Several people--old friends, blog friends, and lurkers alike--asked to be kept up to date on my heath/hearing/everything situation as described previously. Yesterday I met with our doctor to talk about my MRI results, so we have some news.
The good news: there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with my ear--the preliminary MRI reading shows no lesions of any sort in my internal auditory canal. So, auditory neuroma and similar related conditions are out as far as an explanations for my hearing/balance problems are concerned.
The bad news: there does appear to be some "abnormalities" with my brain. These are all preliminary judgments, my doctor assured me, but still, it's what we have to go on for the moment. First, there's an area on the lower left side of my brain about 3 centimeters by 1.5 centimeters that they're worried about. They describe it as a likely "venous infarction," which means it could be an area of current or past hemorrhage, scar tissue from some long-forgotten head and/or brain trauma or a never-even-noticed stroke, or a twisted or malformed or clotted blood vessel. Then again, it could be a "glioma": a low-grade brain tumor. Apparently, the location where they saw the abnormality (I'm going to stick with that language, as the MRI reader and my doctor can't be certain at this point that they're even looking at a distinct mass; it may well be just a bunch of viscous clotted blood) is close to one of the brain's motor function areas, and the doctor's initial guess is that this is where my problem with balance and hence nausea is coming from. (And the hearing? His best guess is that once you have one problem originating with a physical abnormality with the brain, you're likely to have a cascade effect, and soon your hearing and/or vision and/or other things could become seriously affected as well.)
Finally, the MRI also suggested that there is some exposure of "white matter" across another part of my brain, meaning that something (possibly related to the other conditions, possibly not) seems to have eaten away some of the "myelin sheath" (basically the protective fatty tissue) up there. This, according to my doctor, could be the result of a bacterial or viral infection, in which case the tissue could grow back. But it could also be a sign of the onset of multiple sclerosis or ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), though my symptoms aren't consistent with either of those conditions.
So, that's where things stand. The next step is to meet with a neurosurgeon and get his expert take on the matter; that's been scheduled for January 3rd. Neurologists are busy people, it appears, so we're just going to have to wait. But after that, we should be in a better position to find out if more scans are needed, or what other treatments are recommended at this point.
I find I'm not really scared or worried--I don't really know enough at this point to get freaked out about what's going on upstairs, or what my prognosis is. It's not that I'm perfectly confident or anything; just reserving judgment for the moment. No doubt a major reason for my lack of concern is related to the same factors I mentioned before: I don't feel ill, and the last two weeks have been pretty good, with my usual symptoms barely manifesting themselves (no headaches, nausea, or anything else really; even the buzzing in my ears has been minimal). Still, insofar as family peace of mind goes, Christmastime and finals time is definitely not the best possible season for all this to be happen during, especially with shopping still to be done and tests and papers still to be graded. But...what can I say? Oh, well; we don't get to choose when our bodies launch a sneak attack on us.
Thanks for the many kind comments, thoughts and prayers; I'll definitely continue this saga when there's more to say. Until then, back to blogging.