The Advent Gospel reading on the day I had my ear syringed was especially apt!
I’d known for some time that the hearing in my right ear was getting worse and finally relented and called the surgery to arrange a syringe. I also knew that I was expected to put drops in. Instead of the usual olive oil I went for ‘Otex Express’ which promised to ‘disperse’ the wax in three to four days. It did the opposite! For the first couple of days of applying the drops I could hear with my right ear only by holding the ear lobe at a certain angle and then I became totally deaf in that ear. I called the surgery again and a sympathetic receptionist jumped me up the queue from December 31st (the original appointment) to December 15th, ‘only’ a week away.
I can’t say that being deaf in one ear was a terrible experience: far worse things happen to people, and I also knew that relief was coming soon. It was odd, though, and I had to adapt; for example by holding the phone to my left ear instead of the usual right. I usually try to listen carefully to what people are saying and it was a bit frustrating and disempowering to be constantly straining to catch the words. Listening to music was different, sort of mono as opposed to stereo; and anyone what has read my recent blogs will be aware of the central place that music has in my life. Even hearing myself sing sounded disconcertingly different. I took to explaining/apologising to people when I met them that if I couldn’t hear them properly it was because I’d gone temporarily deaf in one ear.
I kind of got used to my temporary semi-deafness, accepting that it was what it was and there wasn’t really any point in getting annoyed about it! One ‘positive’ result of the experience was that I had a tiny, tiny glimpse into the world of deafness. Like many, my heart has been touched this Autumn by the ‘Strictly’ partnership of Rose and Giovanni. Rose is deaf and so cannot hear the music and yet she glides around the dancefloor with her partner with a grace and beauty that is joyful and uplifting to behold, so too her grace and beauty as a person.
Early in the morning of the day of my appointment with the nurse I had been given a line from Pema Chödrön’s book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times: ‘Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.’ I think there is a lot of truth in that.
I duly arrived at the surgery and was informed by the nurse that I was lucky to be getting ‘done’, since due to the rapid spread of Omicron it was the last week that she was allowed to do ‘non-urgent’ procedures like the unblocking of ears! She proceeded to squirt warm water into my right ear from the little squirty machine and then all of a sudden the offending article (of wax) fell with a plop into the water vessel below, I felt a surge of air coming into my ear, and the world of full healing had reopened. “It’s a miracle,” I proclaimed, and the nurse smiled. She then asked if I felt dizzy. “Dizzy with happiness,” I replied, and she smiled even more. I thanked her profusely and almost skipped out of the surgery. I went for a celebratory latte in a favourite Argentinian café and it was so, so good to be able to hear, in stereo, the cool Latin tunes being played. Then I headed over to Mass, where the Gospel reading was from Luke Chapter 7: ‘the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear.’ Amen!
Yim Soon and I had the privilege that evening of being guests at a reception given by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, then attending ‘A Christmas Celebration’ in Westminster Cathedral. How wonderful it was to be able to hear properly what people were saying and then to listen, with both ears, to the angelic voices of the cathedral choir.
And, returning to those words of Pema Chödrön, may I now be at least a tiny bit more understanding of those whose life circumstances are, for whatever reason, a challenge for them.