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How a cold can send you deaf overnight

In October last year, I got up and walked to work in the morning. At about 10 o’clock I went to the bank, and on the way there my hearing turned off. 

Until this happened to me I never realized that any form of common cold could ever be much more serious than I had known it as a child. Incurable deafness is not something anyone mentions to you when you’ve sneezed too many times in a day, or you’ve woken up with a sore throat. But I think that it should be.

When a person suffers the kind of infection I eventually found out that I had had, there is a very small window of treatment. I was told later by a Doctor that if I had been given steroids within 3 days of going deaf, I would have had a 60% chance of regaining some, if not full hearing, in my deaf ear. Despite being so afraid of what had happened and going to the Doctor’s the very same day, I wasn’t given these drugs until 7 weeks later, by which time my chances had gone down to around 5%. Needless to say I am now facing a lifetime of being partially deaf.

Nothing I know how to say could sum up the injustice of being 23 and having a hearing aid brochure arrive through my door with an elderly man on the cover. Or be walking down my road one morning and have someone jokingly ask me if I was still drunk from the night before, because I suddenly couldn’t walk straight and looked like I was going to vomit. I can’t explain what it is like to have played the piano since I was a child and now have it sound nothing like I remember. To relearn how to cross busy roads again when I cannot tell where traffic  noises are coming from, and repeatedly struggle with not being late for work because I suddenly can’t hear an alarm that I could hear right up until yesterday. The panic that fills me when I walk into a bank now immediately knowing I will not be able to hear what the cashier has said to me, and the embarrassment and inexplicable stress I feel at saying “pardon” for the fifth time, resisting the urge to burst into tears in someone’s face.

Though I am eternally grateful that it could be worse, and that I was lucky to have 23 years relatively free of too many long-term health issues - it frustrates me endlessly that if I had known about incurable deafness being linked to viral infections, I might have asked the Doctor myself about the pills that could have saved my hearing - and continue to not appreciate the simple things we all take for granted, that now make me upset.

I am posting this in the hope that one person reads it - and if they’re ever suffering the starting symptoms of a cold and feel their ears “pop”, that they go to the doctor’s immediately.

It’s hard to get my head round the fact that something so simple has changed my life in the way that it has. Because my hearing is so skewed, my own voice in my head seems deafening, not to mention how badly I want to punch myself in the face everytime I do stupidly simple things like having to chew my dinner. Put a hand over one ear next time you’re eating and you will understand… Being partially deaf is one of those things that you’d never think could be that bad surely, unless it happened to you, and it happened to me because of something so normal. I cried when I read the news article attached to this post, because I felt myself getting jealous that he was 11 years older than me when it happened to him. That is exactly why I feel like people should be more aware of the issue however.

If ever you experience sudden deafness in either or both of your ears, don’t dismiss it purely as a symptom of a cold. Go to the doctor’s and mention the possibility of nerve damage just in case. We can’t all be going deaf… Can you imagine all the awful piano playing… 

(To see the article, click the post title.)

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