Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oh, Stick It in Your Ear

My father is not one to try new things. The man still wears the same bottle green lensed safety sunglasses he wore in 1967. They might not be the same pair, but they are the same kind.

Recently when we were talking on the phone, somewhere between the weather report and an update on who he's no longer speaking to, he gave me his health report. His ear was bothering him. Equilibrium screwy, nauseous, muffled hearing.

Thrilled for a reason to pull the plastic stethoscope out of the Sesame Street doctor's kit and put it around my neck smartly, I asked him to repeat his symptoms. He was equally thrilled to comply and in even greater detail.

I nodded my head sagely, pretending to take notes, but really I was just filling in the circles on the page in my calendar. When he finished, I inhaled before announcing my diagnosis. "Sounds like you have a build up of excess ear wax, Dad. Have you seen the doctor?"

He said he was going to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. I snorted and said that seemed over the top. "Just get some Debrox or go to your family doctor. Just because you have Medicare doesn't mean you have to take advantage of expensive specialists. Start simple. Don't you know you're part of the problem with your fancy federally-funded health care?" I scolded him.

We discussed treatment options. I was pushing the idea of ear candling because the idea of my dad trying some New Agey thing in a partially lit room, a bubbling fountain in the corner and the smell of patchouli in the air, made me giggle.

I asked him if he had any questions, but I didn't hear his answer because I was too busy squeezing the rubber bulb on the Oscar the Grouch blood pressure monitor I had strapped around my thumb. When he paused, I made a hmmmm sound, verified his address and told him to watch his mail for my bill. I think I heard him tell me to either submit it to Medicare or shove it just as I was hanging up the phone.

When we visited Indiana Darling Sis asked if Dad had given me the Ear Update. "Not yet," I responded. "Well, when he does, he's going to want to give you a detailed description of what came out of his ears," she said and made some gagging noises.

Darling Sis was right. Early into our Sunday visit, Dad pulled me aside, opening with "You remember how I told you about my ear bothering me?" I told him that I did and followed up quickly, asking if he'd received my invoice and when could I expect payment for my brilliant diagnosis? He ignored me and continued to explain how the doctor syringed his ear with some kind of solution and, just as Darling Sis predicted, provided a list of effluvium elements that were extracted from his ear. He was especially excited to note that an old Buffalo Nickel he'd lost when he was eleven was part of the disgusting, but fascinating mix of wax, lint, and......well, I'll just stop right there because I haven't been feeling so hot myself the last few days.

I continued to nod and smile and wish for a quick death as Dad completed his list, finishing with a skate key from the pair of skates he got for his fourteenth birthday. "I always blamed my brother Virgil for losing that key. He must have shoved it in my ear when I was sleeping," he laughed at his own joke.

I excused myself and walked away, digging in my own ear with my fingernail because now my ears itched!

Late last week, I started having my own ear issues My right ear developed the crackles. You know that sound when you get water in your ear? That. It was popping, too, and my hearing is a bit muffled.

Saturday night MathMan put some ear drops in my ear to soften the wax. We've used this before with The Royal Pains and it's worked just fine. Put the drops in, lie on your side to keep them in for five minutes or so and then let the stuff drain. And use the general rule of thumb - don't put anything bigger than your elbow in your ear. So far, so good.

This morning I could feel something in there and without thinking, reached for a QTip. After pulling out a satisfying amount of wax (oh, get over it - you know exactly what I mean), I got greedy, grasped a clean swab and proceeded to go in for whatever was left.

Except, it eluded me and the QTip lodged it back into my ear. My head instantly plugged up with muffled hearing, a bit of dizziness. I'd just victimized myself with a cotton swab and smug exhuberance.

In a desperate attempt to rectify the situation, I implored MathMan to put the drops in my ear again. He did. Except instead of having the luxury of lying on my side watching Dr. Who like I did on Saturday night, I had to stuff a cotton ball in my ear and carry on with applying my makeup and drying my hair because I had to get to the office. This cotton block was not so effective, however, and it looked ridiculous as I drove down I75.

