Month: September 2013

A Trip to the Center of the… Ear Canal

The ear canal?  Well, yes, it is that place where two things intersect:  earwax and hearing aid (HA) ear buds.

Earwax types are genetically determined – no small wonder.  And earwax (aka cerumen) is made of skin cells and shampoo residue held together by the oily, waxy substance made by the glands in our ear.  Although we spend time getting rid of it, it does help keep our ear canals clean by trapping dirt that gets into the ear canal.  And there are two types:  wet – which is sticky and honey-colored, and dry – which is flaky and grayish yellow.

If you have genotype CC you’ll have wet earwax.
If you have genotype CT you still have wet earwax
If you have genotype TT you have dry earwax

But, wait, we have more!  I got genetic testing and I’m a CC – and my earwax is dry as the desert.  So how did this happen?

I got to thinking about when I was a kid.  I had – you guessed it – wet earwax – that sticky brown stuff.   Then, about 10 years ago or so I noticed that my ears itched all the time and my earwax was no longer very wet.  Nowadays it is white and flaky, like dandruff – and it clings to my ear canals like dried glue.

So what’s made the change?

It is well known that HA wearers have more buildup of wax in the ear.  And apparently – lucky us – we have more dermatitis in the ear canal.  Where?  Yup, that’s right – the skin of the ear canal can develop eczema and other skin problems.  Why?  Well, I’d like to blame the earbuds, but since people get dermatitis on other parts of the body as well – and I’m one of ’em, that’s probably only the catalyst.  I used to think I was allergic to the plastic until I got a silicon ear bud that was supposed to be hypoallergenic and there was no difference at all.  My ear still itched like crazy, I got breakdown of the skin, and lots of “otitis externa” (ear infections on the outside of the ear drum).

Took awhile to get this nailed down since skin doctors send you to ear doctors who send you to skin doctors who… you get the point.  But the ENT finally diagnosed dermatitis that was more than the persistent case of “swimmer’s ear” he kept treating me for.  Now there is a prescription ear drop I use from time to tim to clear up the itching and flaking.  He suggests using a few drops of baby oil at night between treatments with the prescription drop.

I don’t always remember to do it.  It’s hard to remember when you’re not shedding what looks like dandruff from your ear.  I do note that the ear without the hearing aid has a whole lot less going on with itchy, scratchy, flaky stuff than the side where I were the hearing aid more often.  I say “more often” since sometimes the ear canal gets so irate with me that I leave it out for a few days so the skin can heal.

I wonder how many HA wearers end up with dermatitis from wearing HAs.  Maybe just those of us with sensitive skin?  I’m also blessed with dermatographia – which means you can write on my skin with a fingernail and watch the welts in the precise pattern you made.

So… happy ear scratching to all of you.  And HA users – remember to get your ears professionally cleaned, waxed, buffed, and polished twice a year.  🙂

When is enough enough?

This isn’t about deafness, but it could be since deafness is isolating.  Instead, this is about what amounts to medieval torture.  Throw him in a goal or oubliette and ignore until dead.  

You know, there are many very dangerous people in this world and a lot of them are out walking the streets. There are people who have killed multiple times in prison and this is not happening to them.

What does it say about us that we can allow something like this to continue?  This isn’t about his innocence or his guilt – because his guilt has been determined.  It is about a total lack of humanity in those of us who know about this and let it continue.  Once abuse is uncovered, everyone who does not stand against it is culpable for its continuation.

I am appalled.  We would not treat a mad dog like this.  This is something Saddam Hussein would do.  What does that say about our criminal justice system?  

From The Colorado Independent

Appeals court to weigh how much is too much solitary confinement

Tommy Silverstein has spent 15,778,470 minutes and counting alone in tiny cement boxes at prisons like ADX in Colorado. Uncle Sam says those 30 years in isolation haven’t harmed him.

Silverstein described the terror of being in the Atlanta cell while a construction crew added more bars and security

From The Colorado Independent Story on this Case

measures around him.

“In order not to be burned by sparks and embers while they welded more iron bars across the cell, I had to lie on my bed and cover myself with a sheet. It is hard to describe the horror I experienced during this construction process. As they built new walls around me it felt like I was being buried alive.”


The Bureau’s claim that 30 years in isolation haven’t harmed Silverstein. Experts who have evaluated him have found extensive evidence of depression, cognitive impairment, memory loss, hallucinations, severe anxiety disorder, panic attacks that make his him breathless and shaky in the company of others, and paranoia that leads him to hear voices whispering to him through vents.

I do not condone this man’s actions, his neo-nazi leanings or any other behavior he has engaged in.  However, we cannot do this to another sentient individual.  We simply cannot do this and remain human ourselves.  

Please read the article.  This isn’t punishment.  This is torture.  Pure and simple.  People think that a sentence of death is a deterrent. It is an escape to someone like this man. 

Ring, Ring

Woke up this morning to the joy of tinnitus.  Ringing, ringing, ringing… to the point the noise drove me back  bellinto bed with the hopes of outsleeping it.  Not a chance.  I can sometimes outsleep a “sound headache” (a headache I get from a sound overload), but today there is no hope of outsleeping the loud ringing in my ears.

Oddly, the hearing aid does help some.  Sometimes the reverse is true, however.  This HA has almost no feedback, so perhaps it is why it seems to help more.

So, for now, I’m having a subdued ringing in my head.  Such fun.

