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  • Writer's pictureAlastar Connor

One ear down, sanity to go.

The panic grips me once again. Like a roller coaster gaining speed unti my stomach rolls and flips. I feel like I’m going to throw up. The nausea grips me as I throw myself out of bed and breathe, trying to get my anxiety under control. I feel like my temperature just shot up to 100 degrees. Is this what my little girl feels during her panic attacks?


Why can’t I just go back? Make it so it never happened. My whole life changed in one stupid moment. A glitch. A freak accident. After all the healthy eating, vaccines, careful living. The precautions, the luck, surviving a deadly car accident, emotional trauma. To be taken down by an innocent itch of the ear on an average day on a commonly traveled road a mile from home. Just dropping my child at the Y on just another day. One pothole. Bam. Everything changed.


There is no easy solution. No quick fix. I will have to live with this forever. The hurry to see specialists is all a farce. There is no healing from this. No repair. Only choices and time and managing this constant panic.


“What does it keep you from doing in life?”


Everything.


My first foray into one-eared living? The drive through. I’ll never do that again.


I was a girl who loved a crowd. Parties. Public speaking. Music. Singing. Dancing.


Music was one of my happy places. I was a beautiful singer. A talented dancer. I felt the music deeply in my soul. Hearing every instrument and piece of the arrangement. Letting it roll over me on long drives or dance sessions alone in the kitchen. Singing at the top of my lungs with vibratto and subtle rolling of the notes over my tongue.


I love children. I was outgoing. Brave. Vibrant. Alive. Limited only by time and money but with big dreams of how my life would go. I had made it through the worst and was ready to work hard and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Christ. We had just celebrated 10 years together and were dreaming of how we would spend the next 10. So happy and full of life.


Now?


The ringing is loud and ever present. Music has lost its magic. Tinny sounding. Muffled. I can’t hear myself singing. Can’t make my voice do all the pretty things. I can’t hear in a crowd. Feel anxious about my speaking voice. I can’t hear it properly. Children’s voices? So hard to hear.


The pressure in my ear is so distracting. Like when you get off a plane and your ear hasn’t popped. Like there is cotton in it. Like an ear plug. Along with the constant ringing. And trying to find where a sound is coming from? Forget it. My brain can’t place it. Which bedroom has an alarm going off? I can’t tell.


A car pulled up behind me today and I couldn’t hear it. I don’t feel safe. I feel confused and distracted. I fear for my old age, living with only one ear. What happens as that one deteriorates? Am I left in silence as I try to enjoy my older years, my husband, my kids, grandchildren?


No scuba diving with my boys like I dreamed off. No roller coasters. Airplane ride this year for vacation? Doubtful. My life as I knew it? Forever altered, distracted, impaired, exhausting…forever from that moment on. And I can’t go back. I can’t rewind. Breathe. Don’t puke.


Choices.


That is what I am left with.


Hearing aids, implants, surgery…all come with risks. Could make everything worse. Could lose the little hearing I have left. Or leave me with lifelong dizziness. Plus recovery is hard. And long. Sleeping sitting up. Dizziness. Ringing. Four weeks of no sudden movements or exercise. Like a porcelain doll. Implants. Slipping or extrusion. Am I willing to gamble my remaining hearing and lack of vertigo on the skill of a surgeon and the questionably quality of the technology? People wait years to make this decision. Nothing will change any time soon. This is my new reality. And I am sick. Sick to my stomach. Panicked. Frantic. Nauseous. Breathe.


That weekend before this happened. Our trip away together. Heaven. That was my life. Frozen in technicolor. Laughing and listening to the live music. Not minding a crowd. Not distracted by pressure and a high pitched electric tone deafening the sound I have left. So healthy and real. And over.


My life. Who I was. Over. In an instant. So I sit here at one in the morning. Writing. Wishing it all away. Looking for the rewind button. And trying not to puke.


