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  • Writer's pictureJim David

A Personal Journey

Updated: 5 days ago



For those of you who don’t know, I have a severe hearing impairment.  It’s a daily struggle that is harder than many people realize even though technology has done so much over the years to help me get by. 

 

Then, last week, I thought I would lose my hearing completely.

 

First, the backstory.  I began losing my hearing when I was around 30 due to conductive hearing loss. The time since has required major adjustments to how I interact and communicate with others. As just one illustration of how I have had to adjust, when I’m in a crowded room, or a place with a lot of ambient noise, the level of effort and concentration it takes me to understand someone is immense. The effort from using my limited hearing and reading lips is exhausting.  It reminds me of the mental fatigue I used to feel after a college exam. 

 

This journey has also included some very deep spiritual and emotional valleys.  I’m blessed to have a wonderful supportive wife who has encouraged me during those times.

 

One ray of hope was a surgical intervention for conductive hearing loss.  So, seven years ago, I underwent surgery on my right ear in the hopes of restoring my hearing.  The stapedectomy done at the Mayo Clinic initially went well.  I was hearing sounds I hadn’t heard in more than a decade.  Then, a few days later, I experienced Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) due to an unknown post-op complication.  It was a brutal experience that left me with severe vertigo, maddening tinnitus, and an ear that was “useless” for communication.  My other ear was still compromised by conductive hearing loss helped only by a hearing aid.  Surgery for that one was now off the table. 

 

I was put on a high dose of steroids in an effort to save my hearing in the post-surgical ear.  But there was no improvement.  The end result is that that ear hears sound but does very little for word comprehension.  I often tell people that speech (from that ear) is like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher.

 

It was extremely difficult to adjust to the many negative impacts on my life.  Work, home, church, community, and every relationship, every interaction, every single aspect of my life was impacted. It was also a big spiritual battle for me. A story I will share another time.

 

Then, last Sunday (June 2), out of nowhere, I started experiencing SSHL again.  This time in my left ear. The only “good” ear I have and my lifeline for communication.  With each passing hour, it got worse.  I was losing all ability to hear and communicate. I had a fighting chance if I could read someone’s lips, but beyond that, it was hopeless. My wife and I began texting each other. Even when we were together.  The doctor’s prognosis: one in three see no improvement.

 

It felt like a knockout blow.  The reality that I could be deaf for the remainder of my life was looking like a new stark reality.

 

My 10-year-old son has been a champion for me throughout this hearing loss journey, never hesitating to repeat himself, explaining to friends that if they want his dad to hear them, they should go stand closer. As my wife was helping him process the latest developments, he was incredulous. “Not hear ANYthing? Ever again?!”  The seriousness and potential finality were unsettling.  His questions and fears were the same as my own. The reality was setting in for our whole family.

 

I had been here before and I thought I wouldn’t be angry at God.  But I was.

 

I screamed at Him in anger (even as I knew I shouldn’t).  I told Him how I felt.  I told Him how scared I was.  How unfair it all felt.  The Lord met me in those moments and kindly, but firmly brought me to the place of complete surrender.  Where I absolutely needed to be. (I was especially grateful for an unexpected phone call from one of our documentary prayer partners who both challenged and encouraged me as this was all unfolding.)

 

The documentary For A Purpose has been more than a film project.  It has been a journey. During this recent trial with my hearing, I recalled over and over the incredible testimonies of our cast members—those who have endured circumstances far worse than mine.  It was an incredible comfort to me even while I considered the possibility that I might never again be able to hear their words.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

 

As my hearing grew worse and worse, I asked God “why.”  But I found myself surrendering to Him even though I couldn’t understand.  My life truly belongs to Him and I have to trust Him even when it’s quiet.  Even when it’s dark.  Steroids didn’t work the last time around, and I had to be ok with what God was doing, even if I was experiencing a sadness too great to describe! So many questions filled my mind.  Not the least of which was, “How can I finish the film?”

 

My ear continued to get worse for another 24 hours.  Then, on one of my morning hikes, I heard a bird singing. I have never been so grateful for a sound!  

 

In the following days, speech comprehension returned.  With more thanksgiving than I could even convey, I am pleased to say that thanks to an excellent ENT who has done two injections in my ear, I have regained 50% of what I had lost during this crash.  I’m praying for continued improvement, if that’s God’s will.  I’m grateful for what God has given back even while I continue to cry out for His grace and mercy. My hearing feels like a new found gift.

 

I appreciate and welcome your prayers for my hearing and our family as well as for the film.  I know that so many of you who are following the progress of this project have gone through struggles of your own.  I continue this journey with a newfound sense of encouragement and strength, and full confidence that we serve an amazing God who can use our pain for His glory and to make Himself known to others through our weaknesses.  He is our ultimate source of Hope.

 

Please stay tuned for more updates to come soon. Plus, we’ll be launching social media accounts for For A Purpose.

 

God bless,

Jim

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