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Woman's unusual hearing problem: Every sound amplified

January 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Imagine hearing your own heartbeat pounding inside your head, your voice echoing, every sound you make, every sound you hear -- amplified. That was the reality for Kerrie Aitken.

"My whole world just changed. I had no control over myself anymore," said Aitken.

For nine months, Aitken suffered from dizziness, nausea and depression. Doctors didn't know why. She was told to see a psychiatrist.

"It was way too much for her to handle," said Aitken's husband, John.

Dr. Quinton Gopen, a head and neck surgeon at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, pinpointed the problem inside Aitken's ear. It was smaller than a pinhead. Gopen said the problem Aitken had was at the superior canal, where a little opening in the bone formed.

Gopen opened Aitken's skull, moved the brain to get to her ear, filled the two millimeter hole with a bone wax, lined the area with muscle, and covered it with a tiny piece of bone from her skull.

"People wake up in tears, not from pain, but from joy because the noise is gone immediately after the surgery," said Gopen.

Aitken said she was happy with the results.

"The first thing I did not hear was that wonderful heart beating. I was so happy," said Aitken.