For the first time since January 24, 2012, I can hear out of both ears. It’s not perfect, but it’s really, really close.
On January 25 I lost my hearing due to an infection. At its worst I had no hearing in my left ear, and half in my right. Every time my ears started to clear, I would get painful coughing fits and the pressure would build in my ears again.
But now it has been a week since they cleared and I’m just starting to realize what I’ve missed. I can hear my baby burble in his sleep. I can hear the baby birds in their nest above my balcony. I can hear the rain, the wind, the toilet running, the late night traffic outside my window. I can hear the shutter click on my camera.
I feel lighter. I’m relaxed, calm, I can take part in conversations. There’s no more effort to hear, to listen.
It has been almost four months since I’ve been able to hear, and almost every doctor told me it might be another year until things righted themselves. I’m taking medication to deal with my blood pressure, which spiked dangerously high because I was having panic attacks at night from feeling claustrophobic.
The only sounds I could hear at night, for four months, were my heart beat and the kind of electric hum you might hear standing under a transformer.
A monotonous and wet thump-thump. thump-thump. thump-thump. thump-thump. and the high pitched whine you get in your head after a long, loud concert.
It took four months of fighting to be taken seriously by ER doctors and my family doctor, but I finally got in to see an ear, nose and throat specialist four weeks ago. He agreed it was serious, my left ear was almost entirely blocked, my right ear had mostly cleared by then.
But he agreed to perform a somewhat minor procedure that would put a ring, or a loop, in my left eardrum. This would equalize the pressure and allow my ear, or ears, to drain. After a few months, maybe a year, the ring — smaller than a match head — would fall out as the eardrum healed.
We set an appointment for day surgery for May 24. On the car ride home it feels like ten tonnes has been lifted from my shoulders. Finally, finally, finally it would be over.
But when I woke up the morning of the surgery it felt like something was wrong. The kind of wrong where you get to work and realize your shoes are on the wrong foot.
My girlfriend was very excited about my getting my hearing back, and on the car ride to the surgery she kept asking me questions about the procedure, and how long it would take to get my hearing back afterwards. And, honestly, I had no idea because I had been so excited to be taken seriously by the ENT doctor I forgot to ask him any questions.
So finally I said, “stop, look, there’s something wrong. I don’t know what, but I feel weird and I just need everything to be quiet for a few minutes.”
When I was finally on the operating table, and they had applied anaesthetic to my throat so they could check the passageways for infection, it finally dawned on me what was wrong. And I swore, out loud. “Fuck… unbelievable.”
The doctor’s assistant asked me what was wrong.
I put my hand to my forehead, closed my eyes and said, “Jesus. Unbelievable. I can hear.”
They checked, and the left ear, the one which had been mostly or entirely blocked for months, was as clear as if nothing had ever happened.
At some point during the twenty-four hours before the scheduled surgery, the last of the fluid blocking my ears had drained away.
The doctor told me that if anything goes wrong in the next three months he’ll see me right away, without a referral. There’s still some creaking, and light popping, but I can hear.
My life is stupid.