I have always had a hearing loss as a result of contracting Rubella whilst in the womb, and have worn hearing aids since the age of 2.
Wearing hearing aids never adversely affected me in any way, shape or form. I was a happy and by all accounts, cheeky child. I attended mainstream primary and secondary schools and went on to obtain a Law Degree from University.
Yes, sometimes I felt self conscious about wearing them, and I mostly wore my hair down to cover them up but that was me being a typical girl not wanting to appear different to my peers.
I loved socialising with my friends, seeing live music and stand up comedy and also travelling, I never considered myself as “disabled”.
All this, and my life as I knew it, changed on 19th February 2014, a mere week after I celebrated turning the grand old age of 27. I experienced muted hearing in my right ear (my “good ear”) and a feeling of being underwater. I was not overly concerned but booked an appointment to see my GP the following day.
The GP was not worried about this, and after looking at my ears, declared I was suffering from glue ear as a result of a build up mucus. This surprised me as I had never suffered from this before but I was put at ease and went home to put my head over a bowl of steaming water.
I noticed in the following days that my hearing was getting worse, to the point where I could barely hear on the telephone and everyone sounded like they were talking from the depths of the ocean. On the fifth day of these symptoms, I awoke to no hearing at all in my right ear and was in floods of tears at the realisation that I could not hear myself talk.
My partner immediately took me to the nearest Accident & Emergency department to seek the advice of a consultant. We assumed, that being in a hospital, they would have a wealth of equipment available to them to help correctly diagnose my condition. We were wrong. The consultant merely peeked into my ear and immediately informed us that I had a retracted ear drum due to a build up of mucus from a virus, despite having no symptoms of any viruses preceding the hearing loss. At the time I took what the consultant said as truth and was placated.
In the meantime an appointment had been booked with my Ear Nose Throat (ENT) consultant who I have been under the care of since I was a todder. It was during this appointment, 7 days after the onset of my symptoms that I had various tests and an updated audiogram. The consultant sat my mother and I down and broke the news that I had suffered from Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss and was now profoundly deafened. I was, understandably, distraught at the diagnosis.
I was immediately put on a hyper intensive course of prednisolene steroids (70 tablets!!) for a period of 12 days in the hope that they would bring back some if not all of my hearing. My consultant was not hopeful that this would work and sadly he was proved right.
Because of the sudden and dramatic drop in the levels of my hearing, I had to have an MRI and CAT scan to rule out any brain trauma or even tumour. Waiting for these results was a tense time, but thankfully the scans were all clear.
The effect that this hearing loss has had on my life has been enormous. I now cannot hear on the telephone, cannot distinguish music, cannot hear what people are saying if I cannot read their lips and it left me feeling depressed. Even the simplest of task, like crossing the road, now poses safety risks as I cannot always hear oncoming traffic.
I now have an invisible disability.