By Eman Hammad
I started to lose the hearing in my left ear when I was 16. I began wearing a hearing aid when I was in my last year of high school, around 17. Every year my hearing was getting worse. I kept changing my hearing aid, but eventually, I couldn’t hear anything in that ear. The hearing aid didn’t even help. And after a couple more years, I started to lose hearing in my right ear, too.
I kept to myself because I felt like I couldn’t connect with people anymore. I couldn’t hear people very well. I could tell they were laughing and talking, but I didn’t know what they were talking or laughing about. I’m a very social person. I love to go out. But I even quit my studies at the university in Saudi Arabia because I couldn’t hear well. It was ruining my life.
I went to so many doctors — in Saudi Arabia where I was living and then in Turkey. I couldn’t find out the reason for losing my hearing. And every year it kept getting worse. The doctors didn’t know why it was happening.
‘We’re going to Rush’
I came to the United States about five years ago on a scholarship to study advertising at the Illinois Institute of Art. While I was here, my brother researched the best doctors for me. He found an ear, nose and throat doctor who specializes in hearing loss, Dr. Mark Wiet. My brother said, “We’re going to Rush.”
When I met with Dr. Wiet, he just looked at my eyes, and he said, “I’m going to order a genetic test for you.” And then after we did the testing, he found out that I have advanced osteogenesis imperfecta. It causes hearing loss, among other issues. He just looked at my eyes, and he figured that out.
Because of the osteogenesis imperfecta, the color of my eyes is different. Instead of being white, the area around my pupil is blue-gray. That’s one of the signs of osteogenesis imperfecta. I went to so many doctors and nobody had known.
Help with hearing loss
Osteogenesis imperfecta causes problems with my bones, so I also see Dr. Sonali Khandelwal in rheumatology on a regular basis. Whenever she asks if she can bring in residents to check out my eyes, I always let her know that as long as they’re good looking, it’s fine with me. ☺
Even though the condition is something I’ll live with the rest of my life, just finding out what was going on with me was such a relief. And after Dr. Wiet put in a cochlear implant to help my hearing loss, I really got back my confidence. I started to go out by myself and go clubbing. I love, love dancing so much. I feel now like finally, I have myself back.