This popular phrase from a cell phone marketing campaign took on new meaning for me in the past few weeks. I developed a bit of a cold a couple of days before needing to fly to a region meeting. I am, or at least should be, more aware than the average person of the risks that flying with head congestion bring. I have on occasion even cancelled trips due to this type of concern. But like a lot of people, I felt this trip was too important to not go, and I know how to manage the risk (or at least I thought so).
So an overdose of Afrin nose spray and I was off. I could breathe fine, but it was not enough of a dose to have cleared the ears, and as I landed, besides the discomfort and pain, I would estimate my hearing was working at about 20 percent. I could hear, but it was like wearing earplugs and a set of sound reducing earmuffs. Not to worry, I thought, a couple of big yawns and they would pop and open up, probably before I got to the hotel. But worry I did, because as the hours passed the hearing did not improve, and by morning it was not much better. It was the next day before it was somewhat normal – and I was facing another flight.
I took another round of Afrin, but with a lot less confidence before I headed out. Long story short, I got very lucky – it is now 10 days since that last flight, and I can still hear. However, my ears still have a buildup of pressure that is stressing on my hearing. In fact, just this morning as I drove to work one ear cracked and popped, and my hearing cleared a bit more. But I am lucky – as I could just have easily found myself living in silence or with significant damage. It happens to people flying with congestion every year – we have seen it happen to Sertoma members. And most of those are not aware of the risk, so they are even less prepared to protect their hearing.
If you are less than excited about our national hearing health mission – consider how you might feel if you could not “hear me now.” Hearing loss may not kill people – but it surely changes lives– and not in a positive–way for millions. We may not be able to prevent all hearing loss, but we can prevent so much more than we do now. We can help prevent so much isolation and sadness as people lose the connection to sounds that we take for granted, much like the air we breathe.
It may not be sexy, or glamorous, or life saving. But today – right now – we can change lives for the better, save people pain and loss in the future. We have the tools; all we need is the passion, and the energy to move forward. These may not be the easiest of times – but it is the time we have, and I don’t want to use anymore of that time asking or being asked “can you hear me now?”