What My Sudden Deafness Taught Me

Nine months ago, I woke up almost completely deaf with no apparent cause or reason. I was 27 years old. All I could think was, “Why me?” Compared to other people my age, I had always done everything right: I ate relatively healthy, exercised, worked hard at my job and was on the brink of a promotion. All of my typical 20-something anxieties like, “I need to lose five pounds,” “My dating life is a mess,” and “I’m not making enough of an impression at work,” were now replaced with one single thought: I would give anything to have my hearing back.

Now, I separate my life into two very separate phases: life before deafness and life after. It was sort of like dying, but getting to attend my own funeral, and then being reborn into a completely different person with a new perspective on the world. With the help of cochlear implant surgery, I’m on the road back to hearing again, albeit in a very different way. Here’s what I’ve learned from my experience with sudden deafness.

1. Make sure you live in the moment and appreciate what you have.

It’s an overused cliché, but I don’t think people really take the time to think about what this statement truly means until they experience great loss or hardship. I had twenty-seven amazing years as a “hearing person,” and will have seventy more that will be just as great; but they are going to be different. I would give anything to have my last Coachella weekend back, dancing in the Mojave tent, fully absorbed in the sounds of the music and the people. Be thankful for every little moment like that. You don’t know when it will be your last.

2. Life is too short to be held back by emotions like fear.

Fear is a waste of time. I spent almost 5 years after college graduation slaving away at a job I loved, hoping to move up the corporate ladder using a “play by the rules” strategy. Now I see that fear was hindering my progress, and I should have been bolder from the get-go. This ideology not only applies to work, but also to relationships, dating, and really anything else you set out to do in life. It’s important to emphasize two things here: one, it can never hurt to ask, and two, you should always speak your mind and stand up for what you believe in. I used to over-analyze every move I made, and was consumed by the fear of what other people thought of me. We are all consumed by this fear: it’s human nature. But life is too short for that, and frankly, most people are too self-absorbed to be worried about you, anyway. Sudden deafness reminded me of my own mortality, and that we have a limited time on this planet. Make that time count, and don’t be held back by fear. Since starting back at work after my cochlear surgery I’ve tried to apply this ideology every day, and the positive results are already adding up.

3. Your friends and family are everything in this world.

After I went deaf, my friends, family and co-workers stepped up in a huge way, and I would not have made it through this ordeal without such an incredible support system. Likewise, it’s important to be a good, supportive friend to those around you. I have many faults, but being a good and present friend is always something I’ve prioritized. This experience only validated how important that is. If you are a good friend, people will be there for you when you really need them in return. Although I am independent and self-sufficient, almost to a fault, I can’t tell you how thankful I was to have people there for me when I needed help.

Having your greatest fear come true is actually quite freeing. You no longer live in constant anxiety of your worst fear coming true, and it allows you to live a more balanced and happy life. That is my greatest takeaway from this experience: I would never wish this on anyone, but every situation has a silver lining, and for me, it was exactly that.

Amanda Burnett is a TV agent originally hailing from San Francisco. The UCLA Bruins are her team, and Lana Del Rey is her muse. She lives in an apartment complex in Los Angeles with five of her best friends; they aptly refer to themselves as Melrose Place. After permanently losing her hearing last year at age 27, she now hears “bionically” through cochlear implants.

(Image via Shutterstock)