A student who went deaf overnight after experts blamed her hearing loss on her SHAMPOO has learned how to lip read – but can’t because everyone is wearing masks.
Lauryn Schutte, 21, had suffered pain in her ears for months but had been constantly dismissed by doctors.
One even blamed her excruciating earache on shampoo which was irritating her ears – and told her to change brands.
But after waking up in agony Lauryn was rushed to hospital and discovered she had lost most of her hearing overnight.
Following the shock diagnosis in October 2019 the uni student learned to lip read so she could communicate properly.
But she said that proved pointless when masks became mandatory in shops months later during the pandemic.
Lauryn is completely deaf in her left ear and with increased difficulties in her right ear she relies on a hearing aid.
But she fears she will lose her hearing completely.
The psychology student, from Dover, said: “I feel like through this whole journey, the doctors didn’t care at all. I felt like not one of them was interested in helping me.
“One doctor told me it was because of the shampoo I was using and that I should change shampoo brands.
“I would think that a 21 year old girl who lost her hearing overnight would be important but they just keep cancelling my appointments and I’m completely in the dark.
“I’m almost completely deaf in one ear and have ongoing struggles with my other ear. It’s been over a year and they still haven’t told me why I lost my hearing.
“I had just started relying on lip reading actually but now that everyone wears masks, it’s really hard.
“I never really thought I’d lose my hearing so young. I always thought that I would lose my hearing at an older age like everyone else so its been a real shock.”
As a child, Lauryn experienced soreness in her ears and had tiny tubes called grommets inserted into her eardrums which got rid of the pain.
She was surprised when the pain returned in February 2019 and went for a hearing test where she discovered she had slight hearing loss in her left ear.
With the pain becoming increasingly worse, Lauryn turned to her doctor for help but was left shocked when it was suggested that her shampoo had caused the irritation.
She said: “My doctor booked me in for an appointment with an ENT but during the waiting period, I phoned him numerous times as I knew something wasn’t right.
“I got told to wait for my ENT appointment and that my ears were probably sore because of the shampoo I was using so I should change brands.
“I waited 71 days for my ENT appointment and then I was in his office for barely two minutes where he told me that my pain was ‘normal’ for someone who had grommets.
“After my appointment, I phoned my doctor back and said I wasn’t happy with the care I received. He basically dismissed me and said there was nothing he could do.
“I knew something bad was going to happen – I just didnt know when.”
Just two months after her ENT appointment, Lauryn woke up in agony with severe earache in the early hours of the morning on October 3.
Her boyfriend Ashley rushed her to Ashford Hospital’s A&E where she was given an appointment for 10AM that same day but by that time, Lauryn had completely lost her hearing in her left ear.
She said: “It was very, very painful – I’ve never had such bad ear pain in my life.
“The A&E doctor looked in my ears, asked me a few questions and said he could definitely see that something wasn’t right.
“He said that he was going to refer me to the ENT department and that I should come back at 10 o’clock the same morning.
“I struggled to get to sleep when we got back home but I eventually did and by that time, the pain killers had worked and it wasn’t as painful.
“It was very scary, I didn’t know what was going on and I had no clue what was going to happen.
“When I woke up, that’s when I noticed I couldn’t hear a single thing in my left ear. My fear had become a reality.”
Doctors prescribed steroids which sadly did not work and Lauryn is now adjusting to life with permanent hearing loss in her left ear.
She underwent an MRI scan in December 2019 but doctors have still not been able to find the cause for her hearing loss.
Terrifyingly, Lauryn started to lose hearing in her right ear in February 2020 but doctors were able to stop the loss in its tracks with another course of steroids.
Her otology appointment has now been cancelled four times due to coronavirus and Lauryn is due to see a doctor in January 2021 – a whole 15 months after she lost her hearing.
Whilst waiting for medical assistance, Lauryn has focused on moving forward on her own with the help of her boyfriend Ashley, 26.
Lauryn said: “I actually lost my hearing two weeks after getting together with Ashley.
“It did affect our relationship at the beginning as I felt very depressed and ugly with having to wear a hearing aid at just 20 years old.
“I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything so it did put a strain on our relationship.
“Ashley has been very supportive throughout it all, taking me to all of my appointments and staying with me in the hospital, bless him.
“We’ve got used to it now. He knows not to talk to me without getting my attention first and knows not to stand on my left side, so everything is much better now.”
Determined Lauryn has learnt to lip read but online lectures for her university course and mandatory masks have now caused a massive setback.
She has had to contact her lecturers at Canterbury Christ Church University after finding the subtitles on lecture slides to be inaccurate and sometimes missing altogether.
Struggling in shops, Lauryn bought a badge to wear so staff members would know of her hearing issues but was crushed when she was ridiculed by fellow shoppers.
Lauryn said: “My hearing loss was very unexpected and just when I thought I had gotten the hang of lip reading, we all had to start wearing masks.
“At first, I was embarrassed to ask cashiers to pull their masks down so I could see what they’re saying behind the screens but then I thought that it’s better than not knowing what’s going on.
“I bought a badge that says “I’m deaf in one ear, please speak up” and I put it on my mask but then the first time I used it, a girl mocked me for it.
“She pointed it out to her friends and laughed at me. It really annoyed me because anyone could lose their hearing at any point in their life.
“I think as a society, we need to be more accommodating of people with hearing issues, especially now during the pandemic.
“I’m moving forward with my life despite not knowing what happened or what the future holds for my hearing – I’m not going to let this stop me from doing what I want.”