Elmhurst, Illinois – February 9, 2021 – The American Hearing Research Foundation, an Illinois-based nonprofit, recently received a boost for research into Meniere’s disease, a disorder affecting hearing and balance. Through his On the VertiGO initiative, Colorado resident Steve Schwier raised over $10,000 for research while bringing attention to the disease.
Meniere’s is a disorder of the inner ear that causes vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss. It’s unpredictable and difficult to diagnose and manage. And there is no known cure.
Doing something positive
Schwier, age 53, was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease in 2013. Since then, he’s had vertigo episodes with dizziness and nausea, along with ongoing tinnitus, permanent hearing loss, and insomnia. He was a heavy-equipment operator until three years ago, when the illness forced him to discontinue working.
Last year, Steve was eager to “get off the couch” and do something positive. With support from his family, he decided to raise awareness about Meniere’s disease by riding an electric bike from Denver, Colorado to Columbus, Ohio, during September 2020.
The trip – 1,420 miles in all – “far exceeded my expectations,” Schweir notes. “We talked about Meniere’s with at least 25 people every day. I met three people who have it – that was a first.” Steve and brother-in-law Garth Walker reached another goal, too, raising over $10,000 through the GoFundMe page On the VertiGO. Steve donated over $5,000 to the American Hearing Research Foundation, and gave a similar amount to Deaf to Menieres, a patient advocacy organization based in the UK.
People who followed the trip on social media got a taste of Steve’s day-to-day Meniere’s issues. He notes, “You just don’t get off the couch after three years and ride 1,400 miles without thinking about managing your symptoms.” For instance, “After three days I realized I could go from 1500 mg of salt to 2,000 mg. It meant an extra handful of Fritos at the end of the day.”
Tinnitus was his biggest concern on the trip: “I just never got a rest from it.” On Day 15, followers witnessed Steve’s only Meniere’s vertigo episode when the support team found him curled up in a ball in a rural Illinois parking lot. Then it was rest, recovery, keep going.
“Go after it”
Steve enjoyed seeing social media followers posting about their own goals. He notes, “I’m not an advocate of exercise. I hate it. But what I would like to inspire people to do is just find something you lost due to this disease, whether it’s painting, walking your dog, or just taking a car ride for pleasure. We all want our old lives back. But if you can find one thing you love that was stolen by this disease, go after it. Riding a bike that was just my platform. Get out there and do something good.”
Staying in touch with AHRF, Steve’s next goal is to publish a book on his journey and experience. AHRF looks forward to an ongoing relationship to raise awareness of MD. The Foundation will continue to help those afflicted with Meniere’s by funding novel research to better understand and treat the disorder.
Support Meniere’s disease research
If you wish, donations to AHRF can be directed specifically to Meniere’s disease research. In the past two years alone, AHRF has funded three Meniere’s projects addressing genetic causes and treatment.
AHRF is a nonprofit organization that has been making new discoveries possible for more than 60 years by funding novel research to better understand and overcome hearing and balance disorders of the inner ear. Since 2010, the organization has funded 95 projects with nearly $2.3 million in research grants.