Monday, October 22, 2007


Today I returned to the ENT for another hearing test.

If there's a doctor out there reading this, please accept my apologies for butchering all of this information. But here, best as I understand it, is what's going on.

Last time I was tested, my right ear could pick up some sounds at around 100 decibels - the sound of a plane flying overhead. That's profoundly deaf. This time, there was only very slight improvement. I could hear some sounds at 77 decibels, which still qualifies me as deaf.

They'd been hoping to get me up around 50 decibels (my left ear, which is normal, picks up noises at 15 decibels). The doctor said that if I had gotten up to 50 decibels, I would've been able to hear someone calling me from my right side. At 40, I would've been able to have some phone coversations, with difficulty. But at 77, I'm still pretty worthless.

I do have a fairly sizeable clot on my eardrum, covering about a third of the eardrum. This is because my eardrum is still healing from the shots. It should heal within two weeks, but even then I'll probably gain no more than 5-10 decibels - still deaf.

The good news is apparently that, should I decide down the road to get a hearing aid, my hearing has improved enough to make this feasible. At 100 decibels, the hearing aid would've had to amplify the sound to the point that it would be painful. At 70, it is possible that it could work.

The doctor suggested that I have my hearing tested in 6-8 weeks, then live with what I've got (or rather what I lack) and decide for myself if it is enough of a disability to warrant pursuing a hearing aid. Right now I'm thinking it isn't. It's just one ear, after all. It isn't like losing your eyesight, or losing a limb, or losing a child. It's just an ear, so in the overall scheme of things, I can still count myself among the lucky ones who walk this earth.

The other night, when I was out looking for something to eat, I happened upon a beggar. I came around the corner, and there he sat. He had apparently suffered severe burns at some point in his life, because he looked as though he had... melted. His skin hung down just like a well-used candle. He had no ears. He had swollen little slits for eyes. Most of his fingers were gone.

The sight so shocked me that I hurried past, giving him as wide a berth as possible. It was only an hour or so later that I realized what I had done. Here I was, living in a nice hotel, visiting the best doctors my credit card could afford, praying for a cure. And there he was, sitting on the street, with not enough money for food, let alone medical care. But I just walked right by.

I went back, but he was gone already. I went back every day after that, but I never saw him. And I was overwhelmed by the sense that I had just royally screwed up. Who was I to ask for help when I'd just passed him by?

Finally, a few days ago, I saw him there again. This time, I gave him a fairly large sum of money, and I felt a tiny bit better. But not much.

There's a wizened old man who sits on the street in the other direction. He's half my size and three times my age. I'm helping to feed him, too. Whenever I give him money, his face breaks into a beaming, wrinkly smile and he says something to me in Cantonese. He's usually there at the lunch hour, and he seems to have more money in his hat than the burn victim did - perhaps because he's so tiny and cute that it isn't as easy to avert your eyes.

And then there's Coco. I was watching CNN the other night, and they were doing some stories on Burma. One of the stories was about a young mother who'd had twin boys. They were six months old when they contracted pneumonia. There was no doctor in the mother's tiny village. After the first twin died, the mother took the other twin - Coco - in her arms and set out through the jungle, heading for a small clinic in neighboring Thailand. When CNN caught up with them, she was in the clinic, and her baby was still struggling to survive.

That's all I know about Coco. As far as I can tell, CNN never did a follow-up story. Did he die? Did he live?

I'm telling you all of these sad stories to illustrate where I'm at right now. I don't have my hearing back, it's true. But I am so, so blessed.

Thanks to you all for stopping to help me when I needed it.


Tom said... [Reply]


You have a heart of a buddha as we Chinese say to a person like you. When you go out and see all these unfortunate people we appreciate our life more. Helping others is the base of happiness.

Tom Hung

Please. Write your own stuff.