In August 2015, while vacationing with my family, the hearing in my right ear started sounding a little muffled, like it does sometimes after you have gone swimming. Maybe I had water trapped in there or some wax built up. Whatever it was, I wanted to stop it from becoming an ear infection and possibly interrupting our vacation time, so I went to a local doctor. He examined it and proceeded to irrigate, hoping to loosen any wax. When this was unsuccessful and my ear was even more irritated, he gave me a mild antibiotic and told me to see my family doctor as soon as I returned home. We continued with our plans and headed out to the beach where we enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day. It wasn’t until we were leaving that the tide begin to turn, literally. As I was walking up the beach access stairs, my head started spinning and I melted like a snowman onto the steps. For the life of me, I could not get up. Vertigo had taken over my body. If you have dealt with this or have ever had an episode, I truly am sorry. It’s terrible. My husband and son carried me to the car.
I had severe Vertigo for four more days and stayed in bed, only getting up to go to the bathroom with assistance. Luckily, on the fifth day, I wasn’t quite as dizzy and using a walker to keep from running into the wall or falling down, was able to make the three hour ride home. The next day started the long process of getting to the root cause of the problem. Of course I had to start with my family doctor, who sent me to have a little hearing test like you have in elementary school, then he sent me to an Eyes, Ears, Nose and Throat specialist, who sent me for an MRI. When that came back clear, he sent me to the Otolaryngologist (never heard of that before). Immediately, he sent me to the Audiologist, in the same building and I had a very thorough series of hearing tests. When I walked out of the soundproof room, I asked the Audiologist if my right ear was dead. She said, “we don’t tell the patient that, but that’s what we usually call it, and yes, at this time, it seems to be”. My kids thought I should get a tattoo on my ear that said, “Out of Order” so people would know which ear they should talk too. Lol.
After the Otolaryngologist studied the hearing results and examined me, he concluded that it must have been a virus that attacked my ear and more than likely, unless it came back in the next couple of months, I would have to learn how to adjust to 100% hearing loss in that ear. I was 53 years old, it was 2015, so I’m assuming that unless God has other plans, I’m going to be dealing with a dead ear the rest of my life. The Vertigo, hopefully, would not continue.
Now, to me, there are much worse things that could happen than losing my hearing in one ear. So, after being out of work four weeks, not driving, and being totally dependent on my family, thankfully, the Vertigo went away and I was ready to move on. Even though there are worse things, I wasn’t prepared for all of the issues that just losing your hearing in one ear can create.
One day when I was really frustrated, I sat down and compiled a list of things about my sudden hearing loss that I thought my friends and family may not realize or had never thought about. I would never have imagined some of the symptoms that a person could struggle with day to day with loss of hearing in one ear if I had not been experiencing it myself. These thoughts are from my struggles and may not apply to everyone, but I imagine at least some of them do. So, here goes…
Loud noises are irritating (your good ear compensates a lot and takes all the noise)
Soft noises are irritating
Soft noises can sound like dynamite (it sounds crazy, but it’s true)
Conversations in a restaurant, are almost impossible
You learn to “nod and smile” a lot
You miss “witty” comments because you don’t want to ask people to repeat themselves all the time
You have to learn how to walk straight and not look down all the time
You have to hold onto rails and hang close to walls
Your sense of security is shaken
You feel very insecure about venturing out alone
Your self-confidence takes a blow
You worry about joining in a conversation because you aren’t sure you have heard all the details correctly
In noisy places where you have to speak loudly, your ear vibrates as you speak
When you talk, sometimes it sounds like you are under water to yourself
At times it seems very calm because you can’t hear background noise
When I breathe, it sounds like Darth Vader breathing inside my head
Even though you can’t hear external noises, it’s pretty noisy inside your head (ringing, high pitched tones, chiming sounds, roaring, like wind on the beach)
But on a positive note, if my hubby is snoring, I lie on my hearing ear and it’s all good!
I wrote this list about a year ago and now and as I think back about it, some of these things have gotten a little better and at least tolerable, but about four months ago when my “good” ear filled with fluid and I could barely hear anything, I wasn’t very tolerant. THAT WAS CRAZY SCARY! My specialist sent me for another hearing test, drained the good ear and put in a tube right there in his office. I think he could see my panic! Almost immediately, I could feel the pressure decreasing and over a few weeks, it was back to normal. But, let me tell you, that other “good” ear becomes so important when you only have one left!
Like most things we’ve never experienced and conditions that are not visible to the eye, we can’t be expected to totally understand what a person may be dealing with. In saying all of this, my hope is that if you are in a similar situation, you realize that you are not alone and to everyone else, that I may have enlightened your awareness, patience and kindness towards other people, because really, we all have struggles and we are all just doing the best we can to move on to So Many Somedays that are much more fun!