Losing the privilege to hear normally in one or both ears is more than an unexpected disappointment. It is a bewildering, life-changing event that strikes fear in your heart, as Jay Myers recounts.
It could have been the frequent, bone-rattling and often aggressive cough that triggered the outcome. The Consultant ENT Surgeon said ‘no’. Perhaps it was an electrical fault that set off the house alarm on that same day in April 2011 – the alarm’s intensity and pitch was almost beyond endurance. The Consultant ENT Surgeon said ‘no’. I think he used the words ‘coincidence’ and ‘red herring’ for both unforgiving incidents.
Always eager to know why and how things happen, I kept asking questions, probing, searching for clues – for answers. Was it something that could have been avoided? Could I have done anything differently? ‘It was a virus’, the Consultant ENT Surgeon told me. ‘And it usually happens to one ear only, never both’.
On that April day, I was left virtually deaf in my left ear. The next morning, I was dizzy and nauseous, and unable to stand or walk in a straight line. I went to the hospital’s A&E department, fearful that I was seriously ill. The nurse said it was nothing. ‘There’s no damage to the ear drum’ – ‘you will be fine in a couple of days’. I wasn’t.
Had I known then what I know now, and had the nurse been insightful on the day, a prescribed course of high-dosage steroids may have helped more than I will ever know. Some weeks later, my fears abated appreciably following an MRI scan that showed no life-threatening damage to any major, or minor, component inside my head. And for that I was eternally grateful.
During the days and weeks that followed, the hearing in my left ear improved somewhat, but at best it was running at only fifty per cent capacity. The damage had been done and the capacity to hear – as I had known – would never return to normality. As an amateur musician and one who particularly enjoys listening to jazz, big bands, and classical music, I feared the worst . . . that I would no longer be able to enjoy any of this again.
OK . . . So What Do I Do Now?
The Consultant suggested I try an NHS hearing aid first and foremost to see what it felt like and more importantly, whether it would help. For me, it was a disappointing experiment. The ‘device’ was uncomfortable, unsightly and did little to enrich incoming sound, be it vocal or musical.
I used it from time to time, but in reality I did without it out for several years until . . . well, until I got fed up, unable to hear what was being said to whom. I had become an unwilling, non-participant. I could barely hear the birds in the morning, let along enjoy The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss II, or the fiery harmony and rhythm of Sing Sing Sing, that swing classic by Louis Prima.
I came to the unflinching conclusion that modern technology had to provide a sustainable solution, or at least a much better alternative beyond the limitations of the NHS. I also decided that whatever my financial situation, I had no choice, but to opt for the best ‘sound system’ available. Had I not followed this route, I would never have known the possibilities.
If you’re lucky enough to find a caring, perceptively clever and patient audiologist, your battle is nearly won. Help is at hand, but the rest is up to you. Accept what has happened – that you have lost what you had; believe in the technology – the choice is both impressive and calming; and work with the audiologist to find a solution that makes a difference to your life, though it may not necessarily accommodate someone else. Nothing is perfect.
From Fear to Hear
It took several months to tweak, adjust and understand exactly what I demanded from a ‘sound system’, for that’s precisely what you must embrace (I never use the words ‘hearing aid’), and what your brain is trying to do for you.
Now, nearly a year later, my new ‘sound system’ – complete with a remote control that not only provides volume control, but offers a choice of five programmes including one for music – has opened more doors than I thought possible. I am a confident, active participant once again in all environments, from the noisy local pub to the expansive interior of a West End Theatre.
And, oh yes . . . I am playing trumpet and flugelhorn again. The quality of sound is just as I had remembered, or mighty close to it! And yes, I can hear the birds again.