I had my six-month check up with my otologist last week. Because my right ear has hearing loss, too, I've earned a biannual appointment so he can keep tabs on it. It also gives him the opportunity to look at my implanted ear and gloat on his prowess as a cochlear implant surgeon. Some people have called him arrogant. Maybe he is. I like him. If I listen carefully and jump in with questions when he stops to take a breath, I can learn a lot from him. We pack a lot of conversation into those few minutes he schedules for me.
"Your audiogram is stable," he informs me.
That means that my range of hearing loss is unchanged. Within the realm of decibels and frequencies, I remain in the severe hearing loss domain. Though my hearing has slid a bit further down the scale, it remains above the dreaded "profound" range where my hearing aid will no longer be a viable option for hearing.
"It's a typical cookie bite hearing loss," he says, referring to the scoop in the middle of my audiogram that looks as if someone took a little bite right out of it. "It's usually hereditary, you know."
Actually, this is the first I've heard of that. I remind him that no one in my family has hearing loss except me. "But have any of them been checked?" he asks nonchalantly as he looks into my ear. Hmm, not that I know of, I think. "Is my sudden deafness in my other ear related to this cookie bite?" I ask.
"No. That's a completely different thing," he continues as he plucks another infected ingrown hair from my cochlear implant scar. I can't believe I'm still getting these impacted hairs almost 10 months after my surgery.
"You might not have even noticed a hearing loss for a long while if it [the sudden hearing loss] hadn't happened. There. I think I got them all," he says, putting down his tools.
"Is that what's been making my head ache?" I ask him as he dabs my head. "I thought I needed a lighter magnet."
He takes my processor and proceeds to unscrew the magnet. "You have a lot of play with the magnet," he says. "See, I can unscrew the magnet so it's not so tight against your head. Try that." I reattach the magnet. I'll have to use it a few days before I know if it helps. He explains that the ache usually comes at the end of the day because the skin flap is thinner and less hydrated. It's kind of like how feet and fingers are fuller and puffier in the mornings, but shrink a bit by days end. That's why my scalp aches. I need to remember to turn the magnet as the day goes on.
"It's an amazing piece of technology, isn't it?" he asks, mostly rhetorical. He doesn't really expect an answer. "A few years ago, I'd be holding your hand singing Kum Ba Yah. There'd be nothing I could do for you," he says. "But now you can hear. You have your life back."
He asks if I'm still teaching or if I've retired yet. He remembers that I told him if this cochlear implant wasn't a miracle then I'd have to leave teaching. "It's not a miracle," I confess. "But it is amazing." And I thank him for everything he's done. He smiles smugly. It's a bit awkward for me. I wonder if he knows I'm not as thrilled about it as he is. But then I remember what a great actress I am. His ego is intact.
He shakes my hand and tells me he wants to see me again in six months unless I need him sooner.
I deserve an Oscar.