Linda Fröhlich shares her experience with hearing loss

October 13, 2016

This is the second installment in a four-part series of 'Hearing Health Month' feature stories highlighting hearing health as it relates to former professional basketball players. Celebrated during the month of October, EarQ is the presenting partner for the NBRPA’s Hearing Health Month. For more information, please visit the EarQ website.

Why do you believe hearing health is important?
Hearing is one of the five senses that God gave us to enjoy the beauties of this earth... it is extremely important to take care of your hearing as much that you are able to. Only once it's gone will you miss it, so I love to bring awareness to how it feels when that sense that we take for granted is all of a sudden taken away.

How has hearing loss impacted your life?
I didn't lose my hearing until the age of 28 after battling with Meniere's Disease for about a year. The hearing loss during that period of my life with all the vertigo attacks was the least of my worries. I had to relearn how to walk, how to sit, how to move. As soon I conquered those skills again, it was back to playing 12 months out of the season. With the busy life of a professional basketball I had no choice but to ignore the hearing loss and make it a known condition, which could have been seen as a handicap. Looking back, I see how that caused a lot of stress for me, since losing my hearing WAS a big deal. In 2008 I took several tests, went to doctors all over the world, and rehab was 2 hours drive each time. So honestly when my vertigo attacks stopped I was content and just accepted the hearing loss/tinnitus as a minor side effect that had remained from this terrible period of my life. Now that I retired 5 years ago, and my life has somewhat slowed down, I more and more realize how BIG of a deal it is actually is to lose your hearing.

How do you cope with your hearing loss?
With people I am honest, tell them about my issue and continue with humor moving forward in our relationship, telling them to talk into "my good ear" if they really want me to hear what they say. In my own personal reality, in quiet moments, at home my hearing loss has caused tinnitus which has me trapped in constant noise. The way I deal with it? I don't know? Ignore it? Try not to focus on it. Because if I ever give it power, it can drive me crazy and make me sad. I am/was a person who loves silence. I grew up in a small German village which was so small and quiet that you could hear the fish jumping out of the pond in our backyard. As a mother to little kids, it has made me sleep even less and more uncomfortably because I do not allow myself to sleep on my good ear so that I can hear the kids. I also lay awake more often than I should because I want to make sure to "hear the kids"... a normal trait for mothers of little children, but definitely more intensified for a mother with hearing loss.
How did it affect you playing basketball? Did it affect your professional career at all?
The positive that came out of it was that I would always let my coaches yell at me into my bad ear. No feelings ever were hurt. Apart from the vertigo attacks that absolutely put a halt to my basketball career, I took a big financial hit when I returned to the court, a) because teams wondered why I had been out for so long and b) because I was suspended due to an error in paperwork with the Doping Agency, which again delayed my comeback to the court. My doctors had prescribed diuretics to help with my inner ear issues and the medication wasn't filed properly with NADA. So after losing my hearing I also had to lose my pride (because of the things that people assumed of a "doping convict"), I lost money and contract opportunities. On the court, with my hearing loss I had also lost my peripheral vision too, which means that I couldn't "see" the court with my left ear anymore. That resulted in me having to move my head a lot more to actually see with my eyes what is going on near me. It made the game just a little more challenging, but I was still able to enjoy playing.
How did you and your teammates adapt to playing with each other?
I started to be a lot more comfortable facing the basket rather than playing with my back to the basket, because again, I couldn't "hear" the opponent sneak up on me to my left/bad side in the post. With playing face to the basket, I was still able to pass the ball frequently to my teammates, so nobody ever really complained. I definitely overcompensated and didn't try to make it a handicap, and when things happened and there was room for humor, we used that. Room for humor means, that the miscommunication didn't cause a loss for the team/owners.

Why is it important for an athlete to be aware of his or her overall health, including hearing health?
Our bodies are our capital- We make money with our bodies. If our bodies don't function properly and at a very high level, WE WILL BE REPLACED. No exceptions. No tears shed. No questions asked. The show must go on. That's the name of the game. So to ensure a long career athletes must take care of their bodies!!! And for me personally, looking back for the "life after basketball" taking care of your health is important because you still have lots of life to live after your basketball career. I wonder if I had taken my hearing loss more serious back then, I could have possibly relieved some problems now that I am retired. So being proactive is very important!
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