After several days of a pounding headache, congested throat, stuffy nose and clogged ears, I was in tears. Having sick ears was like poison with my already compromised ability to hear. Hearing aids became useless; all they amplified was the dull rumbling of fluid in the ear drums. And the pounding head made it difficult to focus on lip reading.
So, instead of a highly anticipated date with my hubby, I headed to the least romantic spot in suburbia: a walk-in doctor’s clinic.
A no-nonsense physician sat with her back to me, facing a computer. Her lips moved and I’m sure she had asked something, but all I heard through my sick ears was, “Wah wah, wah wah.” She’d become the Charlie Brown cartoon character that spoke in annoying monotones.
My inclination was to bluff through her series of questions. Nod, say “Okay” a couple of times, nod again. Become panicked about what I had actually said “Okay” to.
The physician’s lips stopped moving, so this was my cue to begin the bluff.
I stopped. Everything from my neck up ached, and I needed help. That meant saying the four words I’d said to my husband countless times when he mumbled something to me.
“Would you face me?” I said to the physician. “Because I have hearing loss and need to see your lips.”
She swiveled around in her chair. Her questions resumed at a much slower pace. She nodded after each sentence, as if by doing so she hoped I understood.
After writing a prescription for what seemed like a decades’ worth of antibiotics, she faced me again.
“So you’re a writer?” she said.
I assumed she’d read it on my medical chart, although I’d never seen this physician before.
I nodded. “I write about hearing loss issues. And I advocate for the hearing loss community.”
More questions from her allowed me to answer the Who, What, Why, Where, and How of Lipreading Mom’s hearing loss story. Who had I advocated for? What kind of advocacy work had I done? Why had I started it? Where could someone get more information about my advocacy work? How can others get involved with this kind of work?
The physician’s curiosity about the Big A made me wonder why it had taken me years to advocate for myself. How many medical professionals before her could’ve benefitted if I’d stopped bluffing and started speaking up for what I needed?
Before I left, the physician shared the name of someone she knew with hearing loss and asked if I could contact her. I took the person’s info and promised to be in touch.
I walked out of the clinic with a prescription in hand and a realization. Advocacy wasn’t just about me. It was about me, the physician, and everyone else.