(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.