So I've spent all day feeling out of sorts, alternating between nausea and tears, with my ear plugged just enough to be really annoying. I don't know which was worse - having my boss walk into my office just as I was tilted over the arm of my desk chair air-banging my head like one does as they stand dripping wet next to a swimming pool, trying to get water out of their ear or when he walked in to see me deep throating a a rolled up piece of lettuce stuffed full of egg salad.

"Now that's attractive," he deadpanned.

"The stuff wet dreams are made of," I shot back. I'd walked into walls twice already this morning. I was no mood to censor myself. The only thing that would have made that scene better was if I were still sporting the cotton ball in my right ear.

He took pity on me and suggested I try using a bulb syringe and a solution of vinegar and water to see if that would help. He'd recently had some ear pain from swimmers ear and that did the trick for him.

When I got home, I checked the instructions on the ear wax softening solution. Sure enough, it tells you to flush the ear with lukewarm water after applying the drops twice a day for three to five days. However, I am not a patient woman and I am not enjoying this feeling of being off-balance and the muffled hearing is maddening. MathMan and I searched the house to see if we still had any bulb syringes from when the kids were babies. Efficient clutter clearer that I am, we both knew it was futile.

Finally, we gave up. I'll buy a bulb syringe so I can, hopefully, finish this job of wax eradication. In the meantime, I will try not to lash out at everyone, throw up, or cave in to my worst instincts and stick something small and pointy in my ear.

Just to make sure that we closed the circle on this thing, I called Dad to tell him that I was now suffering from the same plugged ear issues that had plagued him for ages or at least since 1982 because it was right around then that The Big R stopped whispering her subversive instructions to hide credit card bills in her undie drawer because she figured out that he didn't hear her when she was talking directly to him most of the time anyway.

When Dad answered the phone, I let him go through the weather and crop reports and his own health update before launching into my own tale of aural woe. He was only half-listening. I can tell. And now that we know he's not really hard of hearing, he can't get away with that rudeness so easily.

"Are you messing around with that Holly Hobby doctor's kit I had when I was kid?" I accused.

He hesitated. He knew he was busted. "No. Well, not the Holly Hobby one. This one is an old Fischer Price one."

"Uh huh and?"

"And what?" he was getting a wee bit huffy with me now.

"Did you hear what I said? We're going to try to perform the procedure at home before we go running to the doctor like some people who are on the public dole do," I said a bit too loudly.

He snorted. "You don't have to shout," he huffed some more. "I'm not deef." He has always pronounced it that way - "deef."

"Well, what do you think of that?" I continued, "I'm going to flush out my ear with vinegar and water at home."

I was getting impatient now. I could hear something knocking against the telephone. "Stethoscope?" I asked flatly.

"No, the thing you use to pretend to look in the ears and down the throat. I thought since you were fussing about your ears....."

I cut him off. "Dad, I'm going to douche my ear with vinegar and water." I was sure he wasn't listening.

"Oh, you're just being gross. I'm hanging up now."

And like that he was gone. That's fine, you know. I'll just mail him 8 x 10 glossies of what comes out of my ear, along with the 30 days past due invoice for my diagnosis and recommendations.

Come to think of it, I wonder if I'll find that seafoam green Barbie shoe that went missing in 1974...........


  1. Heh.

    I gave up on Q-tips when I noticed that the amount of ear wax seemed to increase; apparently there is a minimum amount of earwax, and if you remove it, your ears just manufacture more.

  2. So nice to know the two of you are still having fun playing 'doctor' after all this time :-)

  3. Bringing new meaning to the term "stick it in your ear" :~))

    p.s. hope you feel more like yourself soon!

  4. well, now I feel a bit nauseous and was feeling perfectly fine before I read this...I do hope you feel better soon and for heaven's sake, stay away from the qtips!!! I have to tell my dh that at least once a year ;) some people NEVER learn...do you take after the old man?

    well, love anyway..get better so you can hear your kids when they start yelling with the earache that is inevitable.

