Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong lawmaker Charles Mok unsure if right ear will recover fully after sudden hearing loss

IT sector legislator, who returned to work on Wednesday, grateful to colleagues across political spectrum, who sent their blessings and helped him hold meetings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 11:50am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 11:53am

A lawmaker sent shock waves through Hong Kong’s political circles last week with news that he had suffered from sudden complete hearing loss in one ear, as his colleagues stepped forward to cover his duties. And although Charles Mok, who represents the IT sector in the legislature, returned to work on Wednesday, it remains uncertain whether he will recover full use of his right ear.

“It is recovering, but I do not know how far that could go,” Mok said on the sidelines of the final Legislative Council meeting ahead of the summer recess.

The pro-democracy lawmaker, who turns 54 this year, woke up in shock last Wednesday to find that he could not hear with his right ear. He consulted a doctor on the same day.

“We still have not figured out the reason behind the sudden hearing loss, but there are usually three causes: virus, vasoconstriction or problems with the immune system,” Mok said, adding that he was taking a variety of pills to relieve the situation.

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Mok, who became the convenor of Legco’s pro-democracy bloc last year, said the incident made him realise the importance of having sufficient rest.

“I take it as a warning sign,” he said on Wednesday. “Sometimes I can be very tense. I do not feel exhausted mentally and physically … but apparently my body is protesting.”

I do not feel exhausted mentally and physically … but apparently my body is protesting
Charles Mok, legislator

He was grateful to his colleagues from across the political spectrum, who had sent him their blessings and helped him hold meetings during his time off last week.

Council Front lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching is set to succeed Mok as convenor after the Legco summer recess. The new legislative session will commence in October.

Dr Michael Tong Chi-fai, a specialist in ear, nose and throat surgery, said that patients who had had ear diseases or previous hearing impairments were at a higher risk of developing sudden hearing loss, but added that this could happen to anyone, even children.

The reason for the condition often remains unknown, but some common causes include viral infection of the inner ear and inflammation in the immune system.

“The good news is that there are treatments with high recovery and success rates since we introduced them in Hong Kong more than a decade ago,” Tong said.

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Patients can be given high-dose steroid injections, recovering up to 70 to 80 per cent of their hearing if they are treated within the first week. Other patients can recover up to about 60 per cent if initial treatment fails.

There are an estimated 1,000 cases of sudden hearing loss annually in Hong Kong, according to Tong.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss affects five to 20 people in every 100,000, with about 4,000 new cases every year in the United States, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.