Those of you who keep up with such things through your Jake shrines and fan fiction and tribute musicales no doubt remember my epic adventures in pilar cyst excision. I had two of the little buggers hacked out of my head two years ago and then got to do it all over again last year. And I got to look at my dead little cysts before they were dried and made into necklaces by underprivileged children at state-run summer camps. And while they (the cysts, not the underprivileged children) were gross from a textbook-definition standpoint, they really looked no worse than exceptionally bloody boogers with a few stray nose hairs sticking out of them. Which was way more fascinating than disgusting to me. Then again, it takes a lot to gross me out. I mean, I’ve seen Sarah Palin on television.
One of the great things about entering your 40s is the way your body starts to betray you. You creak when you walk. You fart when you sneeze. You start wearing socks to bed. And your hearing starts to mess with you. In my case, ambient noise like traffic and bar din can completely drown out conversations I’m having where people’s mouths are literally inches from my ears. And I have to ask the domestic partner—whom I don’t think of as a mumbler—to repeat stuff he says almost half the time he says something to me. Whee!
So I got my doctor to refer me to an otolaryngologist, which is a fancy word for a doctor who specializes in otolaryngology. And I went yesterday to get my hearing checked. And because otolaryngology has so many syllables—or maybe because I have so many ears—I got to be checked out by two doctors. And before we were all done, I actually found myself thoroughly, genuinely grossed out by something that came out of my own body (but not without a fight … I can be macho like that).
The first doctor locked me in a tiny soundproof room with speaker-embedded plugs jammed in my ears so she could conduct two hearing tests. But that’s not the revolting part.
The first part of the test involved listening for wee tiny beeps that were not unlike what I imagine gnat farts sound like. I had to raise my hand every time I heard (or thought I heard) the doctor squeezing a gnat at the other end of the ear plugs. And I had no idea gnats could fart in so many pitches. They certainly are nature’s tragically overlooked musical prodigies. (That’s not the revolting part either.)
Then I had to repeat recorded words that were mumbled into my ear speakers at decibel levels that would make a librarian proud. If I couldn’t understand what the words were, I was told to take a guess. And, though quiet, the words were fairly easy to understand … or at least to guess: garden, mixture, table, Lautner … and then what I SWEAR was … um … date rape. I seriously couldn’t imagine what else the word I heard could be. And instead of politely keeping it in my head I actually said it out loud. To a female doctor. Who was 97 months pregnant. It wasn’t until this morning—after endless wondering all evening—that I figured out that the word was probably gateway. Or possibly Jake Pavelka. In any case, yelling date rape at a pregnant woman wasn’t the revolting part either. If you can imagine.
Once the pregnant doctor had scraped the look of horror off her face and released me from my padded room, I still wasn’t done! Because I still had to see a doctor who actually stuck things in my ears! And that’s where the revolting part comes in.
As I’ve said, I have a pretty high tolerance for gross things. Aside from the aforementioned excisions of bloody keratin lumps from my scalp and the Vice Presidential debates, I also routinely consume giant bowls of chili in front of grisly autopsy dramas like CSI and Bones. So I can handle a lot.
But when the second doctor put a gauze pad on my shoulder and tiny metal funnel in my ear and then poked around deep in my head with an alarmingly lengthy implement … when I felt him pull something out of me that might as well have been a marabou boa … when I felt the tickle of something warm and moist-y bounce off my ear and roll off my shoulder gauze and land in the cook of my bare arm … when I looked down to find what I can only charitably describe as a dried Raggedy Ann tampon staring up at me through a film of matted rat hair … I almost physically gagged. Almost.
And when he’d finished with both ears and showed me the accumulated mass of brown, waxy bulldog bile he’d pulled out of me and I realized that it could easily fill a tablespoon and that I’d been walking around with a full tablespoon of the cheese that collects on Rush Limbaugh’s taint every time they have corduroy pants day at his Sweatin' to the Hateys jazzercise classes crammed in my head … well, I probably reacted in a less-than-awesome way. Then again, I’d just yelled date rape at a pregnant woman so it’s not like I had a firm grasp on the awesomeness yesterday afternoon.
What’s worse, my ears keep pooping out little pellets of the stuff a full 24 hours later, like I have some goddamn bunnies strapped to my head as part of a low-budget production of Star Wars: Revenge of the High-Fiber Plant Eaters featuring Jake as an Earwax-Shitting Princess Leia.
And after all this, the diagnosis from the doctors wasn’t terribly promising. I have minor hearing loss, mostly in the high-frequency range. And there’s nothing they can do about it. They said the earwax removal shouldn’t improve my hearing … though it certainly makes me more aware of the sounds around me. And more aware that I’m capable of producing alarmingly large clumps of waxy brown-black hairballs deep inside my own head.
If that weren’t disturbing enough, I just took a detailed look at the audiology report they gave me as I was writing that last paragraph. And it shows that the pregnant doctor gave me a word recognition score of 100%.