I decided to start this blog because of some writing advice I read on the Intertubz. (And we all know, if it's on the Intertubz, it must be true...) But just as many things around writing paralyze me, the decision of what my first post should be about had me stymied for a few days. When it comes to writing, Dorothy Parker anticipated me:
Exactly. I couldn't have said it better myself, Dorothy. So I wandered and maundered and wondered. Then, as frequently happens, life made the decision for me.
Last Saturday night, late, as I maundered and wondered, I noticed a high-pitched electronic noise in my left ear. Tinnitus, quite a case of it. I wondered if it would keep me awake, but hoped for the best. I did fall asleep, but when I awoke on Sunday, as soon as I tried to get out of bed, the world went all whoopsie-spinnie on me. Plus I could not hear much out of my left ear.
Things got worse as the day went on; what little I could hear from my left ear was mixed with a veritable panoply of sound-effects. Sometimes the ocean. Sometimes a small percussion section. Sometimes little gremlins crackling cellophane. (Which made me really empathize with those who are unfortunate enough to have auditory hallucinations: I knew these were not real, but man, oh, man.) So we hied me off to the Urgent Care Clinic, thinking perhaps I had a horrid case of ear wax, or an inner ear infection.
(Side note: both the Husbandly One and I have had to have ear wax removed before. If you have not, man, is it bizarre! When things come out, a: you'd swear that nothing that large could POSSIBLY come out of one's ear, and b: you can't believe how much more you can hear. But I digress. Get used to it; it happens a lot. Hee!)
Sadly, that doctor said no to both options, and said she'd refer me to a specialist. Home I went, stumbling along to my own invisible band. On Monday, it seemed a tiny bit better, so I did not go to the doctor. On Tuesday, things appeared not necessarily much worse, but certainly no better. So, I called in to the place I'd been referred. That's when the fun started.
Let's just say that the circles of incompetence in which I was enmeshed were multiple. The doctor had not actually made the referral, but even if she had, it would not have mattered, as a: she was not my primary care doctor, and b: my delightful managed health care system had to approve said referral. Over the next six, yes, SIX hours of calling, haranguing, nagging, being downright bitchy and basically Captain Crankypants, I learned that the review board might make a determination in 5 days or so whether or not I could see a specialist.
Now, I knew something was very, very wrong. I normally have the hearing of an owl. (Proven today during extensive testing. My right ear retains this freakish ability.) You would never want to have me as a neighbor. I can hear a TV seven apartments down, turned down to a reasonable level in that home. I can hear a hard drive going bad before it knows it's going. Which is great in some ways, annoying in others. But I wish to keep my annoying superpower, thank you very much. (But I get ahead of myself. Get used to that too...)
As a bonus, in addition to having approx. 50-75% loss in my left ear, I am lurching about like a drunken woman, as the vertigo and dizziness are dreadful. I have been reduced to taking my childhood hiking stick out and about with me, and stairs I normally take as a matter of course (and what I can laughably call my exercise plan) I now avoid.
So I refused to take "we'll get back to you in a week" for an answer. Long story only mildly long, I ended up, a total of EIGHT hours later, with an authorization and an appointment for the next day. It was a Herculean effort, and there's much more to say about the irretrievably broken health care and insurance situation in this country. But that's for another time.
Today I saw the specialist, hoping against hope for incompetency on the part of Dr. Number One. "Oh, my, that is a LOT of ear wax," I hoped Dr. Number Two would say. "I simply don't see how she could have missed it. Why, there's a BASKETBALL in there!"
Or, "Wow. That inner ear infection shows no symptoms whatsoever of resembling infection. Small wonder she missed it. Anyone would have, and with just a few fabulous-when-you-need-them antibiotics, we'll have you right as rain."
But alas. I was utterly gobsmacked to hear that I am the lucky winner of a rather rare condition called Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss. Striking suddenly, without warning, and with no apparent reason, you just wake up deaf, usually (mercifully) in only one ear. Neato.
Things I know:
- The specialist was very clear that my pushiness to get authorization and getting in so fast vastly increases my chance of regaining some or all hearing function.
- There's no way to know what happened, and he reiterated that nothing I did caused it.
- I have a rip-snorting bad case of said uncommon condition; this main dish doesn't always have the side of vertigo. Or at least not the large-ish portion I have been served.
- I will do everything they tell me in hopes of getting my annoying super-powers back in my left ear.
- Vertigo and hearing loss do not lend themselves to acting and improvisation, two recently acquired life passions. Stumbling and tripping and not hearing make it hard enough to maneuver in regular life, let alone on stage.
- I am terrified. The treatments look to be a shit-show of fun (more on that in a minute), and I'm not looking forward to them one little bit.
Things I don't know:
- If I will ever get my hearing back.
- If I will ever be able to walk straight again without a cane.
- Whether or not I will ever be able to perform as an actor again.
So. Treatment. Step one is large doses of prednisone, orally. I've heard a lot of horror stories, but I have high hopes. The main side effects listed include advanced crankiness and irritability, mood swings, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia. Since I'm already a chronic insomniac, this bodes not-so-well. More with the neato.
Other things I know:
- I have an amazing support system. If you are reading this, you are part of it. (I'm not announcing this to the world at large just yet.)
- I also have an amazing boss, who told me to just go home and worry about nothing but getting better. I'm incredibly fortunate in that.
- Much of my work can be done from home, so if I do become Queen of the Crankypants Club, I can stay away from most people, most of the time.
- The Husbandly One is the best, and is already on the job, assisting. (Well, he has been for years, but now things look grim. That's when a strong marriage really becomes something to be thankful for.) Guess I can be glad I didn't kill him during his hip replacement recovery. HA!
Step two, if step one doesn't work, is steroid shots into/behind/around/whatever, the ear. Basically very similar to all the epidurals I had in my back and neck during the Hell Years, except in my ear. Fun!
So there you have it. I will keep you informed as I go on. (Plus, hopefully, this blog will have other, more cheerful tales as well.) But thanks oodles, life, for giving me such a great opener. So <sighs>please be aware that if you see me stumbling, I am not drunk. If you see me falling over, please lend a hand. If I'm cranky, please cut me a bit of extra slack. This is mighty scary, and that's before I've really started with the steroids. And, if I look puzzled or don't respond, please speak up. I can't hear you very well, and there's that band playing in my left ear.</sighs>