‘Having a baby made me go deaf’

Couldn't believe her ears: Heather Simonsen lost her hearing entirely after giving birth to her third child.

A mother who went went deaf having a baby has spoken of her delight at hearing her daughter cry after undergoing an operation to replace a troublesome ear bone.

In the moments after giving birth to her third child, Heather Simonsen was horrified to realise she could not hear her new baby cry, or what the people around her was saying.

Her hearing had dulled during her first two births and vanished completely in her left ear with the arrival of her second daughter, London.

It later emerged she was suffering a rare condition called Otosclerosis; a genetic hearing condition that affects the third hearing bone.

Simonsen, from Salt Lake City, Utah, said: ‘It’s very discombobulating and disconcerting. I didn’t know what was wrong.’

With each pregnancy, her ears felt clogged and sounds would come and go.

She went to see an ear, nose and throat specialist, who told her she was beginning to lose hearing in her left ear and that she would soon need hearing aids.

Simonsen accepted the diagnosis and said she thought it was something she would just have to get used to.

She gave birth to her third child in August of last year, but hours after delivering in the hospital, Simonsen’s doctors came in to speak with her and she couldn’t hear what they were saying.

‘I could tell they were talking to me, but I could not hear them at all,’ she said.

‘I could tell that they were speaking more loudly, but I could not understand what they were saying.’

Her doctor recommended she see a surgeon at the University of Utah, who diagnosed her.

With Otosclerosis the third ear bone becomes fixed to the surrounding bone so that it cannot vibrate and transmit sound.

And Simonsen’s pregnancy and birth made the condition dramatically worse.

‘We don’t know why it happens more with pregnancy, but we have found a relation with, for whatever reason, in patients who already have the problem of hearing loss, it seems to be accelerated during pregnancy,’ said Dr. Kevin Wilson, an Otolarngologist with the University of Utah.

In Simonsen’s case, she did not know she had Otosclerosis until she became pregnant, but the condition is more common than one would expect.

As much as 10 per cent of the population may suffer from the condition, but have not exhibited severe enough symptoms to warrant a diagnosis.

In addition, the condition is more common in young women.

However, hearing can be improved with hearing aids or surgery.

‘We lift up the ear drum and actually remove the third hearing bone and then drill a small hole in the inner ear and replace it with a prosthetic bone; a titanium piston prosthesis going from the second hearing bone to the inner ear and bypasses the problem,’ said Dr. Wilson.

There are risks with the surgery, however, it has a 90 per cent success rate.

Simonsen opted for the operation, which allowed her to once again her the sounds her children make.

‘I can hear better than I’ve been able to hear in probably a decade,’ she described.

‘Even hearing her cry is wonderful because I know I can respond.’

Among the symptoms are hearing loss, occurring slowly at first but which continues to get worse, and ringing in the ears; tinnitus.

The ways to detect it are a hearing test, which may help determine the severity of hearing loss, and a special imaging test of the head called a temporal-bone CT, which may be used to rule out other causes of hearing loss. For more information on hearing loss and hearing aids contact Hidden Hearing.

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