YORK, Pa. — "I thought it was just an earache, I didn't think it was anything big," 12-year-old Grayson Wimmer of York said about when he got sick with COVID-19 the week of Thanksgiving in 2020.
Three weeks later, he felt a pop and then lost hearing in his left ear. His parents took him to see several specialists, but getting an appointment wasn't easy.
It was finally determined that COVID-19 was in fact the culprit, something audiologist Dr. Kamal Elliot of A&E Audiology & Hearing Aid Center says is possible.
"We have known for a while that certain environmental and bacterial infections can cause hearing loss, and COVID-19 is a viral infection," she said. What would be devastating news for anyone, was even harder for a competitive climber who started when he was just 6-years-old.
"To have an ability and have it taken away is especially hard to come to terms with, especially as an adolescent," Grayson's dad, Greg Wimmer, said. "Being able to hear how your feet hit the wall ad where they are placed on the wall is very important for a climber who is trying to balance on razer thin edges."
Grayson could have easily given up his love of climbing, but instead he decided to fight back, undergoing surgery to have a cochlear implant put in.
The recovery process took time out of his training but it didn't seem to affect his climb.
"Gray was pretty close to nationals this past year, so he's excited, I think, to see how he does this year," Greg went on.
Learning how to hear again with his implant has been an emotionally taxing journey for Grayson, but it's one he's faced courageously.
"We're working on it, but I'm also really impressed with how he's handled it," Grayson's dad added.
Because just like learning to climb, learning to hear all over again is an uphill battle that takes time and practice, each step of the way.
Experts say if you or your child experiences hearing loss of any kind, take them to the doctor as soon as possible. The sooner you start treating hearing loss, the better chance it won't become permanent.