June 1, 2013 Columns

First Person on the Last Page: Keeping it Cool

Audiologist Loleata Wigall uses her professional intuition to help her husband through cancer treatment.

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Loleata Wigall, MS, CCC-A

"Hello, Mrs. Wigall? This is Dr. Jones and I have a message for your husband. Can you tell him that he has cancer and that he needs to call an oncologist as soon as possible so he can start treatment? Thanks so much."

As an audiologist, I was appalled that the physician called me on a Friday afternoon to tell me that my husband had cancer. I suppose in those pre-HIPAA days, the doctor wanted us to get going with treatment and that he really didn't know any answers—hence the message.

A friend who is also a physician arranged for an appointment with an oncologist within a week. The oncologist spent an hour with us discussing the pros and cons of treatment options. Never once was hearing loss mentioned. I was in such a daze, I didn't really think about it. Cancer was new to me and my family.

He was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma. After treatments his cancer went into remission. That was in 1998. We continued on with our lives.

Ten years later, my husband noticed a lump on his shoulder blade. A new treatment was recommended. I learned there are "cocktails" of cancer treatments—his first treatment was called CHOP and the second treatment was called R-ICE.

A side effect of the R-ICE is intermittent dizziness and tinnitus. And he developed neuropathy—or a tingling—in his feet. Between the sudden dizziness and tingling he did not want to drive, and I became his driver while trying to run my private audiology practice. It was hectic and I was tired. Then it happened. I began to notice he was not hearing me. After much coaxing, I was able to drive him to my office to test his hearing. Sure enough, he had a mild-to-moderate sensorineural hearing loss. To him the loss was not the biggest issue, but his tinnitus was very bothersome. I found a program designed to combat tinnitus and ordered beige hearing aids.

When the aids arrived, I brought him back to the office. When I opened the package, he was aghast. "I don't want those, Lolly," he said. "I want black hearing aids because black symbolizes high tech. I want to show off my high-tech hearing aids!"

So, I ordered black aids and he loves them. He calls them his "personal high-tech listening system." The program also worked and he says that within two minutes of putting on his hearing aids, his tinnitus disappears.         

Today my husband is cancer-free and hearing well. One of my missions has become to educate physicians on the need to refer for baseline hearing tests and for tests before, during and after chemotherapy. My other mission, of course, is to keep my husband looking cool with his new accessories.

Loleata Wigall, MS, CCC-A, is director of audiological services at Atlantic Audiology in Wakefield, Mass. lwigall@gmail.com

cite as: Wigall, L. (2013, June 01). First Person on the Last Page: Keeping it Cool. The ASHA Leader.

  

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