My Journey with Sudden Hearing Loss

They say that people like writing where the author reveals vulnerability. I would like to do that, but I just HATE revealing vulnerability. It probably has something to do with my Y chromosome. Deep in my tribal ape chest, there is an instinctive voice that calls out, “Fool! Don’t!” That voice knows what happens next. You’re telling them how to take you down. The alpha chimps will see their advantage, and all will be lost.

I mean, I’m guessing it works something like that. But who knows? The subconscious doesn’t like giving up its secrets. Anyway, I’m willing to admit this approach is not wise.

On the other hand, let me tell you how impressed I am with my wife. When something is going badly for her, the first thing she does is talk to her friends about it. This has a number of benefits. It draws her closer to her friends. It helps her process the trouble. It opens doors for things that might help that she wouldn’t have otherwise known about. It helps her heal. I need to learn from my wife. Because alpha male nonsense leaves me ruminating in dark, lonely circles.

So here is my vulnerability. Here is the pain which I reveal against instinct. I was recently diagnosed with something that goes by the sinister name of Sudden Hearing Loss (or more dramatically, Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss). Sometime in September, after a shower it felt like I still had some water in my ear. The feeling wouldn’t clear, no matter how much I blew my nose or shook my head. The ENT doctor who saw me a few weeks later only needed thirty seconds to diagnose me. It wasn’t fluid in my ear. It was Sudden Hearing Loss. He put me on a course of prednisone, which sometimes helps if you catch it early and you’re lucky. But I was either too late or unlucky. The condition is almost certainly permanent.

Sudden Hearing Loss sounds pretty awful, right? It can have varying severity, but in my case I have decreased hearing in some frequencies in my right ear. It’s noticeable, but it’s not like it made me deaf. It could have been worse. It can always be worse. But that’s not the end of the story. That lost hearing wasn’t replaced with silence. It was replaced with a high-pitched whine. Or sometimes a hiss. You probably know the fancy name for this: tinnitus. It makes my fingers twitch just to type that word.

And where does Sudden Hearing Loss come from? What causes it? Shrug. Nobody knows. They kind of guess, working backward, that it’s probably a virus. No idea which one. This scene pops into my head. There I am, showing a policeman my house. The attic has been ransacked, and a cruel wind is whistling through the shattered window. “Yep,” says the policeman. “You’ve been robbed.” He closes his notepad and makes for the door. I call out, “Wait! What are you going to do about it?” He says, “Nothing to do.” Following him, I persist: “Who do you think did this?” He puts on his hat and shrugs as he gets into his cruiser, “Maybe a virus?”

I’m so tired of viruses.

So now I’m trying to reach an accommodation with this unrelenting phantom noise. It is not fun. It tends to amplify other stress and rumination cycles. Which I don’t recommend, but there it is. The good news is, I’m told by other sufferers that things do get better. Over time. So that’s where I am. Letting cool time wash over my abused ear and vibrating brain, that it might bring lasting peace. May it be so!

That leaves me here, face to face with you, dear reader, dear friend. I have always disliked solicitous pity. I have always wanted to be the strong one, the non-broken one. Who doesn’t? But this is where I am. This is my vulnerability. Whether you sympathize, help, or just listen to my story, it’s good for me to share. If you have experience or recommendations regarding Sudden Hearing Loss or tinnitus, drop me a line! I am, as they say, all ears.

Making Robots That Matter

The phrase “home robot” famously makes people think of Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons. Rosie is a humanoid drop-in, a one-for-one replacement for a competent human housekeeper. That’s what people want. But they’re not going to get that anytime soon.

Rosie can do it all

Rosie is too ambitious for the real world. Consider one basic task: folding a t-shirt. From a robot’s point of view, this is nightmarishly complex, something that only a dedicated expensive research robot can manage (see New research helps robots fold laundry faster than ever before).

Willing to pay for this and a dedicated post doc just to fold your t-shirts?

So is the whole field of domestic robotics a bust?

When we look around the corner, we often look too far. What happens instead is generally limited and in a different direction. The good news is that there has already been a successful domestic robot. It succeeded by being just cheap and competent enough at one narrowly defined skill: vacuuming. Roomba isn’t Rosie, but it’s real and it’s here.

The phrase “robot for seniors” also conjures up images of a Rosie-like entity doing many useful things for compromised seniors. But Labrador Systems may have hit on the right mix of useful, not too expensive, and achievable. They sell a robot that is essentially nothing more than an end table that can move itself autonomously between various defined “bus stops” in your house. For someone who is mobile but compromised in their ability to carry, this simple device can make all the difference between independent living and needing expensive in-home care.

It’s just a self-driving table.

Is it even a robot? Who cares? It doesn’t matter if it’s useful.

Labrador Systems deploys its first assistive elder-care robots | TechCrunch.

C-SPAN and Soccer

On an ordinary day, the C-SPAN cameras in the U.S. House of Representatives focus on a solitary speaker behind the podium, droning on about something not terribly interesting. If the camera did bother to show the floor of the House, you would see that it was almost empty.

But these are not ordinary days. The process of selecting a speaker has the place in disarray, and the C-SPAN cameras are off the leash, panning across the floor like a sports arena.

When I saw this video of Jim Jordan’s conversation with Kevin McCarthy, it occurred to me that these guys aren’t used to conferring on camera. Not when the sausage is being made. C-SPAN has put us in, as Hamilton says in the musical, the room where it happens.

Kevin McCarthy chats with Jim Jordan

Maybe Kevin and Jim should take a tip from athletes that confer on field. Soccer players know: cover your mouth when you’re discussing whether that next kick is going left or right.

The lads from Glasgow Celtic have a chat

I’m no lip-reader, but I’d say the next play in the House is going right. Just a hunch.