I lost my hearing during childbirth, and now I need a hearing aid

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As I entered the operating room for my third cesarean, I heard the soothing sounds of classical music. Everyone felt welcome and extremely happy. A few minutes later, our third daughter was born and checked for a few routine complications.

The nurse took my life and pressed my stomach. A deep pain, followed by a terrifying revelation: I couldn’t hear anything. Not the nurse asking me, not my husband, not the medical monitors. Nothing.

The anesthesiologist took a quick look at me and told me not to worry, my hearing would be back to normal once the congestion in my head from pregnancy cleared up. But it didn’t happen.

Doctors aren’t sure why people may experience hearing loss during pregnancy or childbirth. Hormonal changes or high blood pressure can cause hearing problems, such as stuffy ears or background noise. But hearing loss during pregnancy is rare, and because of hearing loss at birth, Frank Lin, professor of otolaryngology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of its Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health, said she never heard of it. met before.

The next day the congestion in my head was gone, but things were still quiet and not back to normal. And as the months passed, things did not improve. A loud hissing sounded in my ears; I couldn’t hear my kids clearly if we were all in the same car and they were sitting in the back seat; I couldn’t hear the grocery store cashier say that the cashier’s counter was open; I couldn’t hear my colleague calling my name as I approached my desk at work; and I constantly asked people to repeat it during face-to-face conversations.

Finally, nine months after giving birth, it was too much. My husband Bernard said, “Son, it’s time to take your hearing loss seriously and see a doctor.”

The audiologist immediately diagnosed severe hearing loss in both ears. I lost more than a quarter of my left ear and almost 40 percent of my right ear. I have particular problems distinguishing low tones. It may seem like a pain, but it’s the difference between enjoying conversation and music and listening to loud noises.

It is with sadness, shock, and deep sadness that I officially join the more than 38 million Americans age 12 and older who are hard of hearing in both ears.

According to the British Tinnitus Association, more than a third of pregnant women experience tinnitus. The problem can be caused by stress, upper back pain, high blood pressure, headaches and other ailments that are common among pregnant women. However, for most people, tinnitus is gone by the time the baby is born.

What to do about loud, chronic ringing in your ears

When my hearing suddenly started to improve, I discovered that I had tinnitus six months after the birth of my new daughter, Quinn, but I now realize that it actually started before then. After my girls went to bed and spent the night, it became more apparent. I like the sound of an air conditioner breaking, and the quieter our house gets, the louder it gets. If I was watching TV, I had to turn up the volume.

When I searched for answers to what was wrong, my doctors thought I might have another disorder in the middle ear, otosclerosis, or abnormal bone growth, that developed during pregnancy, possibly due to hormonal changes.. This causes mild to severe hearing loss, but can be cured with surgery or hearing aids.

“We don’t know for sure whether pregnancy causes otosclerosis, but it may be associated with the onset or worsening during pregnancy,” says researcher Frankie Oliver of the Royal Institute of the Deaf (RNID) in London. It seems to affect women in their 20s and 30s, he said, “and it seems to run in families, but … we think there may be environmental factors as well.”

However, my hearing loss did not occur during pregnancy, and after a series of tests, doctors scratched otosclerosis off the list of possible causes.

Instead, they began to focus on another culprit, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), sometimes called “sudden deafness” which is damage to the inner ear nerve. Although my doctors told me that I have not had SNHL from childbirth, SNHL can occur during pregnancy. It is also sustainable, they said.

After more audiological exams, CT scans, and genetic tests, doctors finally discovered another problem that they now believe caused my hearing loss: I have an abnormally shaped cochlea—the part of the inner ear that converts sounds into nerve signals to the brain. This still doesn’t solve the mystery of why I lost my hearing from birth, but I will soon be undergoing additional genetic testing to help understand the origin of my misshapen cochlea.

I started wearing hearing aids a year after my daughter was born. It was refreshing and nice to hear anything and everything again. The ringing in my ears stops when I put my hearing aids on, but comes back when I take them out to bed, but not enough to wake me up. With the help of a hearing aid, I could clearly hear my daughter’s first words and her infectious laugh.

The pandemic has been especially hard on hearing-impaired people like me, because the masks other people wear mask their voices and interfere with their facial expressions and lip movements—key clues that help me and others interpret what they say.

Trying to figure out my hearing problems was eye-opening and often left me feeling overwhelmed, from wearing my hearing aids for the first time, to the anxiety that came with attending private events and wondering if I could do it. listen clearly to everyone, participate in the conversation, worry about how I will be perceived, and even share this story.

Fortunately, the common belief about hearing loss is always changing for the better.

Hearing aids are becoming smaller, more powerful, and more flexible due to rapidly advancing technology. I don’t think most people I talk to realize that I wear hearing aids in both ears that can be adjusted to specifically amplify high and low tones depending on my environment. The devices have different settings for restaurants, concerts, meetings and phone calls. They can be synced with mobile devices and other electronics and can be controlled by an app.

But there’s a downside to this technological advancement: A pair of braces can cost up to $6,000 and are typically not covered by insurance.

I am fortunate that my insurance covers a significant portion of that cost. But for many For seniors on Medicare, who don’t have coverage, the cost can be particularly severe. As a result, only 28.5 percent of people in the United States need hearing aids. But there is good news: Congress authorized over-the-counter hearing aids in 2017, and last fall the Food and Drug Administration began the process of creating a new category of government-approved hearing aids that Americans can buy without hearing aids. recipe.

Hearing aids without a prescription or exam? FDA takes a big step to make this happen.

I am 43 years old now. With no medical advances, hearing aids are a permanent part of my life. Without them – when I forget them at home, or need to quickly charge the battery before an event – the ringing, buzzing noises and anxiety return.

I can go to meetings with them with more confidence. I love music and theater. I can hear birds chirping in my yard. I can hear my three daughters more clearly, but sometimes I have to ask them to repeat things and say things clearly.

Edda Collins Coleman lives in Orinda, California, and is a managing director at Cogent Strategies, a government relations and public affairs firm in the District of Columbia.

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