When I was a little kid, our family doctor would say, “Never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow.” Now I know why.
I, as many ladies do, have a little travel kit containing makeup items. In my kit, those items include Q-tips. My Q-tips have been traveling around with me for so long that they have almost reached fossil status. What’s worse, if memory serves, they are the cheapest generic, sorriest Q-tips known to man.
As has been my habit for years, after showering, I Q-tip out my ears to get rid of water and anything else that’s in there that shouldn’t be. I mean, what else are Q-tips for?? A few weeks ago, I had occasion to travel and stay in a hotel. After I showered, I got a Q-tip out of my little makeup kit and twirled it around in each ear.
As I reamed out my left ear, the phone rang and I removed the Q-tip and answered the call. After that, I finished my get-ready routine and left the room, going about my day, and life went forward as, thankfully, it does.
The other day, while showering, water trickled into my left ear. We have all experienced the sensation while swimming of water going into your ear, and a familiar “swooshing” sound as water fills your ear, and then the opening of your ear when the water leaves. Well, I got the “swoosh”, but not the clearing. It felt like the water went in but never went back out. I was deaf as a post in my left ear!
We were leaving for the ranch shortly, so I didn’t have a lot of time to fiddle around with a clogged-up ear. I got a – yes – Q-tip and ran it around in there, to no avail. I poured alcohol into my ear, twice – nothing. Thinking I would benefit from taking a decongestant, I popped a Sudafed. Time was growing short, and I had much to do to get ready to leave town. So, with a clogged ear and growing frustration, I forged ahead.
It didn’t take long for my frustration to transition into desperation. So, one of my stops on my way out of town was Walgreens, to purchase something, anything, that would provide relief. The pharmacist recommended an ear wax cleaning kit. My first thought was, “I have so little wax in my ears, I’d have to live two lifetimes to make one candle!” But, I bought it, hoping that whatever was in there would open my ear.
While driving, I opened the kit. With one eye on the road and one hand on the wheel, I opened the first bottle, tilted my head to the side, and squeezed. I immediately felt the sensation that can only be delivered by hydrogen peroxide, a mildly pleasant foaming action that allegedly was going to loosen that nasty wax in preparation for irrigation.
Next, I got out the aerosol can that had a pointed tip, stuck it in my ear and pulled the trigger. The chilly spray delivered a high-velocity stream rivaled only by hornet spray, right into my deaf ear. Then, it spilled out of my ear and ran in cold streams down my neck and across my face, down my chest and back, and wherever else gravity would take it. To add insult to injury, I was soaking wet…and still deaf.
This operation, clearly an epic failure, left me dejected.
After I dried off as much as I could, all the while driving down the highway, I instinctively turned on the radio. What the hell, I couldn’t hear it, so I turned it off. My only alternative for my good ear, to while away the time in the car, was to call people. So, I caught up with friends near and far, as a way to find the silver lining in a hideous cloud.
En route to the ranch, I took more decongestant. Then, I decided to “phone a friend”, and put a post on Facebook asking if anyone had a solution to a clogged up ear. The caring responses were wonderfully sympathetic; some were offered in jest, but most were tried and true attempts to help. I love my Facebook friends!
One response, delivered via private message, suggested that the situation was potentially serious and my hearing might be at stake and I should talk to my doctor ASAP. So I spoke to her, and she suggested taking a decongestant…so I did. I took a lot of decongestant that day; I’m sure my blood pressure resembled an EKG, or a reading off a Geiger counter. I was both jittery and sleepy, and still deaf.
While continuing to read the responses offered on Facebook, one piqued my interest. It contained a story about having a clogged ear and going to the doctor, who extracted a piece of cotton that had gotten trapped inside. Suddenly, the light bulb came on! I remembered the old Q-tip I’d used in the hotel room weeks before, which I’d hurriedly pulled out of my ear and thinking it might’ve come apart. There was suddenly hope!!
Thinking that if there really was an old Q-tip remnant in my ear, I might be able to fish it out. So, I got the only “fishing rod” I could find at the ranch house – a toothpick. I carefully inserted the toothpick into my ear, and moved it around. And lo and behold, I felt something soft and mushy. As I worked with it, I could feel it getting closer to the opening of my ear, and suddenly, as I extracted the toothpick, the wet, nasty blob of cotton that had vexed me all day came out with it! I could hear!! Hallelujah!!
The relief I experienced was nothing short of glorious. Everyone at the house was aware of my dilemma and joined in the celebration by toasting to success, relief and being able to hear. With all the decongestant I’d taken during the day, and then a glass of wine, I was ready to hibernate. I went to bed early and slept hard, awakened in the night by the sound of snoring. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard!