The Stress of Silence

As many of you know, if you’ve been reading my blog, I’ve been struggling with hearing loss brought on by a viral respiratory infection that morphed into a sinus infection and an infection in both ears.  It has been quite the experience.  There were times when I wondered if my hearing was going to come back at all and believe me, that was scary.  I now have a totally different appreciation for what the hearing-impaired face on a daily basis.

Ear 2


At the height of my hearing loss, I was having to turn the TV volume up to a level “71” AND use close captioning in order to catch most of what was being said.  The Commander had to yell into my ear just for me to be able to sort of hear what he was saying.  I couldn’t hear things like footsteps, phones ringing, doorbells, the dog barking, music.  What little I COULD hear was quite distorted to sound either like people talking after sniffing helium or sounding very tinny.

I found myself feeling very isolated.  Holding a conversation with the Commander was almost more trouble than it was worth so our communication was reduced to just what was absolutely necessary.  I was afraid to drive anywhere because I couldn’t hear cars honking or emergency vehicles.  When I’d turn the key in the ignition, I couldn’t even tell if the car was running.  I love to knit while watching TV but I found that I would watch a few shows while the Commander was at work, since I had to have the volume up so high and then I was reluctant to watch anything with him at night because I missed so much trying to rely on the closed captioning.  It made me realize just how much I “listen” instead of watch when I’m knitting in front of the TV.



Normally, I don’t mind silence.  I’m used to being on my own in a quiet environment.  Yet, when I found myself actually forced to be surrounded by a shroud of silence, I realized just how much sound I was actually hearing in the normal course of a day.  I missed not being able to hear the birds singing outside the window or hear the sound of the mailman’s truck coming down the street.  I missed the “moo” telling me I had received a text message or the sound of the buzzer telling me it was time to start supper.  I missed the sound of my own voice, to be honest.  When I’d talk, I sounded like I was underwater or inside a barrel with someone’s hands over my ears.

I’m glad to report that my hearing is slowly coming back.  My doctor put me on a new antibiotic which has helped.  My ears are starting to “pop” when I swallow or yawn and my ENT doctor says that is a sign that my ear tubes are trying to start equalizing the pressure.  I’m now able to turn off the closed captioning on the TV and put the volume level anywhere from “25 – 30.”

Today I had a consult with an ENT specialist.  He did a lot of hearing tests and looked around in my ears.  The conclusion is that flying back from Texas just as I was coming down with the virus/respiratory thing started the whole downward spiral.  The normal time for hearing restoration in this type of hearing loss is 4-6 weeks.  I’m at the 3 week point.  The specialist thinks that I’m getting close to having things back to normal, for me.  He did see that I have permanent hearing loss in both inner ears from nerve damage and that was most likely caused by the chemotherapy I had back in the 1980’s for breast cancer, now exasperated by changes due to aging.   But as he said, “I think the chemo was probably a good trade-off, don’t you?”  Yes, I do.  I’m alive and if I have to ask people to repeat things now and then, it’s a small price to pay.

The ENT guy did say that I’d be a good candidate for hearing aids, if I wanted to go that route.  He also said that I could undoubtedly continue to function ok without them, once my hearing came back to its previous levels.  I told him, “thanks but no thanks.”  I’m not ready to stick anything in my ears at this point in my life.

So, bottom line is that I’m to stay out of airplanes for the near future.  I’m to try to stay healthy.  Getting another cold right now would NOT be a good thing and would set my hearing recovery back.   I had told this doctor that the last time I had had such a bad hearing loss had been thirty years ago when I’d had to fly out for my grandmother’s funeral when I had a terrible cold.  I ended up quite deaf in both ears for over a month before things finally got back to normal.

When I finished up my appointment today, the doctor said, “No offense, but I hope I don’t see you back here for another 30 years.”

“No offense taken, Doctor,” I replied.  “In truth, I’ll be happy if I never have to see you again. Nothing personal, you understand.”

We laughed and I headed out, already enjoying the sounds of hope after the long stress of silence.



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