Don’t forget…some medications contribute to tinnitus including:

  • Antibiotics, including polymyxin B, erythromycin, vancomycin and neomycin
  • Cancer medications, including mechlorethamine and vincristine
  • Water pills (diuretics), such as bumetanide, ethacrynic acid or furosemide
  • Quinine medications used for malaria or other health conditions
  • Certain antidepressants may worsen tinnitus
  • Aspirin taken in uncommonly high doses (usually 12 or more a day)

 The Mayo Clinic has some decent information on the problem.

Expectations and Dreams on the Net

Have you ever met someone on the Internet and then when you met up you found you had dashed dreams or expectations?  It happens to all of us – we build up a belief about who we are talking to.  Ditto in them thar olden days of pen pals.

I’ve had the good fortune to meet folks IRL (In Real Life) whom I first met on the net and no matter how prepared I am for the fact our expectations or dreams of who they are will never be who they really are, it is always a surprise. I will have you know that my pal BitcoDavid of doesn’t look a bit like a black dog. And he wears shoes with toes.  OTOH, my friend Pastor John looks just like himself, but who knew he liked Indie movies?

When a hearie and a deafie connect online and if the hearie has never met a deafie expectations are fraught with peril.  Okay, BitcoDavid got it that I wasn’t going to hear all that well – and we met at a very noisy place – so it was probably a baptism of fire for him.  Now he’s learning ASL – Woo hoo! – I really gotta get down there and see my signing group again someday.

Communications in dimly lit places are pretty much impossible to someone who reads lips and desperately seeks to interpret spoken voice – especially if there is other noise in the general area. Turn up the freaking lights, would ya? I can’t see ya talking. Was that a word or did you just clear your throat? Just a minute, I’m looking for a Tiki Torch here… What do you mean that candle almost set yer mustache on fire?  Those murmured little nothings really are nothing if you can’t hear them.  And, if you stop to think about it, a deafie is probably going to be on edge rather than relaxing into the moment.  Anyone here do tactile sign? 

I’ve had hearie friends insist to me that they also don’t hear things perfectly, but since they manage to have conversations over the top of a blaring TV, in the middle of a dimly lit room with a buzz of noise so dense it is like a wall of sound, or in a noisy restaurant and bar, I really don’t think they understand the problem.  While I’m fading into the wallpaper, hoping I don’t have to respond, they are socializing. How is this possible?

Speaker at a party: Hi, I’m Walter and I sell spritzers.

Hearie:  I love white wine spritzers!  

Deafie:  (hearing “spits”) You’re selling what

So, if you are a hearie who has a deafie friend, just remember that communication to you and communication to us is  different.  Lipreading and watching for whole body communications (body language) is exhausting.  I can only do it for just so long and then my brain just flutters away.  A hearie can relax into “passive listening” and even let their attention wander and still pick up auditory cues.  If I’m following what you have to say I’m so focused on you that it can be misinterpreted as anything from flirting to obsession.  My eyes are my ears.

At the end of a long day of listening to other people, I’m beat.  If you have a deafie friend there are things you can do to help.

1. Face us when you talk to us – and make sure we know that you are talking to us, not just talking in general.

2. Don’t over-pronounce words – it makes it harder to lip read.

3. Dont shout – it distorts the voice.

4. Speak at a moderate rate of speech – speaking very S L O W L Y distorts mouth movements.

5. If you have an accent, please be patient, because it changes the lip movements you make as well as the sound you produce and it will take longer to process until we learn your voice.

6. Turn off or turn down extraneous noises you can control – like the TV or background music.

7. Realize that a hearing aid doesn’t create normal hearing, it merely supports the ability to hear some of the sounds of speech – and, unfortunately, also a lot of non-speech sounds.

8.  Sound travels in a straight line – not around corners.

9. If we can’t see you we may not be able to hear you – at least not as speech.

10. An exasperated, “Never mind!” is never the right response.

Mac’s Reach Exceeded His Grasp

By Jean F. Andrews

It was the end of August, 1974 and I was sitting in a crowded classroom next to 25 other students at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel’s College) in the bottom basement of the campus library. The professor, dressed casually in a light blue guayabera, walked into the classroom, picked up a piece of chalk and wrote down a list of the variables that make up a psychology of deafness.
His lecture style was intense; however, his southern accent relaxed the serious tone of his lecture. I looked down and flipped over my textbook, They Grow In Silence, and noticed the author’s picture. It was the professor standing in front of me. The only other authors I knew were dead, like William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, W.B. Yeats. I had graduated from an English department the year before and now I was in a graduate…

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To pee or not to pee, that is the question..

Have you ever noticed that when you take a dog out to use the “outdoor bathroom” that the dog has to sniff and turn around 10 times and then decide another place is better?  And sometimes decides it doesn’t smell good enough to pee so they refuse to go and then get hysterical when you reach the door – so you have to go back out again?

Just once I’d like to see a human walk around the house, sniffing the floor the walls, the curtains, and find their way to the toilet. Then there could be a sniffing crisis if the seat was up – or down.  Walk around the bathroom with nose to the base of the toilet

“Hey! this isn’t clean enough!”

“I can smell bleach here!”

“What’s that blue stuff ?”

“To pee or not to pee, that is the question.  Whether ’tis nobler to … “

Oh for Goddess sake, would you just go? 

But no, hearing or deaf, sighted or blind, we humans simply bumble our way into the Water Closet, the Bathroom, the Lavatory, the Toilet – and we sit upon the throne and then leave.  Perhaps we should make the same ritual out of it that dogs do.  Imagine the lines at sporting events.