Since I was 17 I had reoccuring ear infections which were without a doubt, one of the worst pains in my life. Especially when more than one part of the ear was infected such as the middle and inner ear. The doctor would give me hardcore painkillers because it was so excruciating.
I later found out I had a conditioned called Surfer’s ear and while I lived in San Diego, I never actually surfed or went into the water so I was always bitter about the irony. Eventually, hearing in my left ear got worse and worse and by age 40 it was almost impossible to hear what people were saying with my left ear only. In my right ear it was still possible to make out normal decibel level conversation, but I had to focus a bit because if I was distracted I would miss what was said, feel super embarrassed that I ask people to repeat themselves constantly, and nod and smile to play it off like I heard them.
My best friend Vicky was one of those fitness nutritional freaks and she was 54… Vicky was 10 years my senior. I was more of a computer nerd so I had a layer of fat surrounding my body and enjoyed my pizza nights where I’d devour an entire pizza and rinse it down with 2 liters of soda. Basically, I was fat and out of shape but I felt like I had an excuse because of my poor hearing.
Vicky one time said something to me that I wanted to say, “What?” to so badly, but as I was embarrassed about my poor hearing and too stubborn to get a hearing aid due to the stigma of being hard of hearing and the condescending feeling of people yelling at you very slowly as if you’re a 2 year old or mentally handicapped, I nodded and agreed.
A week later I received a wake up call at 4 am asking where I am and inquiring about my future punctuality because if I was going to be late, she said it was going to work against our 365 day commitment. We needed discipline, she reminded me. The next day I was in my head and neck doctor’s office asking about hearing aids, because I apparently committed to training for an “ironman triathlon.”
I no longer felt embarrassed about being hard of hearing and I welcome Vicky’s conversational tone…
“HEY TIM… IT’S TIME… TO… WAKE… UP…”
“Yes, Vicky, I can hear you! I’m not slow please stop!”