I might be going deaf.

Grace Lam

I woke up on Sunday morning and my ear was ringing. This is not a small issue. I had sharp ears and I could play things on the piano that I heard once.

It’s been over one week and I can’t turn it off and I’ve tried almost everything.

I’ve already befriended a few doctors about this.

They assure me that time will tell, that the tiny sensory hairs in my ear have been overloaded and are trying to fix themselves.

You’re more likely to get ringing in your ears as you age, or if you’re young and stupid, or if you have bad luck beside loud speakers or earbuds.

The ring in my ear is especially prominent in quiet spaces.

I wear an earplug in that ear to protect it from loud noises, and if you tried to sneak up behind me, you would be a bully because I wouldn’t ever be able to pinpoint where you were. You need both ears to determine where a sound comes from because the sound hits one ear before the other.

What is it like, being deaf in one ear?

When I’m sitting beside Pan at a cafe, I concentrate to separate his voice from the ambient noise.

“Can we switch sides so you’re close to my left ear?”

I’m close to tears and hope and wish upon every eyelash I find that that I won’t have to read lips in the future.

Each conversation turns into a three minute negotiation punctuated by “HA?” and less talking comes out of my mouth because I never know how loudly I should be speaking. This is a tragedy.

I’m staying home more. You might recall that the decibel scale is logarithmic, so every 10dB increase in noise is a ten times increase in its intensity.

My earplug has 30NRR, meaning it decreases sound by 30dB, but a lot of daily activities are still above the safe range (around 60dB), such as when walking past a lawn mower (90dB). Beware those lawn mowers!

I’m losing my balance so easily. I fell over standing on one leg during a yoga pose and I named it Falling Triangle.


If you don’t have this condition, please please save yourself the fate of the buzz. If this is a condition you DO or DID have, please share the story about how you recovered to cheer me up. Thanks in advance for that.

In case anyone else needs cheering up, here’s a peaceful piano solo with sheet music here:

Often, the biggest turning points in our lives hinge upon one small factor, and if I do regain my full hearing, I will wear my squishy skin-coloured nugget earbuds during concerts and flights. I’ll pretend they’re Tiffany earrings.

My heart goes out to anyone who has ever struggled with a hearing problem, because it is, indeed, no fun at all.

It’s never too early to say, but my editor says mistakes are for the living, and my dear friends, let’s hope this is not one of the life-changing mistakes that I have made.



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  • Reply Michel October 2, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Sounds like you have tinnitus. Not fun but oftentimes goes away in time. Several years ago I woke up with sudden, unexplained hearing loss in both ears. One ear lost 30% and the other lost 20%….all in lower range tones. It’s likely a genetic issue and I won’t regain my hearing. But….I can tell you that the body strangely adapts to these things. Sure, I continually tell my partner I can’t hear him, and because he talks a lot (and I mean a lot), it gives me a convenient excuse when you glaze over and should’ve heard something he said that’s important but tuned him out. You’ll be amazed how quickly you adapt to actually reading lips, which can be really useful when eaves dropping on conversations from across the room….I didn’t know people were so fascinating until I started “listening” to them from afar. And the most incredible thing I discovered is that the keys on my grand piano actually vibrate….go to a piano, close your eyes, play a chord, and focus on the feeling of the vibrations. You’ll be blown away and will discover that hearing is so much more than what your eats pickup. Don’t look at this as a tragedy….look at it as an opportunity to hear from a whole new point of view.

    • Reply Grace Lam October 2, 2018 at 7:46 pm

      Thank you for sharing this, Michel. You don’t know how grateful I am to hear that you’ve found upsides to hearing loss and I’m optimistic that I’ll adapt to wherever my hearing abilities land. I also figure that hearing loss is inevitable for everyone anyways; might as well get a head start!

  • Reply Lucija October 3, 2018 at 1:35 am

    Almost two years ago I had ringing in my ear. It was very loud and distorted the sounds around me, but it was not constant; it would be there for two days, then a day would pass without it.
    I went to a otorhinolaryngologist and after a couple of tests he sent me to the other specialist to examine the blood flow in my neck (with color doppler). It turned out I had accelerated blood flow in my neck and it was probably caused by very stiff neck muscles.
    A couple of massages later I was cured :)
    Stiff neck and back muscles are a side effects of sitting all day, so they are very common.
    I hope you will get better as well!

    • Reply Grace Lam October 3, 2018 at 8:07 am

      Thank you, Lucija! :) the sound seems to be getting softer each day, actually.

    What do you think?