‘Fortunately it is benign’; Michel Mulder’s hearing loss turned out to be caused by a tumor

NOS Skating

If you look from a distance, life seems to smile at Michel Mulder. He is making waves as a musical singer in a television program and will be on the ice as a coach at the World Cup competitions in Salt Lake City this weekend.

But if you ask him how he is really doing, you will hear a different story. Last summer, Mulder was told that he had a benign tumor directly behind his ear, a bridge angle tumor to be precise. “It was a huge shock. Fortunately, it is benign, but it is in a very unpleasant place that is not so easy to treat.”

Mulder discovered something was wrong because he heard less and less with his right ear. “In noisy spaces I increasingly couldn’t hear people. I had to turn my head so that they talked in my left ear.”

Michel Mulder honors list

Olympics 1x goud 500m, 1x brons 1.000m (2014)
WK sprint 2x gold (2013 and 2014)
World Championship distances 2x zilver 500m (2012 en 2015)
NK sprint 1x gold (2014), 2x silver (2013 and 2015)
National Championship distances 500m: 1x gold (2013), 2x silver (2012 and 2015), 1x bronze (2014)
World Cup final standings 1x zilver 500m (2014), 1x brons 500m (2013)

For a moment he thought he had found an innocent cause of his hearing loss. “To hear myself well while singing, I had special earplugs fitted, custom-made from silicone. While casting the impression, I noticed that I had a plug in my right ear. It gave me relief.”

Mulder hoped that if the plug was removed, his hearing would return. “The doctor simply removed it, but my hearing didn’t improve at all.”

End of search

Further investigations did not fully clarify where the complaints came from and Mulder ended up one step deeper into the medical mill. An MRI scan followed in August 2023, which was supposed to put an end to the search.

“When the doctor told me that a scan of my head would be made, I was told not to look on the internet to see what they could find.” Of course the former top sprinter did that. “Then you read things that you would indeed rather not read.”

The scan revealed a growth of about three centimeters in size that was pressing against the auditory nerve. This ensures that Mulder hears about thirty percent less on the right. “After the first examinations I was afraid of a hearing aid, but now it is a step more intense.”

For a long time he did not intend to share his story, but during his participation in the RTL program Stars on Stage it came out anyway. “I sing a song there that touched me because of this situation. There will certainly be questions about it, so I want to tell my story once and then it will be done for me.”


Because Mulder realizes that although it affects him personally and “however uncertain it may be, it is a benign tumor. Unfortunately, many people receive a different message.”

I became an Olympic champion with it.

Michel Mulder

“Because it is benign, I can grow old with it. Although there will be consequences in the long run.” The tumor grows about one millimeter per year and will eventually need to be surgically removed. The operation will irreparably damage Mulder’s right auditory nerve, leaving him deaf in that ear.

“If the tumor is removed and my hearing disappears, it will take some getting used to, but I think I can still sing afterwards.”

However, there is still a risk to the operation. The tumor is also near the facial nerve. There is a chance that it will be hit and that can cause partial facial paralysis. “And then singing becomes very difficult.”

Michel Mulder in the RTL program Stars on Stage

Also because of that risk, he has now chosen not to go under the knife. “After the first scan in August, I did a second scan last November. There was little to no growth. Now at least I can still hear with that ear, so I’ll leave it as is,” Mulder explains. He now talks about the subject fairly easily, also because he often talks about it with family and friends.

The vestibular nerve is located right next to the auditory nerve and has lost its function due to the tumor. “Tests have already shown that the left side has actually taken over everything.”

A skater cannot do without balance. And due to the minimal growth, it is almost certain that Mulder already had the tumor during his active career. “It made me an Olympic champion.”

The fact that he reacts so lightly to it makes it clear that Mulder, who won gold in Sochi in 2014 by beating Jan Smeekens by twelve thousandths of a second, has now found his way again. Although that did take time.

Andere Tijden Sport made this episode two years ago about Mulder’s Olympic title – and Smeekens’ Olympic defeat:

Other Times Sports: The trauma of Sochi

“Mentally, shortly after the news, it was a bit difficult to do sports, for example. I no longer had the energy for that. But now I enjoy doing it again and I am actually even more aware that I have to do something that I really like.”

“It’s just annoying that you have to get this news for that.”

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    Friday’s skating program during the World Cup competitions in Salt Lake City
  • NOS

    Saturday’s skating program during the World Cup competitions in Salt Lake City
  • NOS

    Sunday’s skating program during the World Cup competitions in Salt Lake City

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