It was a condition that had baffled doctors for almost six years. What started out as a dull ache on one side of his head, gradually worsened to the frightening stage when an Oxfordshire man could actually hear his eyes moving in their sockets.
Although Stephen Mabbutt found he was having difficulty hearing everyday things such as the television or people talking to him, he was amazed to find he could hear his own heart beating and his eyes making noises as they moved.
It was only when Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant Richard Irving at the Birmingham Ear Clinic, based at BMI The Priory and Edgbaston Hospitals, was asked for help that Stephen’s rare condition was actually diagnosed.
“I just couldn’t understand what was happening to me,” said father-of-two Stephen, aged 57, of Cartwright Road, Charlton, near Banbury. “Loud noises made me dizzy and when I spoke my vision pulsated to the rhythm of my words.”
“About 18 months ago things got much worse. I could actually hear my eyeballs moving and my heart beating. My doctor sent me to a consultant and he, in turn, directed me to the Birmingham Ear Clinic.”
Once at the Birmingham clinic, Stephen met ear expert Mr Irving who organised a new set of scans – this time taken from very specific positions.
It was discovered that Stephen had superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome - a tiny hole in the balance canal of his ear caused by the bone protecting it wearing away. As the problem remained undetected the tiny hole continued to grow and his condition gradually got worse.
“It was really a case of knowing what you were looking for before you actually started looking for it,” explained Mr Irving.
“Fortunately I have had experience of this before and so I was able to arrange a special sequence of scans which confirmed my diagnosis.
“This condition was only discovered about 10 years ago and is very rare indeed. Once it is detected the operation to put it right is not a complex one - but the difficulty is in actually spotting the problem in the first place.”
Now, just weeks after undergoing surgery to seal the hole, Stephen is back at work and full of praise for the work carried out by Mr Irving.
“You can’t believe what a relief it is,” said Stephen. “After such a long time thinking I would never be cured I am now back at work and on the road to a full recovery, can’t overstate how grateful I am to Mr Irving and the people at Birmingham Ear Clinic.”