Silent Terror: A Young Musician Loses—and Saves—His Hearing
At twenty-four, Bruce Beacom was an aspiring musician looking ahead with all the hope and aspiration of youth. At thirty-three, he was 95 percent deaf. Today, at 46, Bruce is an actively performing musician and sound engineer who has been three times awarded honorary certificates from The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for his contributions as a “Sound Mixer” to CBS’s Emmy Award-winning reality-competition program, The Amazing Race.
Following a series of surgeries, and with the sustaining help of much-needed hearing aids, Bruce now hears the world around him. He credits both his dedicated audiologist and surgeon—along with the blessings of modern medical technology—for the life he has regained. But in large measure, the turnaround in Bruce’s life stems from his own determination to get help, take action, and say no to hearing loss.
Protecting his hearing had always been a priority for Bruce, who had been writing and performing music from the time he was a teen and was now earning a living as a sound engineer. In 2003, shortly after his engagement to his now-wife Holly, life took a vast turn. Unbeknownst to Bruce, the “horrible and deafening ringing in his ears,” which began in his late 20’s and steadily worsened, was the first sign that something was seriously wrong.
In 2002, Bruce had started recording his second album. Just one year later, he was almost completely deaf.
The ringing, says Bruce, was “like an internal siren that was so loud, it was incapacitating.” Bruce had no idea that it was being caused by otosclerosis—a hereditary condition that causes an abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear that stops structures within the ear from working the way they should.
For Bruce, the path to proper diagnosis was uncertain and frightening. Along the way, he went to numerous doctors; underwent blood tests, a CT Scan, and other forms of diagnostic testing; was misdiagnosed more than once; but struggled determinedly—with Holly by his side—to understand why he was losing his hearing, and fought to save it.
Toward the end of 2003, Bruce and Holly found a highly knowledgeable doctor of audiology—Sol Marghzar, Au.D. CCCA, FAAA of The Hearing Doctor in Culver City, California—who believed strongly that the cause of Bruce’s hearing loss was otosclerosis. Although Bruce had come in wanting to buy hearing aids, Dr. Marghzar refused to sell him any until he was assessed further for a very specialized ear surgery.
“That was the exact moment when we felt like there was finally hope,” Bruce recalls.
Recognizing that Bruce needed to continue working and remain engaged in his life, Dr. Marghzar loaned him a pair of high quality hearing aids to use over the next several months until the surgery was performed.
Dr. Marghzar put Bruce in touch with surgeon William H. Slattery, III, M.D. of the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles, California.
After almost four years of grappling for a definitive diagnosis, Bruce underwent the first of four ear surgeries— stapedectomies—that replaced the diseased bone in his middle ear with prosthetic bones that could effectively pass sound waves to his inner ear. Most patients with otosclerosis only require one surgery in each ear. But Bruce’s case required more. With each surgery, Bruce and Holly prayed for a positive outcome. And with each surgery, they put both their wedding and the production of Bruce’s record, Platinum Pennies, on hold.
For Bruce, the surgeries that he received over the course of several years were life changing. He regained 60 percent of his hearing. And once the diseased bones had been replaced, the doctors told him that hearing aids would supplement his ability to hear even further.
In 2005, Dr. Marghzar finally fitted Bruce with hearing aids, helping him gain an additional 20 percent of hearing ability, and bringing him to about 80 percent in both ears.
Bruce and Holly were married at last in 2008. And in 2009, after seven years of “love, patience, and faith,” Bruce finally triumphed in releasing his album, Platinum Pennies —“a testament of what it simply means to hear.”
The greatest gift that Bruce now celebrates daily, however, is hearing the excitement in his now-toddler son’s voice when he calls out “Daddy.”
Taking action on his hearing loss and using hearing aids enabled Bruce to stay engaged in life, his music, and work, he says. From having travelled the world mixing and recording the audio for reality-TV programs such as CBS’s The Amazing Race and Bravo’s Top Chef, Bruce continues to work freelance on Emmy Award-winning and Emmy-nominated Primetime TV shows as he continues to carve out a name for himself in an industry that relies heavily on sound.
But above all, after fighting so long and hard for his ability to hear, Bruce can now communicate and enjoy life with his wife and joyful son. Just the simple act of communication is a blessing that Bruce counts every day.
Today, Bruce wears newer digital, wireless-connectivity hearing aids—again fitted by Dr. Marghzar— and says the latest technology is even more life-enhancing, allowing him to hear from all directions and in all sorts of sound environments.
In Bruce’s own words: “With everything that I’ve been through, I now clearly understand that when a very challenging or serious event occurs in our lives, it is not the event that defines us, but rather, how we choose to handle it.”
Bruce’s efforts to preserve his hearing continue every day and will be lifelong. But from the very start, he made the promise to himself to not ever let his hearing loss keep him from being engaged in life and following his dreams.
Bruce’s greatest wish in sharing his story is that people of all ages understand the value of hearing; that they have the information they need to protect and preserve their ability to hear; and that his story helps others find the courage and inspiration they need to seek help and address their own hearing loss.
“Our ability to hear is a great gift that enriches our lives daily on so many levels. It’s not something anyone should ever give up so easily.”