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.