The Boy in the Lobby

I'm the one under the water. Good times!

Today I was walking through the lobby of my hotel only to find a young boy of around seven or eight years old crying while his father patiently explained that he couldn’t jump into the pool right now unless he put ear plugs in because of his ear tubes. I remember similar arguments with my own patient parents and have great empathy for the boy as well as sympathy for the father of this boy, who was so patient and kind despite eyes brimming with tears and outbursts of “I hate you!” and “Why do I have these stupid things anyway?” Ear tubes have so many benefits to those individuals who suffer from repeated ear infections. An adult can rationalize the cost-benefit analysis of the ear plugs but a child sees it as only a hindrance which makes him or her different from his peers. The exchange brought vivid memories of my own experiences with ear tubes to the forefront of my mind today.

I am told that before my tube surgery as a toddler I only had approximately 30% normal hearing. Ear infections were a common occurrence in my short life up until that point and the hope was that by implanting a shunt in my Eustachian tube, my ear would drain more effectively and decrease the frequency of ear infections. While I do not remember much before the surgery, I vividly remember waking up in recovery where an older gentleman with wild brown hair and a scruffy mustache soothed me by imitating varying farm animals, my favorite of which was a lion largely because that is what he reminded me of. The next thing I remember was the sound of popcorn popping in my ear and how loud everything was. The surgery was surely a success since I developed almost bat-like hearing though I will be honest, the ear infections.

Much like the boy in the lobby, my only contention with my own tubes was my relationship with water, or lack thereof. I have been a fan of hot baths for as long as I can remember and one of my greatest frustrations having tubes was wearing wax earplugs. They were slimy, they stuck under my finger nails and I couldn’t hear the cassette player read me books on tape. I think in a lot of ways having to keep water out of my ears from such an early age contributed to a very strong fear of putting my head under water when it came time to learn how to swim. Though I spent most of my days in the summer pool side, I would not put my head underwater. I would frantically flail and scream if pushed under water and throw a tantrum like when asked to do so during lessons. I am told I was a fairly easy child but I know that on this point, I was a terror. I did eventually succumb but remains a terrible swimmer to this day and will go to great lengths to keep my head above water.

The only other issues I had with my tubes that I can remember was that one of this mysteriously vanished several years later. It is not surprising to me at all that the tube implanted in my left ear would have jumped ship. After all, that ear seems to be a rather volatile and violent little creature with a mind of its own. Of course, there have been varying jokes over the years about the location of said missing tube and during recent testing to diagnose Meniere’s Disease those jokes resurfaced. We half expected to find that the tube wedged somewhere in my brain. Seems logical, doesn’t it? Tube disappears. Tube lodges itself in my brain causing balance problems, hearing loss and vertigo. Perfectly logical wishful thinking and absolutely humorous to my family and I. We were all admittedly disappointed when the tub failed to show up. Perhaps one day it will send me a letter from the great beyond of ear tubes. Maybe.