Medical Examiner

“Oh, Your Hearing Won’t Be Coming Back”

After surviving a stressful mind injury and a coma, I turned into prepared for baddish news—but not for it to be added so hastily and decisively.

A man getting a hearing test.
Is that a far off beeping noise? Photo instance by Media7. Photo by means of Huntstock/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

This article is customized from the book The Night the Lights Went Out: A Memoir of Life After Brain Damage by using Drew Magary. Copyright © 2021 by Drew Magary. Published through Harmony Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

My proper ear wasn’t getting any higher. I stored snapping my hands by the ear but couldn’t inform if I turned into listening to something with it or if my left ear become doing all of the legwork. I visited my widespread practitioner—man, became it fresh to go to an regular medical doctor and not a doctor focusing on orthocerebrogastrohypmentiology—and  he  waved  off  the  loss. “It’ll  come  lower back,”  he  reassured  me. “These things just take time.” It had already been months. In phrases of healing from a stressful mind harm like mine, months is jack shit. But YOU try living with a bum ear for that long. Ever have one ear get plugged up when you’re swimming? It’s fucking disturbing, right? You tilt your head and soar up and all the way down to get the water out, and the longer your ear stays plugged, the extra annoyed you get. OK, now imagine that, but forever.

I wasn’t convinced by way of my GP. I changed into now antique enough to recognise that doctors didn’t know the entirety. When I become a child, I assumed my pediatrician may also perform predominant surgical procedure, or perhaps even stitch up an uncongenial head wound, in a pinch. I knew higher now, mind damage or no longer. So I went to Dr. Kent, an ear, nostril, and throat specialist (or otolaryngologist, now that we’re lower back swimming in the clinical career’s alphabet soup), and asked him approximately my diagnosis. (“Dr. Kent” isn't always my physician’s real name; it’s a pseudonym for this e-book.) I was organized for baddish information, but now not for it to be delivered so hastily and decisively.

“Oh, your hearing received’t be coming lower back,” Dr. Kent said. “You see, whilst you fractured your cranium, the fracture tore via your inner ear.”

“Can it heal?”

“Not with harm this considerable, no.” He added up an MRI  of my head to show me the evidence. A prognosis of single-sided deafness (SSD) was already in my full-size clinical document from Mount Sinai. But doctors there either disregarded that I had pulled a Van Gogh, forgot to inform me, or had been surely so decided to get me upright and back home that it wasn’t excessive on their precedence listing. It wasn’t high on mine even as I was in there, either.

Now I could see, with enhancing vision, what they had omitted. It was right there at the MRI. Your brain is included via your skull. It’s a good,  stable  refuge  for  your  inner  difficult  pressure. But your skull has a number apertures. Eighty-five of them, to  be unique. These are necessary trapdoors which can be the fabricated from human evolution. They do greater correct than harm. But while they are compromised well, meaning uh-oh for you.

You realize some of the apparent trapdoors. You have open eye-holes in your skull known as orbital fissures, plus optic canals that allow the optic nerves to hold statistics collected with the aid of your eyeballs thru the ethmoid bones—Ethmoid Bones sounds like the call of a man or woman from a Victorian horror tale—at the back of them and into your mind to be interpreted as sight. Your nasal hollow space is break up right down the middle via a mixture of bone and cartilage referred to as the nasal septum, which offers every nose its personal doorway in your sinuses. And of route, your cranium has no ground. After all, your neck and the rest of your frame are already there to defend the underbelly of your head. If you had no frame, then your cranium might want a bottom. Let’s all desire that happens whilst we live on as disembodied, cryogenically frozen heads later in this century.

Seeing as how these openings are, you already know, openings, they may be breached. This is true of your nasal cavity and the underside of your jaw. These are the orifices that get penetrated with regularity in any great action movie. But allow’s delve now into the more artisanal trapdoors of the human cranium.

Specifically, I’d want to acquaint you with the internal auditory meatus. “Meatus” is the time period for any establishing within the body and generally refers back to the hole in which urine flows out of you. Another, less comical meatus is the motorway linking your outer ear—pass beforehand and provide it a tug to let it recognise you’re still there—to the magnificent sound manufacturing facility this is your internal ear. Your outer ear is nothing extra than an natural satellite dish. It captures sound from the outdoor, funnels it through the  ol’ ear meatus, and delivers it for your internal ear, in which that sound  is harvested, processed, packaged, and introduced in your brain as human speech, pieces of track, and loud farts.

