By Monique Hammond, Guest Blogger
Like everyone else does, I took my clean, crisp hearing for granted. But over a four-hour period in September 2005, I lost my hearing in my left ear. That same day, an intense vertigo attack made the world spin out of control. I became violently ill and spent the next two days in the hospital. My whole inner ear and nerves had come under attack.
The final verdict was that I had suffered a sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), which is considered a medical emergency. The doctors suspected the cause to be a viral infection complicated by an excessively loud noise exposure from a church fundraiser the day before. I largely credit the treatment of oral steroids and antiviral medication that I received at the very start for being able to regain limited hearing.
The “ear event,” as I like to call it, has left me with a severe one-sided hearing loss, never-ending, high-pitched tinnitus, and annoying sound sensitivities, which make the adjustment of hearing aids quite tricky. Although hearing aids have helped many people beyond their wildest dreams, they have not been tremendously effective for me. Strangely enough, I feel that my hearing aid helps me more with stability—as I am still plagued by pesky balance issues—than with hearing acuity.
Going back to work only reinforced the realization that my job was eroding right from under me: I simply could not function safely and effectively anymore in the noise-confused environment of the hospital pharmacy that was my place of work. I had enjoyed my work and coworkers and I also appreciated my paycheck. Losing all of that has been emotionally a most difficult adjustment.
I am quite open about my challenges as I have found that to be the best policy for me. I am lucky because my friends and family have been very supportive. Over time, they have come to appreciate the varied challenges that hearing loss bestows on those affected. Yes, I must remind them now and then not to talk to me through walls. But sometimes people forget.
Of all the hearing-related issues that I have come across, I have chosen noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as the focus for any of my training, education, and advocacy efforts. Why? Because this is a preventable disability that is on a steep rise. The damage is irreversible but completely avoidable. As yet there is no cure for any kind of hearing loss, and organized public education on this timely topic as well as on hearing loss in general is greatly lacking. (Learn about research toward a cure by HHF’s Hearing Restoration Project.)
All my life I have been a big believer in prevention and education and from that aspect nothing has changed. This why I wrote my book, “What Did You Say?,” and why I bring my new life mission—to help people hear better longer—into a gaping public education void.
These days I am kept busy working with support groups, leading training sessions, doing public speaking, and writing articles and a blog. Although I do use Facebook connected to my website, my favorite social medium is Twitter. It is an ideal tool to keep up with news and research and to communicate information about a myriad of hearing loss topics to my followers.
Yes, the journey into the world of hearing loss has been a long and often thorny road paved with fears and tears but also with plenty of revelations and amazement. Life is different now, but as Senator Hubert H. Humphrey once said: “It is not what they take away from you that counts. It's what you do with what you have left.”
Monique Hammond is a registered pharmacist and the author of “What Did You Say? An Unexpected Journey Into the World of Hearing Loss.” Learn more at moniquehammond.com.