David McLaughlin responds to your generosity

David McLaughlin sent along this poignant note in response to this morning’s news that the necessary funds had been raised for him to purchase the new hearing aids that have restored much of his hearing. Multiple kudos to Claire Lynch who spearheaded the effort to make this happen.

Hi, everyone. All of this concern over my hearing loss and the effort to raise the funds for a set of good hearing aids has me very touched in a way that cannot be put into words.

A few weeks ago, I went to my audiologist to have my hearing aid cleaned and adjusted. I say hearing aid (singular) because my right ear has been pretty much useless, being near totally deaf. Hearing aids had been of no help in my right ear so I don’t own an aid for that ear. Most of my hearing is gone in my left ear too, but my left-ear hearing aid helps a little with speech at close range. I still must read lips, though, and most often must ask people to repeat what they are saying and to speak slowly. Speaking louder does not help. The hearing aid I own for my left ear is of no help for hearing music.

While I was at the audiologist, I asked her about some new hearing aids I had been reading about online (Oticon Dual). She said she had a demo pair she would set up for my ears and loan to me. When I first put them on, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!…couldn’t believe THAT I was hearing, even a little bit of sound in my right ear. Sounds I had not heard in four years were actually scaring the livin’ daylights out of me. It’s hard to explain what hearing little common sounds feels like when you haven’t heard much of anything in four years.

I happily agreed to borrow the demo hearing aids, knowing that I could not afford to buy my own in these times of financial survival. I had no intention of even considering buying them, with so many life expenses and bills each month. But I came home all excited about just being able to borrow the aids for several days. I got out some of my musical instruments, which I had not been able to hear in four years. Now I could hear them! I could once again hear the voices of friends and family. I could hear rain. I could hear wind blowing through the trees. I could hear squeaky door hinges.

So I got on Facebook simply to express my excitement about these cool little electronic things In my ears. I certainly was not asking for help to acquire them, and had no idea that it would be any cause for concern. I just wanted to tell the world about these amazing hearing instruments that actually were allowing me to hear again. Several people quickly responded, on Facebook and privately, by suggesting that there should be a way for me to buy a set for keeps with the help of friends.

When Claire Lynch read my post, she took immediate action and proceeded to legally organize and spearhead a fund raising campaign so that my being able to hear again would be more than a short-lived reality. There are also quite a few other good people who have been proactive in this effort from the day I first posted my praise for these Oticon Dual hearing aids.

Since Claire began her fund raising efforts before Christmas, she has been in contact with me every day. She has devoted all of her Christmas holiday time to this cause. While Claire has been working to legally set up the trust account and spread the word, I had been running around like crazy with this borrowed set, getting reacquainted with old familiar sounds, playing music, and trying to find people who want to play and sing, so that I can hear and enjoy what it sounds like again. It’s very strange, frightening, and beautiful to play and sing and actually hear it.

During the last few weeks, I have received emails and phone calls from so many caring and kind people about my hearing loss, that I will try to answer and make clear exactly what the deal is with my hearing.

I was a longtime career musician, involved with performing, music and audio production. It was my life, but in 2004, I experienced a sudden neural hearing loss in my left ear. Along with this came significant vertigo, with a couple of cases of me collapsing on stage, including one while playing guitar with Junior Brown. I went for repeat visits to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to Dr. Lloyd Minor for treatment, but with little success. It was only a loss of high and mid frequency, but still devastating, since I had been a recording engineer with perfect hearing in both ears until then. Still, I was able to continue my career with a perfect right ear.

In December of 2005, I woke up one morning totally deaf in my right ear and nearly totally deaf in my left ear, missing ALL mids and highs, only able to hear some very low frequency in my left ear only. And along with that came out-of-control vertigo so severe that I was hospitalized (deaf) with nonstop spinning, violently sick. The severe dizziness has not changed since then. I have just learned how to live with it.I went for many regular visits to JH Hospital, for injections though my eardrums, and after a few treatments, I had regained only the slightest perceivable hearing gain. So since then, my right ear hears only extremely low level, indecipherable low frequency sounds, and only when the sound source is very loud. So my right ear is basically deaf. My left ear hears only low frequency, too, but more sound than my right ear. The mechanics of my eardrums and inner ears are fine, but the signal does not get to my brain, so no implant will work. And the hearing loss still is gradually worsening with each year.

What all this has meant to my career as a musician is that as a recording engineer, it’s like flying an airplane on instruments. I can see if it’s right, but I can’t hear it. So I can track really well and still know how to get great sound going in. I cannot mix, though without good ears by my side. As a performing musician, I cannot hear the fundamental frequencies of what I or anybody else is playing. I can only “feel” a guitar, mandolin, or fiddle. So I play from memory, using my eyes to see where I am on the fingerboard. I can hear bass and can generally feel the pulse of the rhythm in a band, and I use my eyes to watch bandmates moving to keep my place. Playing a violin is all guesswork with my left hand. Singing is also guesswork.

I never have given up playing and singing, and still try to stay involved with music on a professional level to some degree. I have been doing a little engineering, a little session work, occasional stage work, but I just can’t hear it. I still have fun though, being with friends and pleasing the listeners. I am not really able to hear any radio or CDs, but still try to keep up with what’s going on in the music world by reading about it some. I have always kept a good attitude about my loss of hearing, only because we don’t have to look too far to find someone with worse problems than our own. I am a very fortunate that so far, it is only my hearing I’ve lost.

I have lived with severe loss of hearing for exactly four years. But at least I now know there is hope for me to hear again with new cutting-edge hearing aid technology. I also know that many of you have been praying, hoping and helping to find a way for my hearing loss to turn around. New hearing instruments may be the answer for now. I have been fortunate to borrow this demo set of some amazing instruments by Oticon over the holidays, and the improvement is startling. They work…to say the least. I returned the borrowed set on Monday, but while I had them I was on a non-stop jamming rampage

The combination of hearing again, Claire’s efforts, and the help of some good friends who have worked very hard to help me acquire my own Oticon Duals, has put me into a very emotional state. These last four years I had not allowed myself to grieve over my loss of hearing, because there are so many people dealing with problems in this world, that I feel I should only be thankful for my blessings.

I have had mixed feelings about accepting help, but all the people I have talked to about it have told me to take the help, be thankful, and spread the love by always helping others in need. And I just can’t get over how Claire and others have been wanting and willing to devote their time to this cause for me. So, I accept the love.

I say to all of you, and to those who have been contributing…Thank you for your help, with all my heart. My love and appreciation to all of you!