Wet Ears…

Larry Guterman
January 30, 2018

So my name’s Larry and I’m a movie director (maybe you’ve seen my movie “Cats and Dogs”) and I’ve been happily married for 20 years, have 3 beautiful kids, and I love hockey and The Beatles and Da Vinci and chocolate milk.

I also wear hearing aids and they are a pain in the ass.

In the morning, after I shower, I have to wait for my ears to dry, so I don't electrocute myself.

When the hearing aids are almost dry, I have to clean out my ear canals with tissue that rips up into itty bitty pieces. Try getting all those pieces out without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. Then I have to wipe down the aids so they aren't waxy from the night before. Put them into my ear canals and --whoa!  Microphone-level feedback kicks in!

"You're ringing" deadpans my wife, and since I hear this every single day, it takes all I have to cope.

I’m telling you all this because having hearing loss colors my every waking minute. And it’s been such a big issue in my life that I’ve dedicated huge chunks of time to improving my situation. Before I say more about this, let me back-track for a minute.

How did I end up here?

The Night that Changed Everything

Well, it started in an unusual way for a lifelong disability—in college at a ridiculously loud party in my freshman year.

The party was so loud, in fact, that my ears were in pain. You should not hang out at a party when you have actual physical pain in your ears.   Lesson number one. A lesson I learned too late.

But I was a freshman, so I made a terrible choice and stayed there late. Very late. My ears were ringing the next morning, the way they typically do after a really loud party or a concert. But something was different. The ringing didn’t fade away and vanish. It lasted a week.

This was the beginning of the end of my once-normal hearing. It deteriorated from that day onward. Now I have profound hearing loss—110-120 decibel loss above 1000 Hertz, while a year after the party my worst frequency indicated only 35 decibels of loss. 120 decibels is how loud a chainsaw is five feet from you.

Adventures in Audiology

Over the next decade or two after that college party, I visited 15 doctors, at illustrious clinics like Mass Eye and Ear in Boston, at the House Group in Los Angeles where they pioneered the cochlear implant, at UCSD, and at UCSF. Each one gave me a completely different diagnosis. I mean completely different—from cochlear otosclerosis (softening of the cochlea), to auto-immune disease, to genetic, to congenital, blah blah blah.

One thing they all agreed on, though, was this: The loud party did NOT cause my hearing loss. They all said noise-induced hearing loss NEVER causes deterioration over time. It’s always instantaneous--like when a gunshot goes off near your ear.

Except, one doctor at Stanford said it is PRECISELY what caused my loss.

So you can imagine this diagnostic waffling just made me more confused.

I’ve been on a journey, for sure. This was not the way I expected my life to go: To not be able to hear my daughter saying “I love you” when putting her to bed at night. To not catch the little jokey thing my wife whispered to me during a party. Or to miss half of what a producer was saying to me on a business call.

But I like to think I’ve risen to the challenge. Not only have I learned to cope, laugh, funnel my frustrations, and channel my creativity, but I think we’re onto something big here at SonicCloud. For my own sake and for everyone else who needs help with their hearing.

I’m thinking about that moment I was in college again. Because while something happened at that loud party that robbed me of my normal hearing, there was another thing that took place that led to my being able to have relaxed, easy, intimate conversations again today. I’ll tell you about it next week.