It’s tough gettin’ old
December 11, 2013
I had to go to the doctor yet again on Monday. I couldn't hear out of my right ear for about a week. Figured I had some serious wax buildup. At home, we tried hydrogen peroxide and a couple sessions with those drops you get at the pharmacy, followed up by washing out with warm water in the shower.
Plus, I'd very carefully* tried to extract some of it with a modified paper clip, to no avail. (*Yes, darn it, I know you're not supposed to do that.)
Doc looks in, says the eardrum is ruptured, probably pushed back out of position to heal right, might need surgery to fix. I needed to have a specialist look at it stat. The good news was there was no infection. Yes, I 'fessed up about the paper clip. Told him I've been getting wax out that way more than 50 years. Yes, I was careful; yes, I feel stupid …
Since this was an emergency appointment, the only doc who could work on me in was in Sacramento, some 45 miles away, and two days out. Faxes are flying. I have to get an audiology test, first.
Yes, I ’fessed up about the paper clip. Told him I’ve been getting wax out that way more than 50 years. Yes, I was careful; yes, I feel stupid …
OK, at least that exam is local. So Evelyn comes in, checks both ears with some instrument, then leaves and brings back Kim, the audiology angel, who asks me what kind of hearing aids I wear. When I hand them to her, she says, "I think I see the problem. You have one of these little soft plastic domes stuck way up in there!" Can you get it out? I think so. Come in the other room. POP. I can hear again! Retest both ears. No ruptured eardrum! No trip to Sacramento for surgery. I literally danced out of the office …
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How'd this happen?
I'm working in the garage, wearing my hearing aids. There is nobody for me to listen to except the cat, who is sunning herself in front of me on the window perch I made her. I'm standing at the bench. I pull out both hearing aids, and notice, as I put them in their case, one of them is missing a tip. As usual, with anything dropped in the garage, it bounces off my foot, and is immediately eaten by the garage gremlins. So I gave up looking for it after a brief but fruitless search. I have spare tips. I put a new one on. I couldn't feel that the old one was still in my ear.
Misdiagnosis? A lot more understandable than you might think. These little soft plastic domes are flesh colored. The ear canal is not always a straight shot to see into. I think I had pushed this little dome up flush with the eardrum in my probing with the paper clip, so if all that was still visible was the back edge, it could certainly look like a torn eardrum. Maybe they should be made green, or purple instead of flesh colored.
Or maybe the government should just outlaw paper clips.
Born free. Taxed to death. In God, we trust. In the government, not so much.
Ed Glenn lives in Grass Valley.