Epiphany at the Ear Doctor

I had no idea the closet door squeaked so loudly. Wow, you can hear the shower in the neighbor’s apartment! And I definitely need to turn the volume down on my phone.

This increase in noise level is the result of finally going to the doctor to have my built-up ear wax scraped out after over a week of suffering from stuffed up ears. I suspect it was a couple of years worth of ear wax and that my ears had been filtering out the edges of daily noise for some time, but it was only over the past week or so that I really couldn’t hear much of what was going on around me.

I knew what the problem was. I’ve had this problem all my life. My ears don’t shed ear wax very well. When they start getting stuffed up, I try to do something about it. I have drops. I have a bulb for shooting water into my ears.

I prefer to have it removed by a professional, because shooting water into my ears always ends up making me lightheaded and a little nauseous. Also, it rarely works. But over the years, I’ve gotten the impression that I’m considered a nuisance when I go to the doctor for this sort of thing.

Except this time. When the doctor finished cleaning out my ears, she said, “You should have that done every three or four months.”

I cannot tell you how much joy those words brought me. (I have another appointment in March.) I don’t have to put up with this problem. I don’t have to get to the point where I can’t hear and then beg a doctor to do something.

I can just schedule a regular appointment, like for teeth cleaning. I had no idea this was possible.

I can vaguely remember having my ears washed out at the doctor’s when I was a small child. I definitely remember having it done when I was a teenager, because I drove myself to the doctor and when I came out I heard all kinds of noises in my elderly car that I hadn’t known were there.

I can also remember going to a minor emergency clinic and being told they didn’t do that. And definitely getting the impression in more than one doctor’s office that I was asking for a lot.

Put drops in your ears, they said. And, of course, I didn’t do it when my ears weren’t bothering me, so I figured it was probably all my fault.

I mean, I’m inclined to believe problems like this are due to some failure on my part. Other grownups don’t go to the doctor to get their ears cleaned out.

(Except probably they do.)

After a lifetime of reaching the point where my ears were blocked and trying to fix it on my own (with very limited success) and eventually getting a doctor to do something and feeling vaguely incompetent, I had a doctor tell me I should just get my ears cleaned out regularly.

It’s not my fault. It’s just one of those things my body does. And there’s an easy fix for it.

Now I don’t think the doctors I saw earlier in my life were gaslighting me about ear wax issues. Not on purpose, anyway. I do suspect many of them didn’t want to be bothered. And people who don’t have my problem with ear wax don’t take it all that seriously.

But the ENT doctor I saw this week did. She could tell I had difficulty with this because of the way my ears are structured  and knew it was a problem that could easily be handled.

The experience certainly made me think about all those people who have Long Covid or ME/CFS or other illnesses that don’t fit into neat patterns and often don’t get necessary treatment.

Or all the people who are brushed off by doctors who assume their health issues are because they’re fat. Not to mention the people who can’t afford to go to the doctor. (Medicare Part B covers this for me, but I do pay for Medicare Part B.)

And then there’s the racism and misogyny that so many run into. There are a lot of people who have debilitating medical conditions who can’t get the help they need.

Fortunately, my ear problem is relatively minor and I have over the years eventually been able to get help with it each time it happened. But the reactions I’ve had to that in the past made me put off going in to get something done until I reached a point of desperation.

The idea that I can go in regularly and have my ears cleaned out so that I can always hear really well, that’s a revelation.

Maybe there are other stressors in my life that have actual solutions.

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