The World Opens Up Again

The good news – excellent news – is that my mom’s hearing is restored to its former level. Indeed, she only needed to have her ear canals cleaned, as they were completely clogged with wax.

The comic/tragic aspect of the experience had to do with me not being able to accompany her to the doctor’s appointment. I had so completely given myself permission not to feel guilty, not to worry that everything would go wrong without me there to keep it right. The aides who work with her are kind and good. They know her, she knows them. She’d be fine with any one of them helping her.

The nurse who made the ENT appointment had assured me she’d explain to my mom why we decided to get her the first possible appointment instead of waiting until I could go along. And she probably did, but my mom couldn’t really hear at the time. I couldn’t call to explain it to Mom, for obvious reason.

A different nurse was on duty the morning of Mom’s appointment. That day, I arrived at work, took my cell phone out of my purse to put it in my pocket (ringer off) and realized I had a voicemail from the nursing home, left while I was in transit ten minutes earlier. We’re not really supposed to use our cell phones at work, but I was able to listen to the message surreptitiously. The key part was “Your mom’s appointment is in a few minutes and she won’t get on the van to go. She keeps saying we have to wait for you to get here.” Oh crap. Crappity crap crap.

Of course, by the time I listened to the message, it was too late. Either she was on the van already or it had left without her. I called and left a voice mail at the nurse’s station asking for someone to contact me at my work number. Thirty long minutes later the nurse called me back and told me they’d convinced Mom to go.

In the afternoon, between my work shifts, I called again to ask what the doctor said. The nurse read me the notes they had, mentioning hearing loss in both ears blah blah medical jargon blah blah, adjusted hearing aide medical jargon.

“Do they know why she lost so much hearing so quickly, though?”

“Well, I read you everything it said.”

“Did they find any wax or fluid or anything?”

“It doesn’t say. But you can call their office directly.”

So I did. I talked to a nurse there who repeated hearing loss in both ears blah blah medical jargon…

“Do they know why her hearing declined so dramatically all of a sudden?”

“She already had hearing loss. She was wearing a hearing aid when she came in.”

“Yes, but she went from the hearing aid helping her live her life and have conversations to almost no hearing at all even with it in.”

“She could get a second hearing aid.”

“Okay. I’ll look into that. Um, did you all by chance clean any wax out of her ears or anything?”

“Oh yes. Her ear canals are narrow and they were completely filled with wax.”

“They dug so deep I was afraid they’d puncture my brain,” my mom told me later.

When I visited her the next day, she heard me knock on the door. We had a face-to-face conversation rather than a mouth-to-ear one. She’d watched a TV show and understood it. She told me about the morning’s activity. She was back to being an active member of her world. This afternoon, I called her on the phone and heard about their ice cream social, with accounts of all the funny things people said. And she doesn’t believe she needs a second hearing aid for now.

Excellent news.



Suddenly Deaf

My mom’s hearing is gone. Pffttt. Disappeared. Like that (imagine my fingers snapping.)

She already had some hearing loss, but has managed to do okay with a hearing aid in one ear. You could carry on a conversation if you spoke up a little. Then suddenly, a couple of weeks ago, she could hear almost nothing. It’s gotten a little better at times and then worse again. She can understand me if I put my mouth right next to her ear and speak slowly. That’s it.

She has an appointment tomorrow morning with an ENT. I hope we discover impacted wax or something that can be remedied on the spot. My consultation with Doctors NIH and Google tell me sudden hearing loss is often idiopathic, meaning nobody ever figures out the reason. Oh, please no. Sometimes hearing mysteriously goes away and then shows back up in a couple of weeks, as if it had been out on a beach vacation. Sometimes it goes away and never comes back and they never find a reason. Sometimes there’s  a virus or a tumor. An sometimes there’s a severe wax buildup.

Mom’s quality of life has diminished quite a lot with her sudden deafness. She no longer attends the weekly Bible study, since she can’t hear what’s being said. She doesn’t have conversations with other residents of the nursing facility. She doesn’t even watch TV, unless it’s a baseball game, something she can track without the sound.   Her family can’t call and chat with her over the phone. I almost always call on days I don’t visit in person. But now I can’t. My 15-year-old son is learning guitar. He’d been planning to go with me last Saturday to visit and play a couple of songs for her, but there was no point in taking the guitar after all. She is doing a lot of reading, so there’s a silver lining.

I suppose tomorrow I’ll have more information on whether she can recover her hearing or whether this is the new normal. If it’s the latter, it will be a big adjustment for everyone.

I’ll Take My Validation Where I Can Get It

Yesterday, my telephone ring tone – and by extension I myself, for choosing it – became an object of derision for my 15-year-old and a couple of his friends. Their conversation went on for what seemed way too long to me, as they found one reason after another why nobody should be subjected to listening to that particular ring-tone.

Thing is, it’s one of the presets. “Marimba”, for those who have the same phone options I do. It’s not like some embarrassing song I searched out and downloaded. It’s not “Baby Beluga” or “Take This Job and Shove It” or Rod Stewart singing “If you think I’m sexy…”

My sole defense was “Hey, I’m too cheap to pay for something when so many options came free with the phone. I picked one I liked.”

My son assures me nobody who knows anything about music would ever like that one. For what it’s worth, he does know quite a lot more about music than I do.

Today, I went to a movie with a friend: “20 Feet From Stardom.” It’s an excellent documentary. I highly recommend it. It’s about the lives and careers of back-up singers. One of the featured singers, Lisa Fischer, has supplied vocals for some major stars, including the Rolling Stones, and is praised left, right and center by many musicians in the film. At one point, she’s shown waking up to the sound of her cell phone. Guess what ring tone she uses. Yes, the same as mine. Ha!

I couldn’t wait to get home and share this tidbit with my son. “If it’s good enough for Lisa Fischer, it’s good enough for me,” I said. Not such a loser after all, am I?

Bonus: a relevant comic.