Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Second Opinions

When I arrived at the Doctor's office I was not impressed.  Everything was old and had a musty smell.  Immediately I wondered how antiquated the actual physician was and if he was competent.  When a very elderly nurse took me to my room I felt that I had a pretty good image of what this doctor was going to look like.  With my heart rate elevated I sat in the small room looking at a very old poster of the ear.  It was so old that the paper was yellowing and I chuckled to myself.  About that moment  the doctor swung open the door. 

To say I was surprised would be an understatement.  In walked a very nice looking man about my age and very personable.  Immediately he got down to business by looking over my chart and peeking in my ears.  During the exam he offhandedly commented about the change in my hearing by simply mentioning that it would require regular three month checks. At that moment I felt like this was probably a waste of time.  I mean if his only comment was to tell me something I already knew than what was the point. 

Bringing up my hearing graph he informed me that the deterioration did not indicate a tumor as both ears were affected so similarly.  (Thank you God!)  Then he pointed to that old broken down poster to the part of the ear with little hair receptacles.  "This, " he said, "is where your hearing loss comes from.  When we are born we have all of these that we are going to have and when they die off they just quit working.  We cannot make new ones and we can't make the old ones hear again."  Nodding was my best bet here since I knew nothing of the ear until this very moment.  I attempted to process what he was saying.

 During my introspective time he looked through my paperwork again and this time took pause.  He asked if my hearing had changed since last week.  What he saw in there that made him ask that question is a mystery to me but the truth was the answer was yes.  At first I wasn't sure if it was because I now knew it was a real thing happening and so I had become more aware of it or if it truly had been an actual change.  So I admitted that the ringing in my ears was getting louder.  Immediately he stood and said we would check them again today then.  His face showed satisfaction with his plan.  I wish that news made me feel as confident.  I mean, ultimately another hearing test was what I really wanted because I want a timeline.  I want to, no need to know how fast.  So back in the booth I went.

All sound proofs rooms must look similar.  The outer shell like a bomb shelter dropped in the middle of a building.  Big thick doors and padded walls.  I love how they put toys in for the kids so that they are not afraid.  This one also provided another chair which I assume is for parents to sit with young children as they test their ears.  I thought about Carter and Chase then, wondering if this was something that would happen to them.  Would they one day lose their hearing like I was?  Would I sit with them in a room like this and comfort them while they listened?  I grew very somber and the lady asked if I was ok.  I shook my head yes but felt no.  I think she knew that was not the case but accepted my assurance and went on with what she was doing.  Oddly enough she complimented my earrings and made a little joke about it by saying, "I like your earrings and I see a lot of them in my line of work!"  I'm betting this is her attempt at cheering me up.  I obliged and politely chuckled. 

What an odd site I felt like.  Just staring at a boring beige wall twisting my fingers and getting lost in my thoughts all the while in a box in the middle of a floor in the center of a building. 

The test began and this time I knew I was failing miserably.  Too much time would go by between beeps. Dead air would hang for what seemed like an eternity.  During that silence I just sat in my mind pondering what was happening and wondering what it would be like to be as I was now, hearing nothing.   As the testing continued I could also tell that one ear was worse than the other which was something that I did not notice before.  In fact, everything about my hearing had become more noticeable to me now that I was aware.  

When I returned to a room this time there was no exam table just sofas.  I felt as if I was going to be delivered less than stellar news and that this was the "bad news" room.  I felt resigned.  Not scared, not angry and not surprised just resigned to what would be. 

The Doctor came in and confirmed what I knew, that there had already been some change to my hearing.    Typically he said that there would be some discrepancy between testing facilities but in my case it both ears dropped pretty close to the exact the same amount in each frequency. 

Every single part of my hearing had changed for the worse again and only in eight days.  Ugh. 

Getting worse in a week did not settle well with me at all and  I started to unknowingly hold my breath as I tried to focus on his recommendations.  "First, I want to see you back in a month and second I want you to have an MRI."  Ok, ok more nodding ensued.  

It was then that he said this, "I don't expect you to ever be without your hearing or your speech.  In this day and age with technology we should be able to keep you hearing the rest of your life." 

I exhaled and felt relieved to hear him say that but also a skeptical.  If my ears were losing hearing so quickly what was going to stop me from going deaf?  I guess essentially he was saying that even if I was deaf I would still be able to hear if not by hearing aids then with a cochlear implant.  A cochlear implant was something that I had already done a bit of research on.  It was something they surgically implanted to help you hear but the external hearing aid part I had now would remain.  The major difference was that with this implant I would regain hearing but have to relearn speech and certain sounds.  From what I read if done quickly after losing your hearing than it can be easier to adjust too.  For me this would be the last resort only after the hearing aids stopped providing me with the help I need.  And with all the current information in front of me this is something I am convinced will be needed.   

I left with mixed emotions.  I was happy that there was most likely no tumor and happy that technology was so advanced but sad that this was happening without rhyme or reason and scared that there was nothing we could do to slow it down.  It was then that I realized this hardware would be with me the rest of my life.  From now forward I would be Tara with hearing aids. 

I was so grateful that Chris was there waiting for me.  We drove home and I told him about the appointment and he nodded listening intently.  I could feel that he was with me on this and it made it all easier.

And surprisingly the feeling of peace that I have continually held onto throughout all of this remains even today two days later.  It is as if this is my lot in life, my destiny and I just know it.  This road of mine, a journey I will call it which seemed to be just beginning.