Continued from the previous entry:
As with everything, it appears that fate has made the choice for me.
For the past few months, beginning a couple of months after I got braces, I began to feel pressure changes in my ears plus the sensation of them closing and opening. It’s comparable to being in an airplane at 30,000 feet, in a high-rise elevator, or at a high elevation. Most of the time — not all — if I opened my mouth wide, one or both ears would pop open. It very uncomfortable and disconcerting. I asked my dentist about it; she thought it could be attributable to tooth movement. When I asked the orthodontist, however, he seemed sure there was no relationship.
Until this time, I had no problems hearing whatsoever. I could hear other people’s conversations in restaurants and even on buses, over all the engine and traffic noise. I always kept televisions and stereos at only a few clicks above mute.
About 6–8 weeks ago, my right ear began bothering me even more. It felt full and blocked. Yawning didn’t help any more. I had an appointment with my physician on July 21, by which time it was noticeably worsening. He eliminated ear wax as a possibility and sent me for a hearing test, which I scheduled for August 4.
The audiologist told me I have a “pretty good middle ear infection going on.” I don’t know what would have caused this; I have had no colds, upper respiratory infections, or allergies — the usual culprits. I have not had an ear infection since I was 4–6 years old, when they were very painful. I remember screaming then.
She also told me that I have moderate hearing loss in my left ear, enough to warrant a hearing aid. She couldn’t tell about the right since the fluid is preventing me from hearing at all on that side. She said that hearing loss at my age is unusual, that is, it’s not age related.
The next day, I saw my ENT, who told me that I don’t have an infection, just serous fluid, and that it appears to be getting better on its own. If it doesn’t drain within four weeks, he’ll consider putting a tube in, as is done with children. Meanwhile, four days after this, my right ear felt completely congested. Every time I move my head, I can hear the fluid sloshing, so to speak. I can’t hear much else.
He wanted to know if the audiologist and I had talked about a hearing aid for the left ear. I said, “Yes, briefly.” When I asked, he said it’s a progressive loss, although there’s no way to know the rate. The cause is unknown. The audiologist and ENT both mentioned genetics, but I know of only one person in my family who was hard of hearing. That was my 67-year-old aunt, that is, someone for whom age was a factor.
Part of me says that the audiologist and the ENT know what they’re talking about.
Part of me says that this seems awfully sudden.
Part of me wonders if my right ear, the one I use for phone calls, has been doing all the hearing and that’s why neither I nor my friends and coworkers never noticed a hearing problem. If so, I wonder for how long I have had this loss.
Part of me wonders why there is so much popping and cracking in both ears when I move my jaw and if there is some hope that the tooth movement has caused something to misalign and affect my hearing. Even though three professionals pooh-pooh this idea, periodically — like last night — I feel a pop and then I momentarily hear better in the left.
And then the part of me that tried to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns and to listen to Chuck Schaden’s “Those Were the Days” and Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and couldn’t distinguish much in the way of words — words all sound like gibberish, with or without headphones — lay down and cried and cried and cried, out of frustration, puzzlement, hurt, fear, loss, and who knows what other emotions.
And that’s where I am today — constantly saying, “Pardon?” to coworkers, watching lips move with no sounds issuing and tiring myself out with the strain of listening closely.
The tracks of my tears.