My Early Life with Dysfunctional Eustachian Tubes

I figured I’d write about something near and dear to my heart. For those of you who have known me a while, you probably don’t know about this, but here goes.

When I was around 2-3 years old, I suffered from chronic earaches. I remember drinking ‘pink liquid’ like it was water. My Mom was frequently taking me to the doctor to figure out what was wrong, but they kept telling her it was allergies and a little amoxicillin would cure me. They also handed out ear drops like they were going out of style. I absolutely hated them because they always made me feel worse.

Another doctor’s visit later, my Mom finally stood up for herself (and me) and told the doctor that something clearly was wrong. She asked the doctor to refer us to a specialist. The specialist ended up being a doctor at Children’s Hospital up in Kearny Mesa. I believe his name was Dr. Kearns.

After a hearing test and examination, Dr. Kearns determined I was suffering from 80% hearing loss. Fluid was not draining like it was supposed to, causing an infection and hearing loss in my Eustachian tubes. The solution was to utilize ear tubes to ventilate my Eustachian tubes, which would ideally improve my hearing.

I don’t remember anything about the surgery itself, but I do remember going to Scripps in Torrey Pines for further hearing tests and examinations. Meanwhile, I was fitted with specially-made ear plugs because water could not enter my ear while I was being treated. I could not swim, and when I showered, I had to use the ear plugs to prevent any moisture from entering my ear.

I remember going to Coronado one year for 4th of July and hearing fireworks for the first time. I cried because the sound was so loud, and covered my entire head in a blanket. I would compare this sound to someone taking a blowhorn to your ears.  Not pleasant at all.

When the tubes were removed, my Mom said there was a substantial increase in my hearing and I was much happier because I wasn’t in pain. She said I pointed to the birds in our back yard, because I never knew they made sounds.

As an adult, I am thankful for my Mom paying close attention to my health and standing up for herself because she knew something was wrong.

In elementary school, I picked up an American Sign Language book and began teaching myself how to finger spell. By middle school, I could hold my own in a conversation and befriended some of the deaf and hard-of-hearing students. It was great because if I didn’t know a particular sign, I could fingerspell it, and the person I was talking to would teach me the sign and respond. It was awesome.

When I worked at Dixieline, I had a coworker who had noise-induced hearing loss. She wore hearing aids, and could speak normally. Occasionally, she and I would sign because our store would become very loud and she couldn’t hear me. People would walk by and make remarks such as: “What, you two have a secret language or something?” and “Why are you signing?” It was frustrating at times because I had to maintain my composure about our ‘secret language’ and explain why we signed. I also felt bad for her because she would face insults and mean remarks because she had to repeat herself for customers and they’d accuse her of not listening to their requests. Sometimes, I’d pull the customer aside and explain the situation so they could apologize for being rude to her.

I considered becoming a sign language interpreter for the court system but later changed my mind. Maybe one day I will reconsider.

I know my hearing is not 100%, but I believe the tubes saved quite a bit of my hearing. I really would like to have a hearing test done to see how my ears are doing, but I don’t have insurance. I still suffer from hearing issues especially when I fly, or go to high altitudes. For some reason, my ears will not lose the plugged feeling. I feel bad for whoever I fly with, because I feel as though all I ask is, “Huh?” I have tried chewing gum, but to no avail. I also have issues with my equilibrium during and after roller coaster rides. My ears plug up and I feel woozy for a good 20 minutes before feeling somewhat normal. I tend to simply avoid rollercoasters due to this.

So what’s the point of my rant?

I want those of you who have small children to challenge what your doctor says, if you feel even slightly unsure of the prognosis. Drugging your kid up with antibiotics does nothing but make the child groggy and less immune to other illnesses, when a root issue may be to blame. Eustachian tube dysfunction is more common than I thought, though not all children face hearing loss due to this issue. Some will simply tug at their ears, and will face frequent ear infections.

I am also writing this because I would really like to join a deaf or hard-of-hearing meet up group. I’m sure these individuals could use another friend and a listening ear, so to speak. I feel that if I know a language, I should put it to good use, and bring a smile to someone’s face. Who knows, maybe I will meet someone who had (or has) the same condition I did. I’d also like for people to realize they need to use common etiquette when dealing with folks who have disabilities and/or special needs. Making a mockery of people does not improve the situation. If you have a question, just ask. If you don’t know sign language, but want to communicate with a deaf person, feel free to grab a pen and paper, and communicate that way. I am sure it would be much appreciated, and you too, may make a friend simply because you were kind enough to strike up a conversation.


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