On being deaf

For the past 5 and a half weeks now, I have had a blocked ear. I perforated my eardrum, and its taking a few weeks to heal. You think you can imagine being deaf. Even partially. You think that when you get a deaf ear for a day or so that you know what it is like, but I am telling you - you don't.

It really is debilitating. It impacts in so many ways you'd not even realise. The first 2 weeks the hearing loss was quite profound, I found that my sense of spatial awareness was warped, I paid for petrol and walked into a display of water bottles. The attendant probably thought I was drunk. I stood in the chemist smiling blankly, unaware my name was being called to collect my prescription. I was so embarrassed.

Because I was unable to hear, I avoided people. It was too embarrassing to endlessly say 'Pardon? pardon? pardon?' so I became socially isolated. I had no idea what was going on on television, unless I could turn subtitles on. My balance was a bit wobbly. I would hear a noise, and be unable to properly place it, nor it's direction - that was genuinely a scary feeling at times. I didn't know what was going on and whether i needed to be in fight or flight mode or not. People laugh or stir you for your mishearing. They think it is funny. Or, even worse, they get angry and frustrated that you can't hear them and have to keep asking them to repeat themselves.

My mother has been deaf in one ear for many years now. She often talked about the frustration and depression that she felt as a result of it. I always empathised, but I never truly understood until now. My ear is still not healed. It almost pops, but then not quite. I am scared I will never regain proper hearing, but it has restored substantially from those first few weeks, so I feel lucky anyway.

Funny how it can take actually walking a mile, to truly gain real empathy and compassion. I thought I was, now I know better. If someone has trouble hearing you, please, show patience, kindness, and understanding. It will mean a lot.


Diane 4 November 2010 at 9:41 pm  

This was really good!! I wear hearing aids because I am 60% below "low" hearing threshold in my left ear and 30% below in the right. They are an awesome blue color. I had learned to adapt without realizing I had a problem. An Ear, Nose and Throat doctor sent me to a hearing specialist because I had told him about ringing in just one ear. When I went to the hearing specialist, I had LOTS of tests. The funniest one was when she says words at a lower and lower volume to see what you can hear. I was reading her lips! It was natural for me and I didn't know it. Then she covered them and I had no clue what she was saying. We don't know why I have hearing loss, but I am so grateful for my hearing aids. You are so correct in your spatial awareness. I wondered why I was so clutzy! I still can't do roller coasters, but it is better. Glad you are getting better!

Phil Rezanow 5 November 2010 at 3:00 am  

Patience and understanding. =)