The inner auditory meatus is positioned due south of the temporal bone. Men spoil the temporal bone 3 times greater frequently than women, because breaking shit is my gender’s lifelong passion. Given how difficult it is to interrupt the temporal bone, you’d be accurate in assuming that, once displaced, it is able to ruin a few matters of its very own. In my case, the fracture tore via the meatus, slicing my inner ear off from the out of doors international. The internal ear and its nerve bundles help in controlling human balance, which defined my dizziness. It additionally explained why I not had any echolocation: the ability to tell wherein sounds are coming from. You need each ears working to have this. Without echolocation, by accident strolling in the front of an oncoming automobile at the back of you turns into a much more likely incidence.

Dr. Kent showed me all the harm I had suffered: hairline cracks in my cranium, a breached auditory canal, seen scarring inside the brain. It changed into all proper there on his display. I positioned a whole lot of work into  that mind, guy. It became like seeing a prized automobile dented.

“OK, so right here’s the mind harm,” Dr. Kent stated, wasting no time. I flinched. When I concept of the time period “mind harm,”  I notion of people who had been completely incapacitated. I didn’t care to think about myself as such. I didn’t care to think of my own brain as a tangible item that could be destroyed. How damaged was I, virtually? After all, I ought to nevertheless see and experience and do not forget and suppose.

But I couldn’t pay attention. I appeared faraway from the scan as Dr. Kent told me that I could in no way pay attention out of my right ear ever again.

“So there’s without a doubt no way to bring it returned?” I requested him. I knew the solution, but I nevertheless held out wish that he’d be like, Actually, yeah, just consume greater fiber and the meatus need to be groovy in no time. But no, he stated. The ear become lifeless. There become no manner to resurrect it. Not through natural approach, as a minimum.

“Well, that sucks,” I instructed him. I didn’t disintegrate to the floor in despair. I didn’t cry. I didn’t megastar in my personal impromptu Oscar clip. I just bitched, equal way I did when I came out of the coma. I left Dr. Kent’s workplace, got in my Kia, and drove lower back domestic. Alone. I was well sufficient to drive myself anywhere I pleased now, however that became little solace as I sat at the back of the wheel and took within the impact. Trauma is a vine: a parasitic entity that latches on to a thriving host  and, over the years, grows on and around it. It can take a while, even years, to make its presence absolutely regarded. It doesn’t surround you abruptly. It simply needs time and sunlight, and on my power domestic it  had both in equal degree.

It got worse. Dr. Kent sent me to an audiologist named Dr. Michael Morikawa, so that they might get a full survey of the wreckage to my inner stereo gadget. Dr. Morikawa took me right into a soundproof booth and examined each of my ears one at a time, no longer unlike hearing-take a look at day returned in standard faculty. He performed a far off beeping noise, and I could have sworn I was hearing it via the useless ear. A FUCKING MIRACLE. I informed him I’d heard the terrible ear spring back to life.

I was incorrect. I walked out of the sales space and Dr. Morikawa showed me my check ratings. For the right ear, I scored a really perfect 0.zero. I diagnosed no sound in any respect with that ear isolated. As a crowning blow, my “appropriate” ear on the left had also been damaged. I’d overlooked out on lots of excessive-frequency noises with it. My combination hearing ability was at much less than 50 percent. Dr. Morikawa advised me that the left ear must have been damaged in the fall. I surely didn’t trust this, due to the fact I’ve spent my entire existence with my song became as much as eleven via my headphones, and due to the fact my father has a similar type of high-frequency hearing loss in both ears: a herbal byproduct of ageing. I became due for this shit. But I didn’t tell Dr. Morikawa that. I didn’t want the coverage organisation to be like, Oh, well, if it was inevitable this complete time, allow’s not cover anything.

“What approximately the sound I heard at the right?” I asked him. This is whilst Dr. Morikawa gave me an impromptu lesson in the bio logical miracle that is bone conduction. When he’d performed a ping into my dead ear, it sent vibrations rippling across my skull that my left ear picked up, interpreted as sound, and despatched to my brain, which then processed the sound as coming from my proper. That is how the mind rewires itself. That is the miracle of biology.

But that intended the plain resurrection of my right ear turned into a mirage. I was deaf. And what little I may want to nonetheless pay attention, I hated.

Book jacket showing the title, author, and an illustration of a man collapsed on his back and limp on the ground
Harmony Books