Tuesday, July 01, 2008

All Ears

On the personal front, I just returned from a slightly ridiculous doctor appointment.

Last year in April, I emerged from the shower to find one of my ears completely plugged. Waxy it seemed. Well, unlike any other time in life, I was unable to clear it. Doom. I couldn't hear out of my left ear and was feeling out of balance for several days. Finally, I went to the doctor and had my ear flushed out. Still didn't fix it. I was given some over-the-counter drops and a syringe. A few more days, still plugged. The second visit to the doctor did the trick. Instead of using the weak wussy irrigator, they were able to find the ultra atomic irrigator that had been misplaced during a recent office move. Within a few seconds, I could hear again. I learned some interesting things about ear wax, or cerumen, as the medical professionals call it. Q-Tips are generally a bad idea unless used on the very outer ear (which I knew) and there are two different kinds of ear wax. Africans and Caucasians have a brown, honey-like sticky kind while Asians and Pacific Islanders tend to have a gray, flaky kind (which I did not know).

Flash forward to last weekend. Exact same thing happens in the exact same ear. No idea why this happens. I go to the doctor today for help and find it to be an annoying process since I know exactly what needs to be done, but still have to fill out all sorts of papers, explain my family history of disease and have my height measured. The doctor was training a physician's assistant today and sent her in to look at me first. She seemed kind of puzzled by the whole thing, taking diligent notes and asking me questions like "So when did you first notice this?" or "Do you ever pour wax into your ears?" After this illuminating discussion, she decided to "take a look."

"Wax" was the verdict. She then had me stand up facing away from her and administered a hearing test by rubbing her fingers together near each of my ears and noting how far away she could move them with me still hearing them. The right ear could still hear the rubbing fingers when they were three feet away. "Wow, that's pretty good" she said. Now, the left ear. "What was taking so long? Let's go!" I thought, before realizing that she had been rubbing her fingers together an inch away from my left ear. I was completely deaf in that one. "Wow, that's not good at all" she said.

At this point, I was ready to walk over to the sink, turn on the warm water and begin priming the syringe, when suddenly the doctor walked in. "Got some wax, eh?" This guy was obviously trying to show he was a seasoned veteran when it came to cerumen impaction. Now, I thought I would be getting the smooth, pulsing efficiency of the ear-igator like I did last time, but NO! This doctor brought out what can only be described as an industrial two foot-long metallic syringe monstrosity. This was going into my ear.

It was over soon enough. The physician's assistant peered inside my ear again and proudly proclaimed, "No more wax! I'll bet you can hear now!"

It was true. I could hear things like air, tongue depressors and t-shirt vibrations.