I didn't want to hear about his scalpel. But I should have expected "scalpel talk" -- the word surgery appears on his business card at least twice.
I left realizing that I had a fundamentally different paradigm of human health and biology. I wrote him a little letter. I didn't send it. Because it was really for me. And it got a little more snarky than helpful.
Dear Dr. Specialist,
Thank you for spending time with me and recommending a course of action -- prednisone, regular use of decongestants and surgical incisions in my ears, potentially followed by tonsillectomy You kept asking me, "Ok. Doest that sound reasonable?"
Well, no. It doesn't sound reasonable. It sounds INSANE! And it sounds like a resignation that I can never again regain function in the part of my body.
Here's what's really going on:
My body is not broken. My body is not flawed.
Short of an emergency, my body does not need your scalpel nor your drugs. But thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for those emergencies. But, right now, I am not an emergency.
My body is dynamic, adaptable and resilient. My biology is working…and it does so beautifully.
My body is not a victim of biology. Not a mistake or oversight of evolution or genetics. My body is a product of my biology interacting with all the environmental cues I have given it since the beginning of me. My body is responding exactly how I've told it to respond.
Of course, that doesn't mean I knew what I was saying. But it means the "fixing" is usually in the messages not in the scalpel, not in the drugs.
My ear is not draining -- not because I don't have enough prednisone in my body, or enough nasal decongestant, or because my body has not yet been introduced to your scalpel.
To "fix" my body I need to work with my biology, not fight it, because biology always wins, doesn't it?
I need to give my body the time it needs to heal and uncover the new and decades old things I have been doing to contribute to my current situation.
- What in my environment and diet are contributing to too much inflammation in my body?
- Is my lifestyle triggering constant and chronic stress responses, hence more inflammation?
- Is my jaw out of alignment and preventing optimal force generation in muscles of my soft palate that control the opening and closing (i.e., draining) of the eustachian tube?
- Is the fact that I predominantly chew on one side of my mouth (on the side of the good ear) an indication of a misaligned jaw and asymmetrical palate muscles?
- How has sleeping predominantly on one side for years affected the bone and muscle alignment, as well as lymphatic drainage, in that one ear and side of my skull?
Thank you for the time you have taken to talk with me, examine my ears and throat, and your plan of action. I know you probably have terms for patients like me -- non-compliers. I have no doubt of your commitment to your patients.
Yours in health,
Nicole and her ear.
I still haven't "solved" this issue…but I am making progress.
So, for those of you who aren't super familiar with ear anatomy, the eustachian tube runs between your ear and the back of your throat. The bottom part of it (closer to your throat) remains in a closed position as it's default. The tube opens to equalize pressure in our ears (like when your ears need to "pop" when you go to a higher altitude) and to allow any accumulated mucus to drain. The tube opens when certain muscles of the soft palate (way back there in your mouth by your tonsils) are activated -- on swallowing and yawning.
Then, I started paying a lot of attention to both of my ears…I started hearing and feeling when the "good ear" was clearing just from simple yawning and swallowing. Really trying to get a sense of what it felt like and how often it was happening.
I also noticed that I predominantly slept with the "bad ear" down in my pillow. This has probably always been my tendency, but it's been solidified from all those times my daughter has crawled into bed with us at night and I was pinned to the side of the bed, unable to turnover without waking the child from deep sleep. I've been regularly trying to change my sleeping and resting positions, and actually move away from my pillow.
Then I started playing with my jaw -- moving it back-n-forth, left-to-right -- and yawning and swallowing with my jaw in all these different positions. And yawning a lot. Big yawns. Reallly big yawns. And then a few months ago, I felt my magical little trouble ear clear on a big, big yawn. All on it's own.
And, I'm trying to chew a lot more on the "bad" side -- chewy things like dried mangos, and crunchy things like nuts. The movement of chewing is essential for all of the tissues on that side of my head -- including for lymphatic drainage on that side.
My hearing is not back to 100% in that ear, but it's better than it's been in years and I think I'm on to something. Next up: CranioSacral Therapy and chiropractic, as well as really starting to look at this as a whole body problem. How does the way my feet align and move when I walk ripple all the way up to my neck and affect my my jaw alignment? How is my occasional low back pain connected? How were those migraines that plagued me in my 20s (and now only occasionally) connected?
I absolutely wanted to avoid the meds and the scalpel. Because of the short-term discomfort, but also because I know those won't solve the bigger problem. If my jaw is off, then if I don't fix that, what else is going to happen? Is my other ear next?
So, how are your ears doing?