On Tuesday, March 26th, I was beebopping along, doing my thing at work. Then I felt a pop in my right ear. It felt like when you’re heading through the mountains and your ears pop from the higher elevation. It didn’t hurt, but I still stopped in the middle of the hall, eyes probably a little wider than they had been, mouth probably pinched tightly shut.
Everything was muffled. I could hear myself breathing, but not actually hear the exhales and inhales. It was like the sound was coming from within my head, not from outside of it. I took a couple of steps and I could hear the echoes of my footsteps. Much like the sound of my breathing, it felt like it was coming from inside my head, inside my body, each step a reverberation from the bottom of my foot, up my legs and spine and into my brain, but not coming from my ears at all. I spoke, couldn’t hear what I had said.
Before I go any further, I must explain to you that I am deaf in my left ear–have been since I was a wee little lad full of health and stuff (as Rick Grimes would say). So, to have my right ear ‘pop’ and things suddenly become muffled was a little scary.
The next morning I made my way to the doctor. He probed and looked, checking the ear out. I had an ear infection, something I haven’t had since being that little lad full of stuff. It was apparently pretty bad.
‘Have you had any pain?’ he asked.
Interesting? When a doctor says that word, it is NOT interesting, but probably something you don’t want to know about.
‘Why do you say that?’ I asked.
‘You’ve had this for a while. You should be in a lot of pain and should have had a high fever by now.’
That night I was sick. High fever. Chills. My head hurt. My right ear hummed with a ringing like Cicadas on a late spring night. It was as if the doctor had predicted it. I took the medication prescribed to me and went to bed.
I don’t know if I just felt so bad that I was able to sleep through the night, but I do know that it is the only night I have slept through since. You see, the medicine has one side effect that has reared its ugly head: it gives me a massive amount of energy and wakes me in the middle of the night.
‘Hey,’ it says as it taps on my forehead with its invisible finger. ‘Get up. I want to play.’
When my eyes open, I am wide awake. There has been no going back to sleep over the last week or so. Most mornings four o’clock is the wake up hour and laying in bed just makes things worse. So, I get up. I’m not tired, but I would like to sleep just a little longer.
Since this happened a little over a week ago, some folks have had their fun with me, moving their mouths without actually speaking. They look like they belong in a cheesy Japanese film involving Godzilla or bad ninjas. For you folks, just remember, I have a revenge list and your names are right there at the top.
The medicine has helped get rid of the infection (I guess–I’m no doctor, so I really don’t know) and some of the hearing has come back, which is a relief. The eardrum should heal in time, but it may take longer than I really want it to. If it were up to me, it would have healed on Tuesday, March 26th.
To help you understand how I hear things right now, place a seashell to one ear and cover the other one (or put an earplug in it) and ask someone to talk to you. It sounds like someone is speaking under water. It’s annoying. The ringing of the ear seems to cut right through my skull and play jump rope with my brain. The headache has been constant.
There is only one real way to describe how all of this has made me feel: cut off. That’s an accurate term. I can hear people talking, but their voices are muffled. Forget listening to music unless I want to put earphones on, and I really don’t think that is a good idea right now. It’s as if someone cut the volume way down and I’m struggling to hear what is going on around me. I’m tired of saying, ‘what?’ ‘huh?’ ‘I didn’t hear you.’
I hear wind.
I hear those Cicadas.
If there is one silver lining to this it’s that I will be able to use this in a story; the pain, the closed off from the rest of the world feeling, the ringing Cicadas. You better believe I will use this. Being a writer who likes to focus on how his characters feel, this is research in its purest form.
It’s not like I haven’t been through this before (something worse happened as a wee little lad, you know, full of stuff), but this is different. I was a kid then and didn’t have a job where I need my hearing in order to know what to do for folks. It’s been frustrating, but it will get better.
For now, I take the medicine, sleep for three or four hours a night and get up to a world of muffled sounds. And I file these feelings away in the cabinets in my mind. As a writer, you bet this will be used later on. That’s what we do. We observe, make mental notes, then come back to whichever note we need when the time comes. It’s what we do.
Thank you for reading, and until we meet again, my friends…