Category Archives: Ear Stuff

Berts brilliant inner-ear adventure, pt1: How I found out I needed hearing Aids

(These events originally occurred in the Fall of 2016.)

The nice thing about colleagues is they tell you when you’re annoying. After spending most of my career as a freelancer, suddenly having co-workers in an office tell you when you have bad breath, slurp your coffee or have terrible taste in deodorant came as quite a shock to me. After a while, though, I grew accustomed to it – and now, I’m even thankful, because my colleagues did more than point out my bad breath.

But we’ll get to that part of the story later.

Right now: My hearing.

I don’t really hear all that well on my left-hand side. I have no idea why, or how long it’s been going on for, but it has to be longer than a year because I remember this being my first exchange with my boss during my job interview:

Boss: Want a coffee?

Me: Excuse me?

Boss: COFFEE. YOU WANT?!

That was December of 2015, and things were already not quite okay. Looking back now, I can think of a million different situations where my hearing’s been sub-par. I tend to sit left at the table. I turn the right side of my head to people I’m talking to. When on a walk with my wife, I walk on the left. Subtle, tiny things, which have almost made me (and the people surrounding me) forget I have a problem at all.

In my office, though, I sit on the right, with my left ear aimed at the door. People barge in and ask me questions I don’t understand. And there’s nothing I can do about it, because that’s the way my desk is positioned.

So when a director wants to do script edits with me, I turn away from the computer screen and take notes on paper. When someone needs me to consider switching around scenes, I pace around the room like I’m working really hard to come up with a creative solution. And more often than not, I’ve told colleagues to come get a coffee with me – in the kitchen I then proceed to position myself as to better understand the conversation. I hope they then don’t actually grab a coffee, because I won’t hear them over the damn espresso maker.

These are not things I do consciously. It’s just my body adapting. No one noticed – except for my direct colleagues. And they were fed up, so they sent me to an ENT doctor. Which, ever the agreeable co-worker, I did.

My ENT doctor is a nice, young lad that looks like he’s been shoved in lockers of different sizes during his educative career – a bit crooked, with glasses that don’t sit quite straight not matter how often he adjusts them. But he is a good diagnostician and a very empathetic human being. I figured I’d at least humor him. Sure, I had bad hearing, but it couldn’t possibly be that terrible, right?

I sat down in the waiting room. It was September, Flu season was not fully in swing yet, so I was surrounded by nothing but two categories of old people. The coughing ones were called by a shouting nurse at the front desk, the rest was summoned personally by a nurse who waddled over and went to get them because they could not hear the nurse say their name anymore.

You can probably guess what group I belonged to.

Three times the nurse had shouted my name, then re-pre-diagnosed me from the “what is that dude doing here” into the “probably bad hearing” category and came to get me. We did a hearing test, during which I had to repeat words I heard through a microphone. The more words I repeated, the gloomier her attire, and what started out as a joke was soon confirmed by the slightly crooked doc as a honest-to-God diagnosis:

Left-hand ear hearing loss: 51 percent. Synapses had already begun to deteriorate – my brain had started to forget how to hear on one  side. I needed a hearing aid.

That was a lot worse than I had thought it would be. After all, I was 31, relatively fit, I had never heard loud music or otherwise damaged my ears (as far as I knew). The ENT shrugged it off – sometimes, shit just hits the fan. He gave me two transfer sheets, one for a control MRI and one for an audiologist and sent me on my way.

A little dazed and confused, I left the ENT’s office. Called my wife (phone on the right ear exclusively, another one of those coping mechanisms). Then proceeded to make some short-term appointments with various audiologists, called the MRI and got scheduled for Christmas (yep!) and went back to work, where I would carefully google the day away and find out as much as I could about the bionic man I was about to become.

Next time: Audiologists or the people who talk to you like you’re eighty.