Sunday, November 4, 2012

Who Is This Guy With Two Pillows Between His Ears?

My name is Jeff Swartz. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.  I have three younger brothers.  I would say my temperament is intuitive, giving, and choleric.  I struggled in middle and high school with learning disabilities.  I didn’t excel in school until I entered college.  I completed degrees in theology, business, and instructional design with high honors in each one.  I am the only one in my family who is deaf.

I began my professional life as a pastor for five years, from age 20 to 25.  My training in seminary focused on crisis counseling, marriage counseling, and counseling individuals suffering from depression.  I always believed I was more mature than my peers and more knowledgeable about how to handle difficult situations.  In my five years as pastor I learned a lot and helped many people.  Still, I was young and didn’t want to do ministry for a lifetime. I decided to follow my interests in education and helping people develop their cognitive skills. For the past ten years I have worked for Universities. I decided to complete an undergraduate degree in business and then a graduate degree in instructional design, an area I feel passionate about.  Instructional designers often use technology and multimedia as tools to enhance instruction.  Instructional designers help teachers create and analyze best practices to support student learning.

I now live in Atlanta, Georgia, with my wife and two incredibly beautiful girls (12 and 10).  I was brave in taking a big leap from the West Coast to Southern comfort.  I have to say it was a good move.  My wife was born and raised in Georgia so she was familiar with the culture.

One morning in April 2012, I woke up and my hearing was gone completely in my left ear and almost gone in my right ear. I had to rely on lipreading for two months at work and at home.   I thought it was just a cold, but after an emergency hospital visit in June I found out it is permanent.  I have had many sinus and ear infections over my 41 years that may have led to my hearing loss.  I spent countless hours on the Internet searching for reasons why I lost my hearing since the doctors couldn’t figure it out.  At one point the pain was so severe  I would pass out. The pain has not gone away, though I am better able to cope with it now.

The pain happens whether I wear my hearing aids or not.  I have to remove my hearing aids if noise gets too loud, even though my audiologist has carefully tweaked the settings.  I have seen several specialists looking for relief but to no avail. Not everyone with hearing loss has recruitment or hyperacusis, so little information is available, and  I am having to discover my own self-help techniques.  I find the the only remedy is to go to my room, close the door, turn off the lights, and  wait several hours in silence until the pain subsides to a bearable level. 

My website, “World of Silence” chronicles my experience with sudden hearing loss, pain, and recruitment.  “A person with recruitment will hear a relatively soft sound (loud enough for them to hear, of course), as “soft” but as the loudness level increases, then suddenly, just a few decibels above a level where the sound was comfortable, the sound is perceived as uncomfortably loud.”*. Sometimes it can cause the range of useable hearing to be very narrow and can complicate hearing aid fitting. Recruitment differs from hyperacusis in two ways: first, hearing loss is present with recruitment but not with hyperacusis, and second, generally only loud sounds are uncomfortable for persons with recruitment; persons with hyperacusis tend to experience soft or moderately-loud sounds as painfully loud, as well as truly loud sounds. If you do not have a sensorineural hearing loss, you cannot have recruitment. The way I explain it to people is it is like taking a mug (representing me) and water (loud sound) and each loud sound I hear, you pour a little bit of water into the mug until the water spill over, and I faint or scream.  The thing is, the water never dries up but always remains at that level for the day.  I try to monitor my sound level daily and have to visit my audiologist frequently to adjust my hearing aid settings.

Losing my hearing has given me a new perspective on life and has led me to build new relationships on Facebook, become a better writer, start a  blog “World of Silence”, and start to learn ASL. I have seen my family grow closer, and I have been able to share my experiences with friends and tell them about he necessity for ear protection and proper ear health.In just the past 8 months I have learned so much about the deaf culture and love the beauty each person has shared with me and helped me learn.  I believe I am at a point where I can give back and help others  find hope and healing and peace in silence.  The social web has given me a connection to both help and find help in the deaf culture.  Some of my favorite places such as,, and SayWhatClub have let me share my stories and share in weekly online discussions.  Sometimes when I have felt bad about my ears I would jump online and read other people’s stories and leave comments, and that is how I have developed rewarding new connections in the deaf and hard of hearing world.  

I blog weekly every Tuesday at as well as here.  Please come and visit as often as you would like.


*This abnormal growth in loudness perception is a fairly common accompaniment to sensorineural hearing loss and is caused by the same inner ear sensory cell dysfunction (damaged or missing hair cells) that caused the hearing loss. It can be present in varying degrees in people with sensorineural loss. It does not always present a problem but in some cases it can be just as bothersome as hyperacusis.” (Acenta, 2003)


Acenta (2003).  Sensitivity to Loud Sounds. Retrieved October 24, 2012 from , Arkansas Center For Ear Nose Throat And Allergy Website:
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