Now Hear This
The question about what it's like to only hear from one ear came up the other day. A bunch of people who knew somebody responded. While their anecdotes were accurate within their perspective, it showed me how it feels to have somebody answer for my experience when it isn’t theirs.
I've always had hearing trouble. I couldn’t hear when I was born. Had surgeries until I was twelve. A final one when I was sixteen because a GP thought I had too much wax and blew out my Eustachian tissue with a water jet. The final goal achieved of reaching the bottom of "normal" hearing range. That was a long time ago, I’ve spend my adult life with below average hearing, but good enough. Then around 2011/12 I blew out the Eustachian tissue in my right ear. Well, landing in Houston on New Year’s Eve did it. If I thought saying “what” a lot sucked, the good times were about to roll.
I couldn't tell where my wife was in the house when she'd call for me. "I'm in here" got old quick. She didn’t realize how frustrating it was. Just tell me “I’m in the bathroom” so I can quit checking every room in the house. You know police sirens in music aren’t much fun? Try not knowing where the ambulance is unless you can see the lights.
When I was on the phone (I do a lot of con-calls), she'd come in to tell me something and I couldn't hear her because I had a phone jammed to my ear. In restaurants, I had to sit so I could aim my good ear at most of the people at my table. When I couldn't do that, it was like being left out of all the conversations.
I had to concentrate harder to hear dialogue or conversations in noisier conditions, because I couldn't pick out direction to prioritize sound. Listening felt like work. Which meant that at busy parties, it was more relaxing to sit in the corner and wait until it was time to go.
Getting it fixed meant surgery and a $6K deductible (per person). My wife had other medical bills going on each year, so I limped along with one ear. If you wonder why men don't live as long, it's because we prioritize our family's healthcare first and you can put a price on that.
Last summer, ear wax or water or magic fairy dust sealed the hole and I was able to hear out of the bad ear again. For the first few weeks, I was cautious, I had it flap shut for a day or two over the years before from blowing my nose too hard. But it's held. I can hear the chopper pan from left to right on Metallica's One. Otis Taylor's Ten Million Slaves has guitar riff I love on the right ear that I can hear again.
I'm not and I wasn't handicapped. But life is harder when you can't hear well. People don't really understand the little things that add up to frustration.