Everybody living with a disability knows these bad times when your disability causes extra trouble. In my case this means infections of the ear canal and/or middle ear. A hearing aid brings bacteria in the ear and irritates the skin. The skin inside the ear doesn’t get thicker with time, like the skin on the feet does when it reacts to ill-fitting shoes. It remains sensitive.
The reason why I went to the ENT doctor today was, that I have had trouble hearing the days prior. What he found was another bad infection. My doctor has a very strict method of dealing with this: A strip of gauze that is soaked with antibiotic ear drops is put deeply into the ear canal and stays there for two days. I had to learn it the hard way, that this is the only possibility to completely get rid of a really nasty infection. In the past I tried antibiotic ointments that allowed me to continue wearing my hearing aid, because I am really dependent on it!
I got to know my ENT in the year 2000. It was pure luck, he was the locum doctor during the summer vacation of my regular ENT. Back then, I suffered from a very persistent ear infection that wouldn’t go away. We tried every fungal and antibiotic ointment, nothing helped (a few weeks later I was diagnosed with Melanoma, maybe my body wasn’t strong enough to deal with this at that point). What I really like about this doctor is his honesty. So he told me straight away, that my ear wouldn’t heal if I didn’t stop putting the hearing aid in it for a few days. I didn’t like this, because not being able to use my hearing aid meant not being able to work.
Finally I agreed, and voila: The infection was gone a few days later and never came back. As Paracelsus said: “He who heals is right.” Years later, this doctor helped me to get my severly disabled ID card, what was overdue at this point. And he never tried to push me into having an cochlea implant in my left ear. He mentioned it, I told him why this isn’t for me, and this was it. I rarely have to go see him, one or twice a year, so it’s worth the long way.
So I won’t use my hearing aid until Saturday morning. For this time, I will be completely deaf, because the gauze in my ear absorbs all residual hearing. First, I let all the important people know what happened, so they don’t try to call me. Mobile phones and smartphones are really helpful! The normal hearing people pitied me a lot. They think I can’t do anything right now, and that I am not able to participate in life.
They’re wrong. Many years of poor hearing made my brain find other ways of orientation. I am able to find my way in traffic by watching everything around me very closely. Of course I don’t hear cars honking, or the siren of fire trucks. But what about the people who deliberately chose to ignore these sounds by hearing loud music from their car radios? I am not allowed to drive a car without a hearing aid, though, it’s stated in my driving licence. Before I got on the train back home, I bought a coffee to go. I managed fairly well, even without hearing anything. My speach will not suffer in this short time without hearing, and I am capable of lip reading. When the barista asked for my name (she wrote it on the paper cup), I was surprised but I got it right on the first try. I know I can’t do lip reading for hours right now, it’s too stressful because I am not used to it being my only way of listening, but it is enough for the moment. For instance, I would be fine with travelling by bus and doing the grocery shopping. It doesn’t add to my anxiety, because I am very aware of the many things I don’t notice even using my hearing aid.
Of course I am looking forward to Saturday and taking advantage of my hearing aid again. Communication with my loved ones will be easy, as will be watching TV and listening to music. As long it’s temporary, I can tolerate this situation. If deafness becomes a permanent condition, this will be hard to adjust to. But even then, my world will not end.