Tuesday, April 09, 2013
H is for HUNHH?
“What do you want for breakfast?”
“I said, ‘What do you want for breakfast?'" This time, a little louder.
“Oh . . . cereal’s fine.”
This is the kind of conversation that’s been going on in my life for as long as I can remember. My mother always said that I heard what I wanted to hear, and maybe she wasn’t wrong in every respect; however, my hearing has always been bad, and “Hunhh” has been my staple word every time I needed something repeated. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to say “Pardon?” or “I didn’t hear you” or “Excuse me?” But I’m not always successful. Here’s a little history of my hearing loss.
The first time I had to go to an ear doctor (otolaryngologist is the proper word, but that’s a bit pretentious, I think, for everyday conversation) was when I was about eight years old. My mother must have thought I had an ear infection, but she soon found out that I had what was diagnosed as a perforated eardrum. She checked me out of school two or three times a week to go downtown in New Orleans to a doctor in one of those hugely tall old business buildings just off Canal Street. These doctor’s visits lasted until we moved to Pensacola, when I was thirteen.
Almost the first thing we had to do after we settled in was to find a new ear doctor. I don’t know whether or not Dr. Earl Wolf was recommended to us by the doctor in New Orleans or whether Mother just did eeny-meeny-miney-mo and found Dr. Wolf. In any event, when he took one look at my poor right ear, he announced that I had an infection on the mastoid bone and that nothing would cure it except a radical mastoidectomy. So, in the summer of 1954, I had the first of seven surgeries, each one taking a little more of my eardrum, thus taking a little of my hearing.
I had two or three surgeries while I was in high school, a couple while I was in college, and two after I married. After Dr. Wolf retired, I started going to the doctor who bought his practice, Dr. Pallin. Oh, my . . . he was a good doctor, but he had absolutely no bedside manner. Very curt, to the point, no nonsense. I was used to a little TLC during my visits. Several years after I became Dr. Pallin’s patient, he announced that I needed another surgery, that he felt sure that I’d regain some hearing, but that the surgery was rather dangerous in that he’d be going right up against the facial nerve. He implied that I might have facial paralysis if he got too close. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no raving beauty, and I know it, but I surely didn’t want facial paralysis! Every time I’d go for a check up before the surgery, I’d ask a gazillion questions, trying to get him to reassure me that I’d get through the surgery fine with no side effects.
Finally, in desperation, one day he said, “Tell you what. I’m going to send you to Dr. Michael Glascock in Nashville. He’s the best in the Southeast, maybe even in the profession. I think you’ll be more satisfied with him.” Whew! I was so relieved to get away from Dr. Doom and Gloom. And I absolutely loved Dr. Glascock, who wound up doing two surgeries and making my ear wondrously free of problems . . . except that I still can’t hear worth a flip. But that’s okay. I’m used to it now.
But there’s more to the story. I continued to go to Dr. Pallin in Pensacola for yearly check-ups, but he eventually retired. So . . . what was Sandy to do? Well, I called for an appointment the next year, and the conversation went something like this:
“ENT, may I help you?”
“Yes, this is Sandy Young, and I need to make an appointment with an ear doctor . . . one who has some personality. I know Dr. Pallin has retired.” Chuckles from both the receptionist and me!
“I think you’ll like the doctor who bought his practice. His name is Dr. Derek Jones.”
“Hmmm . . . How do you spell his first name?”
“Do make an appointment for me with Dr. Derek Jones!” I smiled as I hung up.
I could hardly wait for my appointment. I sat there in the chair smiling as the doctor flung back the folding door and stood there with his hand on his hip.
“I knew it was you!” he said.
“And I knew it was you!” I replied. You see, Dr. Derek Jones was one of my favorite students from years before, and we had a mutual admiration society even back then. We were elated to find each other, and I have been going to him at least once a year for probably fifteen years. Even though Frank and I have moved to New Mexico, I still go to him . . . in Pensacola. Not even searching for an ear doctor in NM assures me of a trip to my glorious Southland once a year. He always takes way too much time with me when I have an appointment, but we have to catch up on his classmates, his other teachers, and of course, on his sweet wife, Julie, and their four children.
But there’s still more that I want . . . no, NEED . . . to say in this post. Through the years, I have lost virtually all of the hearing in my “bad” ear, as we always call it. Sadly, though, through the years, I have also lost much of the hearing in my “good” ear. I now wear a hearing aid in that one, so you see, I really do have a problem. I’m sad to say that folks who have good hearing aren’t always very conscious of what it’s like not to hear well. Many times I have to ask people to repeat what they’ve just said, but I try not to say, “Hunhh?” I see the eyes rolling when they have to say things over and over again. I’m not blind, just deaf. I’ve told Frank several times that I wish he could go for just one day with my ears to know what it’s like to be very hard of hearing. I wouldn’t wish my ears on anyone for a long time, but I think if people could hear what I hear (or don't hear), they might understand better.
You may remember that Dr. Pallin said I might get hearing back in my right ear with that surgery, but I really didn’t want that. Just one of the reasons that Frank, my hero, and I have gotten along so well during our fifty-one plus years of married life is that I’m so hard of hearing. You see, he’s a real snorer! I just roll over on my good ear, and everything’s just fine. I think the Lord had this in mind when He put us together.
So . . . as much as I wish I could hear better just to avoid the embarrassment of having to ask folks to repeat what they’ve just said, I won’t be getting one of those new-fangled hearing aids that you can wear twenty-fours a day. I don’t see how those of you who have hearing in both ears sleep at night. I wouldn’t be able to, I’m sure.