Until September 12, 2005, I took my clean, crisp hearing for granted, just like everybody else. That afternoon, however, I went deaf as a post in my left ear over a four-hour period.

It was a rather spooky experience; my hearing went into freefall, and there was nothing that I could do to stop it. I had left my house healthy and without a hint that I would return at least partially disabled. A bit later in the evening, an intense vertigo attack made the world spin out of control. I became violently ill and spent the next two days in the hospital.

The final verdict was that I had suffered a Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss. My whole inner ear had come under siege. The doctors suspected a viral infection complicated by an excessively loud noise exposure the day before the incident. A brief but intense stress reaction on that fateful afternoon might have triggered the sequence of events that brought me to the emergency room. To this day I have a severe left-sided hearing loss in the upper frequencies, or pitches, and I am still plagued by pesky balance issues. I take solace almost daily in the wise words of one of my physicians: “It is amazing what the body can get used to.”

Although I am a hospital pharmacist by profession, I realized early on that my knowledge and understanding about ears and hearing left a lot to be desired. I either did not know enough information or I did not know the right things, which made communicating with my physicians and audiologists a tad tedious. I finally decided that if I wanted to put the puzzle together, I had to study up myself, starting with the basics.

Time passed and flyers, books, papers and articles accumulated. Eventually I became fascinated with the condition that had sidelined me. The initial endeavor of tracking whatever happened that day and why turned into a comprehensive research project. At some point, it struck me that nobody else would ever benefit from the effort, which would be a waste. After all, information is for sharing, for easing the way for others. In the end, I decided to tell my story and to pass forward what I learned from the experience in a book entitled What Did You Say? An Unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss. It has been a long road paved with fears and tears, revelations, and amazement.

When I lay in my hospital bed back in 2005, half-deaf, worn out and limp like a noodle, I did not realize that the episode would become a life-changer and eventually a career-ender. It took close to two years for me to accept that I had been pushed across the threshold into the world of hearing loss to which I now belong forever as a hard-of-hearing person. My life was guided onto a totally different track, and somewhere along the way, I acquired a new life mission and passion, namely hearing loss. And that is good.

The number of people with hearing issues is on the rise, most alarmingly among younger people, and a lot of important work has to be done, especially in the area of hearing loss prevention. Am I up to the challenge? Who knows? I don’t know what this next test and adventure will bring, but I am willing to give it my all.

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Monique Hammond is a registered pharmacist who was born and raised in Luxembourg. She graduated with high distinction from the University of Minnesota, College of Pharmacy. She entered the world of hearing loss in fall 2005 when she went totally deaf in her left ear. Monique tells her story and what she learned from the experience in her book, What Did You Say? An unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss. Monique is vice-president of the Twin Cities chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. She recently completed two terms as a governor-appointed commissioner for the Commission of Deaf, Deafblind and Hard-of-Hearing Minnesotans, where she served as vice-chair. She is a member of the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) and of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), national and local chapters.

5 COMMENTS

  1. your story is similar like my uncle. he is also having the same.well the moral is that we have to cope up with hearing loss and find out some good options for living.

  2. Your story is like mine almost exactly. Only difference is the hearing loss (profound) is in my right ear.

  3. Male, 42, Caucasian (Seattle)
    Jan 10th, 2014. I was driving in my car and lost the hearing in my left ear. I went to the hospital the next day and began steroids. So I started treatment about 24 hours from onset. Today is Thursday, Jan 16th, and there is no change, other than the ringing has lessened slightly…I used to have what the Doctors called “SuperMan” ears because they are so sensitive. Maybe being so sensitive caused damage? When I was young, I used to listen to loud music, but not that often. Age catches up with you.

  4. Interesting comments: Every year there are tens of thousands of new cases of Sudden Hearing Loss. Although some might not fit the medical criteria, losing any hearing can be quite stressful and alarming. An exact cause for such sudden hearing declines has not been determined. My whole inner ear had come under attack. It is remarkable that the day before this all happened I had a very loud noise exposure at a church fundraiser. I wrote my book because I felt that sharing my story, how my life was affected and what I learned could teach and support others with similar experiences and with hearing loss in general. There are many misunderstandings and myths related to hearing loss, its potential side effects and fallout on life. As the numbers of those with hearing loss are rising, public education is sorely and urgently needed. Getting out into the communities, I can vouch for that.

  5. Just happened to me – 6 days ago was vacation snorkeling for a couple of hours and left the waters and felt like I was still underwater in my right ear. 3 days afterwards I saw an ENT and was diagnosed with SSHL. A second ENT made the same diagnosis. On day 3 of steroids now. It is stressful and I empathize with all those afflicted.

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