Brian McCaskey couldn’t watch a single play when the Bears lost to the Giants in an NFC divisional playoff game in 1991. Not because the loss kept him from caring, but because he suffered from debilitating vertigo in his hotel that same morning.
Doctors eventually diagnosed McCaskey, the second youngest son of Ed and Virginia McCaskey with Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that is accompanied by ringing sounds and hearing loss. These hearing difficulties continued for a while, limiting the function of his right ear. McCaskey visited emergency rooms numerous times while trying a variety of different medications to help. “With each attack I’d lose more hearing” McCaskey said.
Defined medically, McCaskey suffers from a sensorineural loss — damage to the hair cells in the sensory hearing organ called the cochlea. Addressing the issue seven years ago after he lost hearing in his good ear required surgery called endolymphatic sac decompression and shunt insertion, a procedure deemed necessary when conservative treatment fails. It involved going into the part of the skull just under the brain to create a drainage portal.
While McCaskey has enjoyed some recovery, his hearing is still quite limited. “My hearing was gone, and what’s gone is gone — it’s not coming back,’’ McCaskey said. “Birds can restructure their hearing. Fish can restructure their hearing. Humans cannot. Once there is hearing damage to the cochlea and the hair cells inside the cochlea — a structure the size of the tip of your pinkie — there is no going back.’’
With all the hearing issues he has faced, McCaskey continues to live the life he wants. He is still a music buff and continues to attend shows and concerts. He’s extremely grateful for the tech progress that allows him to enjoy his favorite tunes. His message to everyone else? McCaskey said, “I have 48 million brothers and sisters who have experienced hearing loss. It touches everybody, so just encourage people to get help and break that stigma that it’s for older people. It’s not. Reach out, get help and take care of your hearing.’’