Breaking the Surgery Mindset

For the past ten years, I believed I knew everything there was to know about making difficult decisions. In my mind’s eye, the hardest decision I had ever made was to stop wearing bilateral hearing aids and opt for years of hearing restoration surgery.

After the traumatic experience of being intubated awake, returning to the operating room by choice felt nothing short of insane. Yet, I knew enough to understand that I would not be able to have the life I desired without repairing my eardrums. I was already ambitious as a pre-teen, with a list of lofty dreams including attending a top college, reaching the world with music and writing, learning at least five languages, and seeing as many countries as I possibly could.

All of these goals felt heavily dependent on hearing for their execution. Though I feared surgery more than anything else on the planet, I made the decision to go for it in hopes of having the hearing necessary to make my dreams come true. Continue reading “Breaking the Surgery Mindset”

Now and Then: 10 Years with an Eardrum

If you had asked me how I envisioned my life on August 24th, 2004, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Heck, I wouldn’t have been able to say anything because of the intubation scrapes on my throat and the tight bandaging around my head. On that date, I had undergone my first tympanoplasty to repair my left eardrum and restore my hearing. With the optimistic outcome my surgeon had promised, I knew my life would drastically improve once I had “perfect hearing” in at least one ear. 10 years later, I looked in a mirror and realized the greatest changes, though made possible by my surgery, were more important than restored hearing.

When I had the surgery, I was twelve years old, trying to find new direction and scared out of my mind of the future. After getting rid of my punk rock spikes and (most of) my clothes from Hot Topic, my wardrobe was in recovery from being my rage outlet at my hearing loss. Underneath my bandages, my hair was short from chopping it off after a decade of ear infections. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a singer or veterinarian­­—two careers that demanded normal hearing for very different reasons. My “only hope” of romance was writing obsessively to Tom Felton because middle school boys brutally teased me for having hearing aids. Worst of all, I was plunged into a sea of agony, packing gel, and tinnitus with no guarantee of restoring my eardrum.

Continue reading “Now and Then: 10 Years with an Eardrum”

Why the Ability to Hear is not Enough

On the day I chose to have my first tympanoplasty, May 20th, 2004, I believed restoring my hearing would provide a “perfect life” and solve all of my problems. At the time, I was full of rage about isolation from hearing loss and ear infections occurring at least every six weeks. My ability to trust human beings was in the toilet after being bullied by my classmates and placed into special education by the school district. The only thing I trusted was money because it came consistently, regardless of my health, every time I did a favor for someone else.

Old and lonely.

Closing my eardrum, obtaining hearing, and “becoming normal” seemed to be the be-all and end-all to those problems. I believed I would be able to trust people, escape special education, and overcome the infections the moment I had a “healthy” ear. Once all of those things happened, I would “live happily ever after” and skip off into the sunset, where I would suddenly become a popular girl with straight-A’s in the blink of an eye.

Continue reading “Why the Ability to Hear is not Enough”