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You're Not Alone

Dean Cuadra

Dear Kathy (and Flash), I'm so glad to have found Hearnet! For years, I've felt alone, unable to explain to my friends and family what my life has been like since my hearing was damaged in 1994. When I happened upon the Hearnet web site this evening, that loneliness lifted!!

I'm a drummer and percussionist, and I sing. I've been careful with my hearing. I've always worn earplugs when I play drums, because I'm well aware that I can generate enough sound to injure my hearing. But playing hand drums, like bongos, I don't generate much sound at all. In fact, while playing bongos, I would have to injure my hands before I could injure my ears.

On an evening in September of 1994, I was playing bongos with a band at a club in the San Fernando valley. I was not wearing earplugs, as I thought it unnecessary, given that I was only playing bongos. However, the sound man had the onstage monitors turned up extremely loud. At one point, the singer hit a note that literally shook my head. The event is on videotape, and the picture tears up during that note, because even the camera was shaking! The pain was agonizing, but I fought the urge to cease playing and cover my ears, since it would have looked terrible to the audience. That was the biggest mistake in all of my 41 years.

Since that moment, both of my ears have been ringing. Besides my tinnitus, though, everyday sounds cause me pain- a horn honking, a car door closing, a sneeze, someone clapping their hands- anything above normal conversation. Because of my tinnitus, I have difficulty understanding my friends' voices above the squealing in my ears, but I'm hesitant to ask them to speak up, because they might do so, which would hurt! I need people to point their heads in my direction and enunciate, rather than speak loudly, but even my closest friends don't quite understand. I can't blame them, though. Before my hearing was damaged, I doubt if I would have understood, either.

My ear, nose, and throat doctor prescribed Prednisone and niacin, but they had no effect. I gave up on seeking treatment. I still play, as music is a source of great excitement and joy in my life, but the pain and the screaming in my ears makes me wonder if I had better give it up, lest I accidentally get hit by an unexpected loud note before I get my earplugs inserted or after I've removed them. My worst nightmare is that the squealing and pain might someday get worse.

After feeling alone for so long, just reading through the Hearnet web site, and reading about other musicians, I was overcome with emotion. I'm a grown man, but I cried like a baby when I read about your hearing, Kathy, and that you had to stop playing. I wanted to hug you and tell you that you're not alone, but I guess you already know that. I didn't know it, until tonight. I felt like I was the only one on the planet. I guess I'm in good company, though. Wow- Pete Townshend!?! Todd Rungren!?! Tedd Nugent!?! Huey Lewis!?! I didn't know!! Maybe, someday, we'll all get together and have a (QUIET) Tinnitus survivers' jam session!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for Hearnet, Kathy (and Flash)!!

Your friend, Dean Cuadra (DrumrDean@aol.com)
Santa Monica, California


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