  5. Oh, the ear is very important to us , must therefore maintain carefully.: )
    Health information & Humor & Fun World

  6. I've had the ear dilemma before. I did use Debrox and the bulb thing and after a couple of times it worked.

  7. What did you say? (I could not hear you...)

    Oh that was so fucking lame of me, huh?

    Feel better!!

  8. Having just spent about 48 hours with my dad...

    Yeah. Perfect.

  9. My daughter and grandson both ended up with swimmers ear while on vacation. Grandson healed nicely, duaghter was deaf in one ear till this past Saturday. I believe it had to be more than just swimmers ear - but dealing with her "you know I can't hear" BS, just about drove me to homocide. Luckily she woke up the other day and was miraculously healed - praise Allah!! :)

  10. Wow, your relationship with your dad is just so touching. It brings a tear to my eye!

  11. OK, from someone who has suffered from harden earwax, don't wash out the ear everytime you put the drops in and make sure you dry the ear out afterward. Even use a hair drier. Otherwise, you end up with another ear infection that you have to go to the doctor for. As for what comes out, do tell!

  12. And all these years I thought it was a bad thing to play doctor with your dad...

    Yes, I have to douche my ears every once in awhile. I am always shocked and awed about what comes out of there. I hope you found your doll shoe.

    BTW, I LOVE the relationship you have with your dad. And I hope you got paid.

  13. A number of years ago, I got some soap lodged in my ear. I know "soap should just wash right out". No, this was a big hunk of mushy soap from the bar of Dial I was using. I was completely deaf in that ear. Being the inpatient one, I called my ENT (yes, I have one and use him regularly) and got an appointment. He extracted the offending glob (lodged right up against my eardrum) and gave me the standard "nothing smaller than a elbow in your ear" speech.

    Of course, I still use Q-Tips. I just don't use quite as much pressure as I used to.

  14. If the vinegar solution doesn't work, try a vacuum cleaner.

    Wax on, wax off.

  15. I sympathise. I get this sensation that feels like something wiggling around. My vivid imagination reminds of that Star trek film ( is it the Wrath of Khan)

    John has tinnitus so I can't grumble about it too much. But all the stuff on the tinnitus site says we shouldn't stick too much in our ears, well nothing smaller than an elbow!!!

  16. Now I feel this strange compulsion to rid myself of excess earwax.

  17. This is a recurring problem with me; I flush 'em about every three months so I don't have to deal, but I've been there and done that, believe me.

    I just want to know why the body manufactures stuff that should never be seen, or talked about in polite company?

  18. My dad uses those candles. Of course, nothing will convince him that his hearing loss is due to a lifetime of shooting guns without using earplugs, and not a buildup of ear wax.

  19. my dear sainted mother had the same problem but she always taught (well me anyway) suffer in silence kid no one wants to hear it!

    and i thought of this song when reading about the stuff in your Dad's ear
    skate key

  20. One of our cats loves to lick earwax off the kids' fingers.

  21. I'm not one for alternative medical remedies, but I am jonesing to try ear candling. It's probably bullshit, but I want it to work. Hope you get your ears cleared out.

  22. Did you use white or apple cider vinegar?

  23. I saw a report that ear candling is a hoax. I can think of better things to do at a spa.

  24. You crack me up! Mercy, I am OBSESSED with ear wax. It's a dark secret of mine. I totally want one of those looped-wire stick things that the doctors use to pull wax out. I know. I'm gross.

  25. Since I have been pouring hydrogen peroxide in my ears the last week or so, I am excited to go try these things. I also searched my house and found no bulb syringe. I need to go buy one. I do like the way hydrogen peroxide bubbles in the ears, and it is somewhat effective, but like caplma said, I have to make sure to dry my ear after. When my ear is clogged, I so just want to stick a qtip in there and dry it out, but it rarely works.

  26. Someone put a bug in your ear, if you ask me.


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