If you’ve been following any of my pageant platforms then you know that my platform is hearing loss & deaf awareness. This has been my platform since I started pageants and Miss Teenage Canada 2018 will be my 5th pageant. The reason I’ve held on so tightly to this platform is because I suffered from hearing loss for a year and worked very hard on recovering. If you aren’t very educated in the science of ears/history of deaf culture, this blog post will tell you everything you need to know and more. By sharing my story of how I lost my hearing and how I conquered it, I hope to spread more light for my platform and show people how passionate I am about it.
The story began when I went cliff jumping with some friends. We stood on a cliff that’s right below a bridge. The bridge has a rope swing tied to it that we can swing off of from the cliff. When I tried the rope swing for the first time, I went too deep in the water very quickly. This is extremely dangerous because our eustachian tubes (connects from throat to middle ear) are unable to dilate, meaning air can no longer enter or leave the middle ear cavity. As a result of the negative air pressure in the middle ear, it can cause the ear drum to rupture.
For the next few days after, I had extreme headaches/earaches and I felt my hearing slowly starting to fade. I had fluid draining from my ear so I went to my family doctor and he said there was a clear rupture in my eardrum with an infection in my middle ear. He prescribed me antibiotics and Tylenol 3’s and sent me home. He had no idea the severity that my condition would turn out to be.
I knew that the antibiotics weren’t working because my ear progressively began feeling “heavier”. By blocking the ear I could hear out of, it felt like I lost approximately 80% of my hearing in my other (left) ear. Eventually, my ear started to drain blood, which I knew was not a good sign. So I went to the hospital instead, where they just prescribed me a larger dose of the same antibiotics and some Morphine.
If you’ve noticed by now that I was prescribed both Codeine (Tylenol 3) AND Morphine, you’d realize that my nervous system must’ve been very slow from the mix of opioids. There are a lot of complications that can occur from this and I happened to have a reaction of some sort that caused my face and throat to swell. As a result, I spent the immediate next night at the hospital again where they worked on controlling my intake of medication and then they sent me home again.
Fast forwarding to 2 weeks and 4 hospital trips later, on my way to my friends house I realized that when I smiled, the left side of my face wouldn’t move as much as my right. By the end of the night, the left side of my face was completely paralyzed. This was a clear indicator that the infection had spread to my face, so we went to the hospital. At this time, they realized the severity of the infection and I was admitted in to the hospital (finally!!).
In the hospital I had to put cream in my eye and wear an eyepatch because my eye couldn’t blink and was getting dry. They gave me antibiotics through an IV because it had to attack the bacteria directly. After some tests, the doctors diagnosed me with Mastoiditis infected by the Streptococcus bacteria (which is actually pretty rare). The mastoid bone is a bone behind the ear that has air pockets, responsible for protecting the inner ear from temperature changes and pressure changes. By having the mastoid air pockets filled with a bacteria, it caused hearing loss. The facial nerve runs directly through the mastoid bone, which is why my face/neck were stiff and paralyzed. The streptococcus bacteria is commonly found in the throat, but when found in the ear accompanied by a rupture, my nurse told me it is known to have pain comparable to child birth.
The doctors decided to put a tube through the rupture in my ear so that any fluid in my middle ear could drain out. Since the ear drum is extremely (emphasis on the extremely) sensitive, I was put under anaesthetics even though it would be a quick operation.
For the next few days in the hospital I was still in a lot of pain. However, I did recover tremendously better throughout the 5 days in the hospital on IV fluids than I did in 3 weeks with oral antibiotics at home. I still felt a pressure on my ear but I assumed that it was because of the infection. On my 5th day in the hospital, the doctor checked on the tube in my ear because I said it felt out of place. He said that the tube could move easily by just sneezing and that mine appeared to have moved. As I said earlier, when he initially put the tube in my ear drum, I was under anaesthetics because the ear drum is extremely sensitive. This time, when he saw the tube out of place, he went to go fix the placing of it while I was awake. This put me in screaming pain as he was trying to grab hold of the tube and reposition it. While this was happening, he lost grip of the tube and dropped the tube into my middle ear. This is a medical hazard because the tube is a foreign object that can build and hold on to more bacteria. He sent me back up to my room where he told me he would speak to other doctors about what to do next.
A few hours later the doctor returned to tell me that he is unable to grab the tube because it would be too invasive and that I would have to wait until the rupture is healed because when they get the tube they have to cut open the ear drum to access the inner ear. That night, they discharged me from the hospital. It was concerning for my family and I because the doctor had made a surgical mistake and then sent me home after.
The solution was for me to go to Sick Kids in Toronto where I had an ENT who would remove the tube. Until that time, I had to be very careful while I was recovering. I had an extreme fear of water where I would be afraid to shower because I might get water in my ears. Even now, 3 years later, although I am okay to shower, I am still too afraid to go underwater. I was also very scared of the cold air/wind because it would feel as though my eardrum is being pierced. I wore ridiculous looking ear-muffs for the entire fall and winter because I was terrified of the pain that could come. I also had to stop the sports I loved, like gymnastics, because the tube in my middle ear caused my balance to be extremely off. In football/soccer, I had an ear plug to stop the wind but it just made communication between my teammates and I more difficult. I no longer could play piano, go to school dances, or listen to music through my earphones because any close noise irritated my ear drum- but I also could barely hear the people around me because my mastoid bone was infected and was interrupting any communication between my ear and my brain. Basically, there was no winning for me.
I was discharged from the hospital in July and the tube was removed in November. Removing the tube was the first step to beating hearing loss because there was no longer something interrupting my hearing and infection-healing process. The surgery itself did induce hearing loss even more because they had to cut my ear drum, and it took around a year for my hearing to come back completely.
Having hearing loss has opened my eyes to so many different aspects of life and it has inspired me to be a strong woman. Of course it was really difficult at first. I learned that people don’t like to repeat themselves, people don’t like to speak too loud, and that it can be really embarrassing to explain to strangers why they have to exaggerate their words. Having hearing loss made me feel like I didn’t have a voice. Which is exactly why I want to spread awareness for those who suffer from hearing loss or deafness. I understand the pain of not being understood for your differences.
Learning sign language was by far one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. By learning how to communicate with the deaf and hard of hearing, it’s opened tons of doors for me in the work place, school, and mostly pageants. I’ve met some amazing deaf people through my sign language classes at the Canadian Hearing Society and I will even be doing a placement there for a credit in school. I love how enthusiastic people are to learn sign language and about deaf culture. Last year at Miss Teenage Canada, I remember teaching a group of girls sign language and they began to use the sign language the rest of the week. I love to show people how easy it is to learn sign language with some hard work.
I am so excited to spread awareness again this year for deaf culture and show people that hearing loss can be difficult to live with- but it is the people around them that can help improve their quality of life. It can be as simple as educating yourself on deaf etiquette in case you encounter a deaf person while at work.
I love to educate people on sign language and deaf culture so if you are ever interested in learning more then feel free to contact me on any of my pageant platforms!! Thank you so much for reading this story about how I conquered hearing loss, and I hope you understand just a little more how passionate I am about my platform.