Time to start practicing: ‘I can’t hear you. Come again? Speak up!’



    Apparently I’m going to go deaf in my right ear even faster than I was genetically destined to. My new ear, nose, and throat specialist thinks I’ve got something called Ménière’s Disease.

    My new ear, nose, and throat specialist thinks I’ve got something called Ménière’s Disease. Here, for all of you hypochondriacs, are the symptoms:

    Fullness in one ear
    Tinnitus (ringing ears)
    And occasionally? Migraines.

    I’ve had ringing ears for decades, but Dr. Smith doesn’t think this is connected. This, apparently, is a brand-new reason for my ears to ring.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Although we can’t be sure. Ménière’s is one of the many things the medical profession doesn’t fully understand.

    So what does this diagnosis mean?

    Hearing loss!

    Apparently I’m going to go deaf in my right ear even faster than I was genetically destined to. My dad and my Aunt Freda lived to be 87 and 94, respectively. In his last decade, my father definitely needed his hearing aid (although he continued to thrive as a psychoanalyst). And Aunt Freda was deaf as a post.

    Holiday dinners with the two of them weren’t tranquil. With dad, you had to SPEAK VERY LOUDLY. When it came to Aunt Freda, you had to holler at the top of your lungs. (And you never really knew if anything you said was getting through.)

    No miracles

    I always figured that if I were lucky enough to live that long, I too would go deaf. Unless the medical profession came up with a Miracle Cure for Deafness.

    I am not counting on this.

    Why not? My ears have been steadily ringing for close to three decades, and they have yet to come up with a Miracle Cure for Tinnitus. Nor, for that matter, have they cured my endometriosis.

    And they’ve had over a century to find a Miracle Cure for my brand new malady, which was discovered by a French doc named Prosper Ménière back in 1861.

    I’ve apparently got a knack for coming down with chronic conditions that the medical profession can’t cure.

    It could be worse, of course. While all of these conditions chip away at my quality of life and are deeply annoying, none of them is life-threatening. I’m sure that anybody with a cancer diagnosis would be happy to trade it in for what ails me.

    I’m also in good company. Other folks who have (or are thought to have had) Ménière’s include Marilyn Monroe, Mamie Eisenhower, Beethoven, Goya, Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, and Charles Darwin.

    Adding injury to insult

    Plus, there’s only a 10 percent chance that I’ll experience Ménière’s weirdest symptom — the Drop Attack. This is a sudden fall without loss of consciousness, which is said to feel like “being pushed sharply to the floor from behind.”

    That’s all I need. Dizziness. Ringing ears. Then — a pratfall.

    I’ve already got some mild hearing loss, which I was totally unaware of until Dr. Ear ran some tests. (A tech played a series of beeping tones of varying pitch in my ears, and I had to hit a button when I first heard each of them, which, for somebody who likes to excel on tests, was incredibly nerve wracking.)

    So what can I do about this? Nothing at all. I can’t take meds, or supplements, or change my lifestyle or diet. It’s just going to happen. All I can do is enjoy my (mildly compromised) hearing while I’ve still got it.

    So if there’s anything you have to say to me? Better say it now, while I can still hear you.

    This essay was originally published on Zestnow.com.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal