being switched on and try to massage around it to get rid of the air. I did this but when I tried to switch on - the interference was unbearable. This apparently was the cochlear trying to dispel the air!! Amazing! Although I tried my best, I couldn’t move it.
Thursday 16th A little better but balance still not too good. I again tried to shift the air. I noticed that when I put my processor on, the interference was not so loud. I had also felt like a “popping in my ear” and sometimes I could bear to have the processor switched on. Still could not hear but the interference was minimal and then the interference stopped and I could hear again in my right ear!!! Wonderful! Next step to use the controller/zapper. They didn’t work on either of my processors for the right ear. Again, I kept trying to regain control by putting the right coil on the back of my controller/zapper but it just did not work. I continued to try to make them work - then by about 9.45pm suddenly they worked - what a relief! Again, I am so lucky to have the support of my friend and audiologist. I am so grateful to them both.
Now I just have to get myself well balanced again. I managed to cook our dinner this evening another first.
I felt quite dizzy again in the morning, but it wore off a little during the day. I think I must look like a toddler learning to walk, or a sailor walking in the exaggerated movie world or even as if I’m a bit tipsy!! But I am getting better and no longer have to hold on to furniture etc to stop me from falling over. I am not taking the pills!! They are only prescribed for TWO days. Again, I have managed to cook dinner tonight, so another step forward. Have also managed to put washing in the machine and then either put it in the tumble dryer or hang it on an airer. It is strange how much this matters!!
Saturday 18th When I woke up this morning my head felt a bit clearer. I don’t think I am swaying so much as I was yesterday. Have managed to potter and write some more of this dairy. I really do feel much better. Toast and butter tastes wonderful! Managed to cook tea but felt very tired afterwards slept for some time in the evening then very late going to bed still not focussing very well and a bit unsteady on my feet.
Woke up at 7.30 but went back to sleep. Finally woke up and got up at 11.25am!!! unheard of. Felt a bit better. Focusing a bit better and balance a bit better too
Did some cooking too make me feel useful and to prove I could do it. I was very tired this evening.
I felt so much better when I woke up this morning but by 10o’clock I was beginning to feel tired and losing my balance a bit. Still having some difficulty focusing for reading and writing. I must try to be more patient. This afternoon my left cochlear became very faint. The sounds are there but not loud enough on their own to be much help.
Hearing no better today!!
Hearing still no better. Went out for a meal at the pub this evening. We left for home about 8.30pm. I was very conscious of the fact that I was swaying and stumbling when walking. I expect everyone thought I was drunk!!! I expect they had a laugh at my expense.
Still no better with my hearing but I think my balance is a bit better. Tried to drive today- only just round to the next road but was so scared because I felt odd with my balance. Won’t be driving for a while yet.
No change in my hearing but balance a little better.
I went shopping today with my husband. While he was finding some items, I started to sway and grabbed hold of the trolley which moved and knocked over a cardboard display board. It was so heavy I couldn’t pick it up. A lovely young lady assistant came to my aid but I WAS SO EMBARRASSED. Finished the shopping with no further hiccups but was very tired and off balance when I got home.
Up to London today for a birthday lunch in a restaurant. Wearing high heels but only when I arrived in London. Managed OK. We went to a hotel for a short while after the lunch and it was quite a long walk. Managed with my husband’s arm for support. Arrived home, having had a nice day. After a cup of tea, I fell asleep.
Had an appointment with my tutor and audiologist today. My audiologist checked my cochlear and found two of the frequencies were not responding but the others have much more volume now and the sounds are not so tinny. Great!! I am going to monitor my hearing and then meet again to see if the problem has righted itself.
After they left I had a shock as for a few minutes all I could hear in my left ear was interference BUT it stopped and I could hear again.
Hearing pretty good even if I just use my left cochlear. It’s not perfect but definitely better than it was. In the morning my balance was good but after a couple of hours I began feeling a bit off balance again. After a rest it was better again for a while.
From Wednesday 29th January to today 22nd March
I have gradually recovered my balance. I have good days and bad days but am very much improved. When I am tired, I notice my balance going but I can bend down and move quickly without ill effects most of the time.
I can hear better but need a retune because it seems to me that everything is very loud. Obviously in the current climate I will not be having a retune in the near future but I am so pleased to be able to hear as well as I can now.
I can drive but only for short distances. But it is a start. So glad to be able to do that!
I felt able to drive quite well today!!! (23rdMarch)
This has been a long and difficult few months. I hope my account may help anyone else who is unfortunate enough to experience this. It is not very pleasant but I think that it is quite rare and and as you can see I have got better!!!
NB it is a good idea to
1. Seek medical help either from your doctor or from the A & E of your local hospital, as these symptoms could be something much more serious!
2. Consult your audiologist and/or consultant to get specialist help.