Hear Better by Blowing Your Nose

Kathi Mestayer is an occasional contributor to the Better Hearing Consumer. This week, she shares two startling discoveries she made when she felt the urge to blow.


by Kathi Mestayer


Just before the holidays, I was standing at the kitchen counter, listening to NPR’s morning news show, and I felt a little stuffed up. I grabbed a tissue and blew my nose. Instantly, as if by magic, the volume on the radio went up by half! At least!

After turning it down a bit (maybe not quite as much as it went up), I realized that my ears must have been blocked up. Interesting. Could this be why I’d been having more trouble hearing things lately (notably, my husband, but what else is new)? I had been a little congested, which is not unusual at this time of year when chronic sinus problems kick in. I took my temperature with my vintage mercury-and-glass thermometer, but it was just below 98.6. End of story, or so I thought.

Coincidentally, I had an appointment with the doctor that day to go over my back x-rays. The high-tech, digital thermometer said my temperature was 98.4….so the mercury thermometer is still right!

After the x-ray discussion, I told the doctor about the congestion and the surprise nose-blowing volume boost. She left the room and popped back in with the little device she uses to peer into my ears, nose, and throat. I took my hearing aids out, and she saw a little puffiness in my right ear. Then, as she looked up my right nostril, she raised her eyebrow. That got my attention.

Next came the stethoscope and I took really, really deep breaths (I am a very obedient patient). When she finally pulled away from my chest, she said, “You have pneumonia.  Walking pneumonia.”  Huh, how could that be? I had no temperature. I felt okay.

But apparently they call it walking pneumonia because it’s such a mild form of pneumonia (usually caused by a bacterial infection) that people often think they just have a cold. In some cases, walking pneumonia can cause a middle ear infection with temporary hearing loss. In addition, untreated walking pneumonia can lead to permanent hearing damage. So, now I’m on steroids plus antibiotics, have an inhaler to use as needed, and carry around tissues (or extra little party napkins that I decided I’d never use.)

For the time being, if I notice (or think I notice) I’m having a little more trouble hearing than usual, I blow my nose and it works like a charm. At the pharmacy last week, I noticed a young woman and her son waiting for their prescription to be filled. He was a cutie, with a Star Wars sword that was too big for him sticking up from behind his shoulder. As I headed for the door, I heard something, but figured it was the mother and son talking. 

Then, two steps out the door, I heard it again, louder this time. It was the Star Warrior, propping the big door open with his foot, smiling at me and saying…something. So, I walked with him back inside and looked at his mother who said, “He said Happy New Year!” 

Oh, FCOL (For Cryin’ Out Loud)! You’d think I’d have figured that one out. I smiled at her, and said, “I’m hard of hearing, and stuffed up, so it’s worse than usual.” She got it.

I left again, this time wishing the little boy a happy new year, got into the car, and blew my nose. And in case you’re curious, this is the napkin I blow my nose on when I’m out of tissues:



kathi mestayerKathi Mestayer writes for Hearing Health Magazine, Be Hear Now on BeaconReader.com, and serves on the Board of the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.  In this photo she is using her iPhone with a neckloop, audio jack, and t-coils which connects her to FaceTime, VoiceOver, turn-by-turn navigation, stereo music and movies, and output from third party apps, including games, audiobooks, and educational programs.



About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a sought-after speaker for her humorous and insightful performances about hearing loss. Unheard Voices and EarRage! are ground-breaking solo shows that illuminate the profound impact of hearing loss on a person’s life and relationships, and which Gael has presented to appreciative audiences around Canada, the United States and New Zealand. A DVD/video version of Unheard Voices is now available. She has received awards for her work, including the Consumer Advocacy Award from the Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Gael lives with her husband and son in Toronto.

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