JD Mullane: A slow recovery from a sudden loss of hearing

0 0
Read Time:3 Minute, 57 Second

In late April, a cold clobbered me like Ali clobbered Liston. In a parting shot, the virus took my hearing.

For weeks, I was unable to hear anything more than a few feet away. Even in that short range, sound was garbled, like what you hear when you’re underwater.

I could not hear the birds outside or the kids playing video games in the next room. I could see the rain falling, but not hear it. I could feel the car start, but not hear the engine. I could not hear the grandfather clock chiming, or my wife breathing as she slept next to me, or the smack of the newspaper when it hit the driveway in the morning. I could not hear my footsteps.

The virus had loaded my ears with fluid, distorting sound and affecting balance. While walking, it felt as if the ground suddenly tilted sideways. A freefall happened in a parking lot. A young man rushed to help me up. It was embarrassing.

Believing I could ride it out, I reported for work. My editor sent me home after she had to communicate by writing notes on pages torn from a reporter’s notebook, holding them up. The last note said, “GO HOME.”

I did, and sat alone in a bedroom for days. The relentless silence was isolating and disorienting. It induced fits of claustrophobia. The only clear, constant sound was my heartbeat, amplified in my inner ear. At night, this brought unease and sleeplessness. I’d get out of bed and stand at the kitchen window, staring at the empty street.

I embarked on long drives. The radio annoyed. Every voice sounded as if the person had inhaled helium. Music was distorted and jangled. It was almost impossible to tell who was singing or what song was playing.

One morning, after dropping the kids at school, I drove aimlessly, ending up in Cape May, New Jersey. On the beach, I gazed at the Atlantic, but could not hear the surf.

Hearing loss runs in my family. A virus cost my father most of his hearing when he was in his late 30s. We kids watched as he gracefully endured irritable store clerks, curt waiters and rude strangers who impatiently raised their voices at him as he struggled to understand what they said. People who are hard of hearing suffer these indignities, and it makes them shy and quiet. I assumed this was my fate, too.

But hearing specialist Dr. Judith Gallagher-Braun had good news. My loss was reversible, though it would take time. Medication would be the first line of attack. If that didn’t fix it, surgery would.

The drugs didn’t work, so a surgical procedure was scheduled, and both eardrums were pierced.

As healing began, ambient sound became a bewildering goulash. This was attended by sudden pops and clicks in my ears, and a disquieting looping swoosh, similar to the sound a vinyl record makes when played backward.

“I keep hearing ‘Paul is dead,’ ’’ I told my wife.

I’d noodle through conversation by matching voice sounds to lip movements. It’s easier than you think, though not foolproof. One day, while I coated a kitchen shelf with oil-based paint, Mrs. Mullane became concerned that the fumes would overcome our daughter’s two delicate zebra finches.

“That smell will kill the birds,” she said.

“Did you say it’s time to milk the birds?” I asked.

Recovery was frustratingly slow, like waiting for a download that’s stuck at 40 percent.

My sister texted, “Any improvement with your hearing?”’

I texted back, “WHAT?”’

To keep from going stir crazy, I commenced busy work around the house. Within a week, I sanded, stained and varnished eight doors. Rising before 6 a.m., I’d still be at it at midnight, sometimes 1 a.m. It was grueling, grimy and effective therapy.

Memorial Day came. Sitting in a room next to an open window, there were several jarring clicks and pops in my left ear, and suddenly I could hear the rain and a lone robin chirping in our yard. I rushed to tell everyone.

The next day, while standing in line at a store, I heard clearly “Lights” by Ellie Goulding, a song about a child terrified of darkness.

This week, I returned to work. Hearing is improving, though everything sounds tinny, the way it does as you gain altitude in an airplane. So be it. Beats silence.


JD Mullane: A slow recovery from a sudden loss of hearing

Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %
(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

a-d
author

silentgrapevine

SG Mission: to serve our viewers by providing reliable, valuable, and important Deaf community oriented information in every newcast.