Biking Uphill in Third Gear

My Struggle to Follow Up with My Hearing Doctor

Biking Uphill in Third Gear
Over a year has elapsed since I’ve had my hearing tested, although my otolaryngologist recommends every five or six months. I tell myself that by submitting to hearing tests less often, more money will be left for my son’s tutor or my daughter’s travel soccer fees. My father is a strong proponent of stretching out medical appointments. Recently during one of our long distance phone chats, he crowed that he was going to the dentist not twice a year as recommended, but every seven months.

I ruminate that my procrastination is genetic, that I’m simply doomed to stretch out my medical appointments.

Over the past 20 years, my high-frequency hearing loss has slowly been worsening. “It’s progressive,” I admit to people, “but at a very slow rate. Seems to be holding fine for now.” I try to end with a cheerful note to my voice.  In fact, I’m not sure whether my hearing is the same as it was the year before. The distressing rate at which I have been saying ‘what?’ to people or even faking through parts of conversations with a sympathetic laugh makes me wonder. Instead of picking up the phone to make an appointment, I ruminate that my procrastination is genetic, that I’m simply doomed to stretch out my medical appointments.

I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, a valley city in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. After I turned 13, sometimes during hot afternoons, Dad and I would bike to the Saguaro National Monument, where the columnar Saguaro cacti, placid, constant, slow-growing, stood scattered across the mountain hillsides. This was the time that my mother referred to as “your father’s mid-life crisis,” but in reality that time was the beginning of the end of their marriage.

The way to the monument was a slow uphill test of stamina as the bike path climbed into the mountain foothills. We had moved to Tucson when I was four, and I prided myself that I was able to cycle 10 miles in the 100-degree-plus weather without suffering heat exhaustion. My face and body felt damp with sweat, and the skin around my lips tasted salty. A few paces ahead of me, Dad hunched over his bike, his thin calves rotating as he pumped the pedals. Now that he was exercising, his flat tire of a stomach had deflated. Yet he panted so hard that even I could hear his rasping breath.

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Copyright © 2018 Nancy M. Williams. All Rights Reserved.


  1. What a lovely essay. I applaud the image of the pleated saguaros. I deplore the losses in your life, especially the hearing. For one who loves music and the spoken word, I truly can not imagine the bleak tunnel ahead. But make those appointments, and keep them. Perhaps a miracle will happen and a cure will arise. Regardless, knowing you did all you could makes much more sense than peddling uphill in third gear!!

    • Thank you, Nancy, for your words about the essay and also of encouragement. I’m very hopeful for a cure, and being an active board member of the Hearing Health Foundation, which is researching a cure, helps me feel that I’m doing everything I can.

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