I’m not deaf. It’s an odd way to start an article on a deafness blog, but that’s what I decided to go with.
I suffer from psoriasis. I have done for over two decades, and I had thought I had had it in every place imaginable at one time or another. That was until a year ago, when I had my ears syringed for the first time.
I’ve worked within an industrial environment for almost ten years so I had to be careful about noise. During a routine hearing test, my hearing was fine, but I was told I had a large amount of wax built up in both ears. Seeking to remedy this, I used cotton buds and olive oil to extensively clean my ears, yet only managed to impact the wax upon my ear drums. Clever, eh?
By this time, I had already started to experience some hearing loss, almost as if I was on a plane while it was landing, but it was constant.
The syringing was a success. The wax gone, the hearing returned. However, within a week, psoriasis would take up residence where the wax had been.
Now, as I have mentioned, I’ve had psoriasis in almost every part of the body imaginable. Eventually, it clears up and I can gain insight into other kinds of suffering. I’ve been unable to use my hands before, struggled with walking also. I’ve been on transplant and cancer medication to lower my immune system response, too.
Yet now, now my hearing is affected.
Psoriasis isn’t just skin building up and flaking off. There is swelling and discharge involved too. My left ear is very swollen inside, with a fair amount of pus (quite common, usually sterile and not a sign of infection with psoriasis!). The right ear is similar, but less swelling, more discharge.
On a good day, I can watch television at a high level of volume, which helps drown out the constant ringing in both ears, though I often have to tilt my right side to hear it better. I can also manage a phone call, holding the phone normally, but on loudspeaker.
On a bad day, I cannot cross a road without being able to see a good distance in each direction. I can’t recall the amount of times I’ve had to break into a run halfway across. I can hear every single heartbeat with my left ear. I can only focus on one sound, or direction, and having a conversation is more draining than I ever though possible!
Perhaps, though, the worst part of it all is the exasperation of people when I ask them to repeat themself. Whether it’s at the shops, on the phone, or just a casual conversation.
The first time, they don’t usually mind, but the second, third? Withering looks. Shouting what I asked them to repeat instead of speaking slowly and clearly. All I can muster up in response is, “Sorry, I’ve got bad ears.” mumbled in an apologetic manner.
I have no doubt that one day it’ll clear up inside my ears, and like the rest of my skin, be none the worse for wear. I’m fortunate in that sense. For now, I’m not deaf, just some extra suffering from something else. That being said, I have a vast amount more respect for those that are, and to a degree, what they have to deal with.
If you’re reading this and you’re not deaf, but perhaps know someone that is, or you’re just curious, I can assure you that the frustration you may have trying to communicate with someone that struggles to hear is a lot worse for them.
For you may have to try and communicate with them, but they have to communicate with the entire world.
Mike Zart says: Having suffered with a chronic illness for over half of my life, I’m able to be empathic with those I meet. I’m an amateur writer, an animal lover, and a bit of a daydreamer.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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