, , , , ,

Last week, I finally succumbed to my wife’s pleas that I get my hearing tested. For months she’d been nagging and teasing me over my not hearing the first time what she had to say, so when an insurance company brochure arrived in the mail offering a free hearing test, she jumped at the opportunity and made an appointment for me.

It’s not that I didn’t think I had some hearing loss. I’ve been an amateur musician most of my life, and a lot of the music I’ve played or listened to has been loud. Over the past decade-plus the decibel levels had become even higher as I switched to making music on a computer, which led me to wearing headphones for hours on end every time I sat down to play, compose or listen. (And I can thank my wife for helping this along by insisting that I wear headphones so as not to disturb her by using the near field monitors I’d bought for playbacks.)

Despite all that, I’d insisted that what I was suffering from was not primarily from quantifiable hearing loss but from what I’d coined a case of MHL (as in Marital Hearing Loss). I mean, at some point there’s only so much monologue any man can take before he starts to tune out. As undeniably interesting as are all the things my wife has to say, the flow of words has threatened to crowd out other things I am focusing on at any given moment, so I’ve been employing a technique developed over years of working in an open newsroom, namely of selectively filtering out the background noise. If it’s important enough, I’ll hear it.

Anyway, on the appointed day and hour I showed up for my hearing test. I was put into an isolation booth, given a set of headphones and asked to respond to a series of beeps and words shot at me, first in one ear, then in the other. Test over, the doctor, a not unattractive middle-aged woman with full lips painted a cherry red, reviewed the results with me: right ear, minimal hearing loss; left ear, an unexplained dip in certain ranges. Incredibly, the doctor said that the worrisome range included parts of the female voice spectrum. “I can see,”she said, “that you have trouble with women.”

But she thought I should get a second opinion on the test results before taking the next step, so she recommended me to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who I visited earlier this week.

And not a moment too soon. You see, I’d been feeling a bit unbalanced and foggy headed since we returned from Argentina a few weeks ago, and had been coping with swollen neck glands and a non-stop nasal drip on my left side. So, a visit to the ENT man seemed just what I needed.

It was. After showing the doctor my hearing test results and recounting my recent medical history (including a bout of Bell’s Palsy last July), I described my nasal problems. That led to a probe of my nose by him, using a micro-camera attached to a long tube at one end and a video monitor at the other.

The doctor said I had an infection in my left nasal passage, and he prescribed an ointment to help clear it up. It’s worked as predicted, with all the symptoms already gone.

Oh, the hearing test? The doctor said the right/left ear discrepancy was comfortably within the range of variation. Have your hearing tested again a year from now, but you don’t need to do anything yet, he advised.

Back home, I think my wife met the news with a mixture of relief (the infection) and disappointment (the hearing).

And domestic communication seems to have resumed just about where it’s been for years, with her having to say things more than once while I have to break my concentration on whatever it is that I’m doing in order to listen.