On October 1st, I went to the beach. I was so thankful for the invitation from my mom because I was going crazy at my house. I don't know what it is -- maybe the salty sea air, maybe just the lack of distractions or responsibilities -- but I always feel better at the beach. On the way there, I coughed. It wasn't a "tickle in your throat" cough or a "choking on my own spit" cough. It was like my lungs had instantly been filled with mucous and I couldn't get it out. I coughed all weekend, hoping it was some strange reaction to the ocean air or something. I got home a few days later and was coughing even worse. A week went by. Still coughing. But now my left ear is starting to hurt. No sneezing, no runny nose, no fever, no nausea or vomiting -- just a cough and a little ear pain. Finally, my ear completely fills with fluid, I can't hear anything on that side, I'm still coughing all day and night, and now I've developed hives over most of my body. I went to Urgent Care. Sure enough, I have an ear infection and a wicked case of hives, but the cough will just have to resolve itself. They gave me a prescription for an antibiotic for my ears, an adrenaline shot and prednesone to help with the hives, and some cough syrup. The adrenaline shot messed me up big time (I'll NEVER do that again), but in a few days, the hives are gone. The pain in my ear lessens, but it's still completely plugged and I can hear next to nothing on that side. The cough is exactly as bad as it was before but now my RIGHT ear starts to get plugged! I go back to the doctor, now they think I have bronchitis. The antibiotic for my ears isn't strong enough to help with my lungs, so now I have 2 antibiotics to take. The infection in my ears is gone. What? Gone? Why can't I hear anything? Because, dummy, the fluid is still in there. But don't worry, it should resolve itself within 12 weeks. That's reassuring. Now I only have to be deaf for up to 3 months before they'll do something about it. Sigh. No use arguing with them. Take some Claritin-D, Sudafed, Flonase, 2 antibiotics, Benadryl at night, and still the cough syrup. At this point, I just want to fall asleep and wake up when it's all over. This is NOT fun. Fast forward to today and I'm still the same. I've finished both rounds of antibiotics, the prednesone, and my supply of cough syrup ran out a few days ago. Both ears are still plugged. Still coughing all day and night. I must admit, the cough is getting a little more manageable, but even small things like sweeping the kitchen sends me into coughing fits that feel like my ribs are breaking. I'm sore everywhere. The worst part, by far, is the near deafness. This is the most miserable thing ever. This is worse than morning sickness, my bunion removal, the flu, and pretty much anything else I can think of -- except the hives, that was the worst thing ever. So I want to tell you how my life is different now that I am nearly deaf.
First, take one finger on each hand and plug your ears as hard as you can. That's what my hearing level is. I can still hear a little, but most things just sound muffled. Now talk. Your own voice is loud and obnoxious, right? Yeah, mine is too.
-Talking is really annoying because my voice is so loud and nasally sounding in my head.
-Teaching my class on Sunday was torturous.
-Talking on the phone is really difficult because I can't hear and, again, I hate hearing myself talk.
-I can't watch tv without close captioning.
-I can't understand 99% of the things that come out of Tori's mouth. It's sketchy even when my hearing is at it's best, but now, I am just completely lost and she is getting very frustrated with me.
-I can't hear the cars coming up behind me when I'm on a bike ride with my kids.
-I can't hear people calling to me at the grocery store trying to say hi. I promise I'm not that rude, I just can't hear you.
-I have to say "what" after almost everything people say. If I'm not looking right at you, chances are good that I have no idea what you said or if you said anything at all.
-When I take a shower, the sound of the water on my head is horribly loud. It makes me feel claustrophobic in a strange kind of way.
-I can't hear my kids when they wake up at night and need me.
-I can't listen to music because most of the lower frequency noises are just gone. It doesn't matter what it is, it doesn't sound good.
-I can't hear what my kids say to me in the car because they are behind me and my Jeep is loud anyway.
-I have to explain to everyone that I'm temporarily mostly deaf so that they will speak up, but none of them do. They just over enunciate their words so I can't read their lips either.
The bonus to this?
-When Tori throws a huge, horrible, screaming fit while I'm holding her, it's not nearly as bad as it was before.
- I don't hear Ben's alarm go off in the morning, or the shower turn on, or the sound of his belt buckle coming out of the closet, or the jangle of his keys. I just sleep until he kisses me goodbye.
-I can finally appreciate the difficulties that my little brother has faced for nearly 25 years. I'm sorry that you have to go through this, David. I truly, truly am. If I could give you one of my ears, I would because one ear is better than no ears.
So here's the deal: if you see me in the near future, speak up, and please please please, don't give me advice on how to pop my ears. Yes, I've tried everything, the doctor says I need Sudafed and time. Don't tell me to try chewing gum, or yawning, or moving my jaw around, or plugging my nose and trying to blow air out my ears, or any of the other ways to pop your ears, I've tried it. IT'S NOT WORKING.
I've learned a lot in the last few weeks. More than anything, I have learned to appreciate my overall good health and working ears. I actually made my bed today. That means I didn't crawl back in it at all during the day. It's the first time in nearly 3 weeks that this has been the case. I have learned that there are some things worse than pregnancy. I wasn't sure anything was as bad as that. At least at the end, you get to have a baby. With this, the most I can hope for is a satisfying "pop" in my ear and the sound of fluid flowing down my Eustachian tubes.