It was, blessedly, a passing disability. There’s not really another way to put it – one night I picked my ears in my sleep seemingly a little too vigorously, and woke up thinking I had drowned. Everything sounded distant and muffled, as though someone had stuffed big wads of fluffy, white cotton wool into my ears.
From this rather inglorious beginning came almost three weeks of near-deafness as I waited for a hospital appointment. It was not, as you might imagine, a pleasant experience, but it was certainly an eye-opening one. It’s incredible just how complete our dependence on our sense is. None of them are expendable. Without even one, life becomes so much more of a struggle. I found myself appreciating film subtitles and staring at people’s lips. I couldn’t eat and hear at the same time, because it turns out chomping on food really produces some intense echoes inside your skull which basically override for what little hearing you might have left.
The acclimatization was also intriguing. After about a week, you begin to cope as your body accepts its new limitations. By the end, having my hearing reduced to a faction of its proper effectiveness felt entirely normal. Which meant, of course, that when the problem was fixed (via the incredibly high-tech method of the doc jetting water in both ears) noise in general came as a bit of a shock. Unless you’ve worn ear-mufflers for almost a month it’s actually really quite difficult to explain just how amazing it is to be able to hear. Like all our other sense, it’s something we take entirely for granted, and yet it’s a wonderful ability. After the doctor’s I just sat in the car for ten minutes, tapping and scratching surfaces, marveling at all the tiny little sounds my body had given up on ever hearing again.
The upshot of this strange and somewhat humbling episode was that, as a writer, I’m more aware of the importance of sense-description than ever. It’s also spurred me to include characters suffering from sense-depriving disabilities. Lord knows, they’re underrepresented enough as it is, and when they do crop up it’s usually in a stereotypical role (no blind seers or prophets, thank you). The twin morals of the story, I guess, are take a moment to appreciate what you have, and don’t forget to apply life lessons to your writing!