Twists and Turns
Life is full of twists and turns, and yesterday it took me down another winding road. I noticed about six weeks ago that my left ear was sensitive, irritated, ringing, and that I had a noticeable reduction in hearing. As a professional classical musician, this development was pretty unsettling.
I made an appointment to visit the audiologists at UAB’s beautiful Kirkland Clinic, with state of the art equipment. I hadn’t had my hearing checked since elementary school, and let me say, the technology has changed tremendously. Walking into the testing booth was like walking into a giant freezer- not the cold part, but the appearance of the large metallic booths.
I sat in the booth, listening to the frequencies played at various levels and intensities, pressing the button on the hand-held lever when I heard any indication of a tone, my mind spinning. I thought back to all of the loud symphony concerts I have played, the many times I have sat next to the drum set during pops concerts, the incredibly loud gospel concerts I have played where my ears rang for weeks afterwards. Will I now pay the price?
After the exam, I met with the doctor, who went over my test results. He said there were possible indications of degenerative nerve damage, and definite pronounced hearing loss, especially in the upper frequencies. The odd part was that- though there was inflammation in my left ear- the hearing loss issue was in my right ear. I felt numb as he went over the graph showing the problem and what our plan of action would be.
I will return in a couple of weeks for an MRI to rule out a tumor. The mention of a possible tumor really threw me, as my brother had multiple brain tumors (related to a lung tumor that metastasized), and a favorite aunt battled a large brain tumor. It was at this point that the internal dialogue began in earnest…”Don’t do this, don’t focus on the worst possible scenario like Mom tends to do…no matter what, it will be okay.”
After the MRI, I will return for another hearing test to check for any changes, and I will also meet with the audiologist to be fitted for ‘Musician Ears’ that many people who play in loud ensembles use to block harmful frequencies. Through all of this, I will do my best to see the positives. Even if the very worst were to happen, it will still be okay. I have Dan at my side through thick and thin, and dear friends who are there for me. I have a life that I truly love, and hopefully the problem has been caught soon enough to prevent further damage that would impact the career that is such a major part of my life and my soul.
It is dawn, and my ears are ringing loudly in the quiet. I lay in bed listening to the birds singing in anticipation of spring and the sound of my husband’s gentle breathing as he sleeps next to me. Such beautiful music. I have a clarinet symposium to host this weekend, a clarinet choir to conduct, and a recital to play Saturday night. My best friend is here to perform with me and make me laugh. Life goes on, never perfect, but filled with such beauty if we will only look for it. And I will.