(Sorry, but this is really boring and long.)
When I was a baby (not that I remember it) I had serious ear problems. This was a memory handed down to me by my mother. I’d like to think I remember the pain and that’s why I have issues today, but I don’t. I’m sure I lost the ability the first time my heart broke. I was told my ear problems were pretty severe. I was given temporary tubes (for those of you who don’t know what “tubes” are, they are inserted into the eardrum to relieve the fluid built-up behind them.) My inner ear wasn’t ever exactly normal. It seems that not only is the tubing narrower than usual, but it doesn’t angle down as much as it should, either. That being said, when I get what one might consider “normal” sinus build up, it affects me ten times as badly as a “normal” person because it doesn’t drain properly.
Take a minute. Say it with me.
So, yeah, tubes. Temporary ones.
I didn’t have the fluid build-up any longer. But that was the last time I ever swam without earplugs. When you’re mutant like myself, you can’t allow for a DROP of water to hit your ears. NOT A DROP. Later, I will explain what happens should one get past the guard. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been underwater without earplugs in. If I have, I was a baby and my mother took me to one of those Drown Your Toddler YWCA events. Obviously, if I can’t remember the pain, I have no recollection of swimming without earplugs either.
Eventually, the temporary tubes fell out (which I still have) and I started getting infections again. I was probably around 4 or 5 at the time. My mother took me to my regular ear doctor. He inserted PERMANENT ear tubes. (KEY WORD: PERMANENT)
I was in the hospital, then out again. I left that day, my head carrying more plastic.
At age 10, we moved to North Carolina. We packed up everything we owned and moved south from Pennsyltuckey. My family, myself and my permanent tubes moved to Raleigh. There, I met with a new doctor who decided to remove the permanent tubes from my eardrums. He talked us into it. I think he told my family it was outdated—which it was. And there were new ways to treat such a problem. He said after he removed the tubes, my eardrum would heal and I might become a normal fish able to hear underwater bubbles or the sound a penny make when you drop it to the bottom of a pool. (I was such an easy target when playing Marco/Polo.)
We removed them. (My mother, to this day, holds herself ENTIRELY responsible for my having so many problems. I think she’s crazy. It happens. I’m normal, more or less.)
Months went by. The holes did not heal. As a matter of fact, there was no sign of healing in sight as my eardrum turned towards scar tissue instead of pink new skin. The holes were there to stay.
Years went by this way. From time to time I would get colds—wicked ones and snot would literally pour out of my ears. Snot and blood, I kid you not.
Take a minute. Say it with me.
My pillow would be covered in it. I’d find it in my hair. This wasn’t normal.
Doctors all over the Eastern seaboard told me to take decongestants the MOMENT I felt a cold coming on. Hell, they told me to take them the moment I felt a change in head pressure. I did. Sometimes, it may have helped. I don’t know.
When I was 15, we moved back to Pennsyltuckey where I met a new ENT. At age 17, this guy had an idea. I was to enter the hospital as an outpatient. They would give me local anesthesia and while under, he’d scratch the edges of ONE of my scarred eardrums hoping to trigger new cell growth, thereby covering my holes.
This seemed logical to me, actually. And it was for the most part.
The operations were a few days apart. We did one ear at time just incase something went wrong.
It didn’t work. In fact, it made the holes bigger. He was upset as were we.
Later, he told us about something new. This operation was bigger. I would be put under again at which point a surgeon would take a thin piece of skin from somewhere else on my body, (I seem to remember it being the mucousy part of the skin just underneath the skin skin. If that medical explanation helps at all.) He would then lightly scratch the eardrum to trigger new growth and then lay the thin piece of skin on top. This time, he sent me to Danville Medical Center, about 1.5 hours east of State College.
We tried this on one ear. It didn’t work. (But there is a most hilarious memory I have of a man in a truck staring down at me as I sat in my mother’s car on the way home, a bandage wrapped tightly around my ENTIRE head. I looked like the elephant man wrapped in white bandages. When I got home, my hilarious father took pictures. I looked that pathetic and weird.)
I was 18 at the time.
I seem to remember one more ear operation at the age of 20. Maybe he tried again on the healthier ear. I don’t remember. All I know is I was in and out of the hospital between the ages of 15 and 20 four times for my ears. Each time was a failure.
At 20, I threw in the towel. If I was going to go deaf, so be it. I was not willing to go through one more head operation and get negative results.
Or so I thought.
At the age of 27, after suffering through another ear explosion due to a cold or a droplet of water, I went to see my general practitioner. I had an HMO so even though I KNEW I had to see a specialist, I had to get the referral first. Over the years, I learned how to predict the reactions I’d get from any general practitioner. It’s like a constant rehearsal without an opening night in sight.
Hi. Yeah. I have ear problems. I need to visit an ear specialist. That’s why I’m here. I’ve had them all my life.
Well, let me have a look. You have an earache? I might be able to do something for you.
He/she says this as they grab their ear scope (or whatever it’s called.)
Believe me, you’re in for a real treat. I’ve had several operations all unsuccessful. I have holes in my eardrum and it looks, from what I’m told, pretty hazardous in there.
mm hmmm I see. I see.
He goes in with his light and magnifier.
Wow, it looks inflamed. You do have some problems.
He backs away from the chair, writes a referral and I’m off.
(One guy actually GASPED and told me it looked like a dripping cavern.)
This particular doctor had me see an EAR ONLY specialist. When I met him, I discovered new hope I thought I had lost at age 20. And so we scheduled another ear surgery.
Which didn’t work.
This one wasn’t a lost cause entirely, however. While I was under for the 40-minute surgery, he found a benign tumor growing throughout my left ear canal. It took 2.5 hours to remove it from the inside of my skull as it had made itself really comfortable in there.
Take a minute. Say it with me.
He was certain this would have caused me a great deal of damage and pain (like I already didn’t know damage) in the future. He even saved it for educational purposes. It was that big.
In summation, I am deafer than I was at 20, 15, and 10 and I have constant ringing in my left ear due to hundreds of ear infections and 5 failed operations. I can’t swim without earplugs and showering hasn’t ever been easy since I’m too stubborn to put the plugs in while bathing. I can’t use eardrops or cleaners so I walk around with canals filled with wax most of the time. (Unless I cheat and use the forbidden Q-tips. So dangerous.) I can’t hear people in the dark and I can’t hear you if you mumble. Plus, I’ve had my right ear removed from my head and therefore have a scar running along the back of my skull. Hot.
Today, I found out my inner ear and my ear problems are exactly the reason I am getting sick all the time. My pipes don’t drain. And while sometimes the gook comes out my ears (you know, if it’s REALLY bad) it just sits there and sits there getting worse until I am sick. Whereas most people don’t get ill from such a tiny bit of infectious mucous, my head doesn’t expel it like it should, therefore, I get sick almost each and every time.
But you know what? I can ride on airplanes and my ears don’t pop. Plus, I’m a good listener because I have to read your lips when we speak. So should you ever meet me, and I’m not looking at you at least 85% of the time, that means I’m not listening. At which point, you have my permission to call me on it. Be sure not to mumble.