Can you hear me? | Inquirer Opinion
In the Pink of Health

Can you hear me?

The message read, “Hope you are free, I would like to talk to you.” Seeing these words from a person who hardly ever uses her phone set off alarm bells. As a physician, the first thought that came to mind was that something medical in nature requiring urgent attention might have happened. After exchanging pleasantries, she went on to say that the medication that I had given her two weeks ago for presumed vertigo helped, but there were still periods “when the world still seems to spin.” Doing a quick rehistory, she claimed that there was still no nausea or vomiting involved, nor was there ringing or buzzing sounds in her ears. When asked if there were trigger factors, she couldn’t isolate or identify any single source. Her blood pressure was controlled but she would experience occasional nape pain which was never accompanied by a headache. Luckily, she was still able to go on with her daily activities.

Assuring her that we would go for a check to explore the reason for her “dizziness” and pain, thoughts of whom and where to bring her rushed through my head even before the conversation ended. This was reminiscent of those moments when one wished to be more well-versed in elderly care. Then again, it was a sharp reminder that even if armed with the basics, an adult is still not an overgrown child and there is a need to consult those who are more knowledgeable, lest one misses out on signs that would indicate a graver or more serious condition. This always necessitates “calling a friend.”

Safely and comfortably seated in the otolaryngologist’s chair, or more commonly known as the ENT doctor, Sister was attended to by a younger colleague. Watching her felt like being in an engaging tutorial. The doctor’s demeanor, the ease and the skillful way she went through the procedures spoke about her experience and her total immersion in her subspecialty. It was clear that she enjoyed what she was doing, making the patient encounter light as well as informative. We were advised to have a radiograph of Sister’s cervical spine, consult a dentist to ascertain the fit of her dentures to rule out if the problem was more muscular in origin, have a hearing test to see if the inner ear was the root cause, and since we were in the hospital, visit the ophthalmologist. Another nun who accompanied us also requested an evaluation of her hearing test and the recommendation to acquire a pair of hearing aids was validated. Her condition was irreversible and this was the only option available to retard the progression of her hearing loss. The only barrier was the cost.

To see, to hear, to smell, to taste, and to touch. The interconnection of all five is responsible for how an individual would process and respond based on perception. Have you ever been more than acutely aware of how essential these are? Maybe not as profoundly until you start to lose these. It is common knowledge that the sense of hearing is the last to go. A cousin-in-law who survived COVID shared how he had overheard the conversations of the doctors and nurses on the possibility of his eventual demise as he lay unconscious, and the banging of the metal side rails on the hospital walls, as they rushed him to intensive care, was forever imprinted in his memory.


Red flags. A good friend and colleague shared several. First, if you turn up the volume more than necessary while watching TV or listening to the radio, or if you frequently ask the person you are conversing with to repeat himself, it may be a good idea to have an evaluation done. She shares that this may be something that is missed, especially among the elderly, as most people will always pass it off as inevitable and part of aging. As in most delicate situations, try to be more observant and sensitive. Learn the value of patience. Acknowledging that some degree of deafness has set in is sometimes embarrassing to admit and even harder to accept. This may also be one of the reasons why some choose to isolate themselves and avoid having conversations for fear that their less than active participation is a sign of lack of interest or boredom. In worst cases, accidents happen because they fail to hear the warning sounds.

Prevention. Clean your outer ears gently after bathing. Avoid using earbuds as this can push the earwax deeper causing impaction or even injury to the eardrum. If using earphones, make sure that the volume is at a comfortable level and take periodic rests. Your ears, as in everything else, have limits.

Having given some pointers on hearing, can we now all learn the art of listening?


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