Yet, I feel so blessed with the people I’m surrounded by. Kind, generous, real, interesting, smart, lovely humans. At work, at soccer, at the coffee shop, at the kids’ school, on the internet…humans warm my heart.


Since I lost the hearing in my left ear, people have shared their stories, offered up every piece of advice they have, been so open and honest about their own experiences, offered optimism and empathy and their open hearts. When you experience challenges in life, it makes you a better human and it reveals the humanity of others to you.


“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams


An isolated malleus handle fracture is a rare ossicular injury; around 83 cases have been reported in the literature.


The human ear is one of the most intricate pieces of machinery found in the human body. It is responsible for transmitting and converting vibrational energy so that sound can be appreciated.


From the specialist at Mass Eye and Ear, the only things that can be done are hope that there is some healing there (rare due to little blood flow in the area) or surgery that risks the hearing I do still have in that ear.


So unless there is some miracle healing, what I have for hearing left in my left ear is what I will have forever. The ringing and fullness will last forever. I can try a hearing aid once I’m sure it won’t improve as it’s a large investment and there is a chance (according to the specialist) that I will hate it and decide not to use it.


Trying not to think about what I have lost or I just start crying. Can’t go around crying all day every day. Life goes on.


Continuing to try to ignore the loud ringing and distracting full sensation. Trying to pretend music still sounds the same and not think about how it doesn’t at all. Trying to find tricks to hearing when there is background noise or I’m in the passenger seat. Trying not to hate sleeping only on one side due to discomfort of sleeping on injured ear. Trying to ignore that I can’t identify unknown sounds. Trying to be more aware of my left side when something might be coming up behind me. Trying to find my joy around the sadness of what I have lost. Reminding myself it’s better to be alive no matter what but so frustrating why this shit has to happen. Life throws shit at you no matter what you do so you just have to keep living and finding the silver linings despite the shit. I think that’s really what life is. Like my dear friend in Heaven, Rachel, always said, life is learning to dance in the rain.


Suffice to say, my life is not the same as it was before. I have gained further appreciation for what is lacking in medical care for empathy, wrap around care, and the mental health aspects of injury and illness. Not a single provider followed up on my mental health. Not a single call. No care for what I (or the many others in my sudden single ear hearing loss group) are going through.


I have also gained more of an appreciation for invisible disabilities. We look the same outside and can cover for our challenges so you might not even notice, but inside, the added difficulty of how to live around our issues is such an added stress. It takes extra brain power to rise above the distraction, to think through the haze and fog, to use coping mechanisms and tricks to compensate. What used to be unconscious for me now requires concentration. My brain is also so distracted by my ear I’m constantly trying to focus through it. I’m self conscious about asking “what” or being in background noise situations. I’m frustrated by easy things and managing anger on a more consistent basis.


So the update is…no update. This is it. I’m one of the lucky few who broke her own f*ing ear and half my life will be “after the incident.”


…and yet, I’m determined.



Nothing can keep me down.


Life has a way of sending the occasional tsunami. Out of nowhere, when you least expect it.


Often, just as you lean your head back to bask in the sun, ignorant, taking it all for granted.


I take heart in knowing.


Nothing can keep me down.


When the water rises, the white caps crest and make it hard to breathe, and yet.


Although the initial impact may take my breath away, knocking the wind out of me.


Although at first I may struggle just to tread water, get salty sea up my nose, coughing and sputtering with anger and frustration.


I have faith in myself.


Nothing can keep me down.


There is always a ray of sunlight that reaches the darkest depths.


A slight sparkle to the reflection of all the sediment the churning turns up.


Relief as the air rushes into my lungs with every breath I manage to catch.


I have an inner light.


Nothing can keep me down.


I’m not sure if it is the company I keep.


Or my attitude of gratitude.


Counting my blessings.


Or my inner well of joy.


I know this much to be true.


Nothing can keep me down.


Poem by Alastar Connor





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