Story By: Joseph Golder, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
A German VW worker has lost his hearing and been left deaf after being infected with COVID 19.
And doctors have been forced to add an electronic implant to make it possible for him to hear anything at all, even though it now means the electronic device leaves everyone sounding “like Donald Duck”.
Hartmut Blum, 60, who is from Gifhorn, a town in the northern German state of Lower Saxony, is currently at a rehabilitation clinic after contracting coronavirus and being intubated with a ventilator before going into a coma.
He woke up three weeks later at the Hannover Medical School on 4th April to find that he had lost his hearing.
His wife, unnamed, but who is 53, and his two children, also unnamed but aged 23 and 17, were also infected, but their symptoms were mild.
Blum, who works for German car manufacturer Volkswagen, lost 12 kilogrammes (26 lbs) but is now back home in Gifhorn.
Some mild damage to his lungs has subsided and his heart was undamaged, but he cannot hear anything anymore.
He said “I thought that helicopters were flying somewhere. But the noise was my tinnitus.”
The doctors told him that he had lost all hearing in his right ear and only had minimal hearing left in his left ear.
Professor Thomas Lenarz, 64, head of the Otolaryngology Clinic at the Hannover Medical School has fitted him with a cochlear implant, an electronic hearing prosthesis that bridges the failed hair sensory cells in the inner ear and electronically stimulates the auditory nerve directly.
The auditory nerve then sends the transmitted signals to the brain.
Blum could begin to hear again immediately after the operation, saying: “At first everyone sounded artificial. Like Donald Duck.”
For Professor Lenarz, it is clear that the virus caused his hearing loss.
He said: “The virus triggered hearing damage in the inner ear. We have two other patients who we believe are corona deaf. Studies with us and in other clinics show that – according to provisional figures – 25-30 percent of Covid-19 patients with severe cases have a hearing loss.
“We now had the first case in which the hearing was completely lost.”
Hartmut Blum is getting used to his second life at a rehabilitation centre, saying: “I have to deal with the fact that I now hear differently. I have lost a sense organ. But I’m happy that I’m still alive. What helped me incredibly during this difficult time was the support from my family, the greetings and wishes for recovery from friends and colleagues.
“And I thank the professors and teams at the MHH for the wonderful support. “
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