For the last 10 days or so, I have been fighting this right ear problem. Something popped moment I got down from the long flight from India and ever since, it has gone from bad to worse. Went to two urgent medical centers – one in Chicago and one in Atlanta. Got steroids, antibiotics and all that. The pain has subsided a bit but the main problem of swelling, not being able to hear and feeling of drainage moving inside the ear has remained.
Went to the ENT specialist today. After my vitals were taken, the RN left me in my room waiting for the doctor. I noticed two charts on the wall. Not having anything better to do, I walked up and started studying the charts. Was fascinated to learn the mechanism of how we hear.
Presently, the doctor knocked and came in. He introduced himself.
“Before we sit down, can I ask you a question?”, I asked
“Sure. What’s up?”
I took him to one of the charts.
“I followed the explanation and the picture of how we hear. Very fascinated by how the hair cells work for different frequencies in the cochlea. But here is the problem. How is it transmitting it to the brain? Shouldn’t there be a nerve somewhere around here?”, I asked showing him the picture.
“Oh! you cannot see it well,” he said and then pointing to a yellow strand said that was the nerve and since the nerve goes thru the bone into the brain, we cannot see it. (basically it went into a hole in the brain).
Somewhat satisfied that I did actually understand what goes on in the ear, I sat down.
I told him the whole story.
“Well, we will get to the root of this. In ENT, everything starts with examination. Let’s examine your ear.”
I was all for examination. (Tall words for a guy who just scored 13 in Social Studies 🙂 ). I was waiting with great anticipation what he would say he could see.
You see, I was less worried about whether I might have permanent hearing loss and all that. I was more excited to see how much I had understood the other chart in the room (picture attached). If you study the chart, it is fascinating. It gives the names of different problems, the root causes, what the ENT specialist would see during the examination in each case and then what the cures were.
So, I was just waiting for the words to come out of his mouth like “Ah!, I see this. What it means is this and that. The condition is called ….”
And I would immediately jump in – “Got it. So, you are going to do …. “ (whatever I had learnt from the chart).
Then he would go (thoroughly impressed, no doubt) – “How did you know? Are you a doctor?”
And I would go “Oh, no! I studied up the chart you have put up.”
And he would go away thinking finally something came out of putting those charts up on the wall.
Except, that is not what happened. What really happened is this…
“I see the problem. None of your previous doctors could have seen the tympanic membrane”
Wait. This was out of syllabus. The whole chart was about infections and problems in the middle ear (beyond the membrane).
Still, holding on to some hope, I asked “What do you see?”
“A lot of wax!”
“Yes, you have a lot of wax. We will clean it out and you will be fine.”
He continued – “I am sure you know this – your right ear canal is very narrow and has an odd bend. The wax cannot be brought out by you. You have to visit an ENT specialist every time this happens”.
I was aware of this problem. (There was a similar incident that had happened long time back) But it was little solace to know that I suffered for 10 days of pain and then studied a chart for nothing but some stupid wax.
Three minutes of professional pumping later, he asked “Can you hear now?”
“Hear what? Oh! Wait!! Yes, of course?”
I had forgotten that I was hearing only muffled noises from my right ear before all this.
All this and it was just wax? I walked away feeling sheepish.
With my clear hearing now, I can almost hear my dad (if he were alive) laughing at my predicament which he would have dismissed as a first world problem.
“কানের খোল পরিষ্কার করতে তুই ডাক্তারের কাছে গেছিলি? তাও আবার ENT specialist? দূর দূর দূর! যত্ত সব বড়োলোকিপনা”