VO Disasters: Half Deaf With Partial Facial Paralysis

September 5, 2015  |  Articles

So as calamities go, this isn’t really that big of one, overall I’m healthy, business is booming,  I’m not broke and my family are doing great. So thank God for all those things.

But I figure its a good idea to talk about a few things I’ve gone through recently that can seriously mess with your VO mojo.

A while back I was walking to the Mosque next door and on my way up the mountain (I live in Jordan so there are mountains everywhere) I was thinking. How messed up would it be for a voiceover artist to lose their hearing. How long can a VO artist continue to work in this field as his/her voice starts changing and maybe some kind of accident happens that might cause some sort of muscular fatigue or deterioration that might make them slur their speech or lisp.

In retrospect I think my mind should seriously stop wondering in those directions and SHUT UP, but the questions were asked and I guess in Allah’s (God in Arabic) great wisdom it was decided that I should get the front seat experience of at least two of the issues I was wondering about.

Say What?

The first of my trials happened suddenly, I went from a regular sniffling cold that sometimes blocks your ears… to some seriously intense pain in my right ear (my right your left) the pain was excruciating and akin to seriously bad tooth pain. My wife rushed me to the closest doctor and it was determined that I had an inner ear infection as well as water trapped in my inner ear (its the water that your body uses for pressurization).

Other than the nasty pain, I could not hear very well with that ear and it felt like all the fluids in my body were putting pressure the term I believe is “Blocked Eustachian Tubes”

Barotitis-anatomy-diagrom

The ENT (Ear / Nose / Throat) specialist said that I would be operating at 70% hearing in the blocked ear and that it would take around 15 days for things to heal up and for the fluids to clear.

Frustrating as it was, I couldn’t do anything about it and I went home and took my pain meds till the Anti-biotics reduced the inflammation in my Inner ear and I wasn’t in Agony all the time.

But the issue remained that for the next 2 weeks I was half deaf. Yes the Doctor said 70% but honestly it felt sometimes it was more like 50% or even 30% hearing. I would go to social gatherings and be oblivious to what’s going on around me because I honestly couldn’t hear anything from one side of my body. I’d apologize all the time to people trying to communicate with me and I couldn’t record to save my life for the first 3 or 4 days. Too much pressure on the ear drum and my left ear wasn’t used to handling a full load of work just by itself.

In addition to being half deaf, my ears were ringing. Its called tinnitus, not to be mistaken for tetanus. Tinnitus is a buzzy or ringing in your ears… constant never ending ringing. I used to get it for around 24 hours when my band played a loud concert back in my Uni years. But it never lasted 10 straight days… Its day 11 now and It’s still going albeit less loud than before.

I Can’t Feel My Face When I’m with You

So the second, and more alarming calamity for me, started a few days afterwards when I noticed that parts of the right side of my face were feeling numb. Tingling… it was weird cause even food tasted funny. For some reason I tried to keep it quiet and didn’t mention it to anyone, but my wife noticed and put her foot down, within the hour I was at the ENT doctor’s office and he was running some exams to see if I did, in fact, have partial facial paralysis. The water pressing on my inner ear was exerting pressure on one of the nerve clusters in that area and causing the right side of my face to go slack.

It doesn’t hurt, it just doesn’t respond, blinking is weird because part of your face functions at proper muscular speed but the other is at half speed. So by the time your left eye completes a full blink your right eye has only had a chance to for half a blink… which makes your right eye dry… so your tear ducts compensate by producing more tears… so sometimes my vision (on my right side) gets blurred cause my eye is tearing relentlessly.

2015-09-03 14.57.24

<- So this is me (just in case you’ve never seen a picture of me) and this is me trying to smile… the right side of my face (your left) is just not responding, the left has the usual muscles that contract for a smile contracting. It looks like I’m smirking but I’m really not… my wife tells me it looks like I’m being insincere in my smile but I was doing my best to be friendly to the camera.

Ultimately I am told that functionality will come back once the pressure in my inner ear abates. So we wait.

But the implications of this is what I am more interested in. If anything having this happen to me has given me perspective into something that I was sympathetic to … but only superficially. Like talking to someone who stutters and allowing them to finish their sentence instead of trying to complete it.

The Consequences

Being half deaf makes life very difficult. It makes driving, recording, communicating, things that I take for granted …. very very difficult. Having to ask people to constantly repeat stuff, having to remember not to answer your cell phone with your right hand because you’ll place the phone on your half deaf ear.

The facial thing isn’t so bad, though in my mind it feels a lot worse than it actually is. In my mind I feel like Quasimodo when in fact most people won’t notice it unless I try to crack a smile.

For recording, I have to use one of the ear cups instead of two. What I discovered was that if you use both cups, the water in your ear distorts the audio you are listening back to, it adds an extra note to the audio … creating dissonance. Meaning that sometimes if you are listening to some kind of music bed it’ll sound like its from a horror movie because its creepy and doesn’t sound quite right.

After recording I would think that my facial paralysis had caused some lisping to occur, this happens if I am wearing two headphone cups. But the moment I remove the one on my half deaf ear… things clear up and the lisp isn’t heard. It was confusing in the beginning but once I figured out that the fluid in my ear was causing distortions I just stopped wearing it.

The Good News

According to the doctor all of this will clear up once the fluids in my ear drain. The distorted hearing will stop, the deafness will go and the paralysis will slowly fade.

But that doesn’t mean that on several occasions my heart despairs and my thoughts turn dark thinking this will be my permanent condition.

Mind you it is scary, it isn’t a pleasant thought to contemplate but your mind and brain will eventually accommodate the situation. You can still do what you love, work in vo and live and semi-normal life. But it is not easy.

It is a lot of work. For me at least, I’ve been through this, I know what could happen in a situation like this where I would have to adapt. It scares me, but not as much.

Ear Infections are no joke, I learned that the hard way, but I also partook in a journey that essentially gave me a glimpse of the possibilities that life can throw your way.

I’m still half deaf, but I’m not in pain.

My face is still half numb, but it should go away.

And life goes on.

Coming up: My family and I might be moving down under.


2 Comments


  1. Hey bud,

    Just saw this…very sorry you have to go through this. Hope everything turns out for the best and you’re feeling normal soon.

    Best always,
    -Peter

    • Thanks Peter!

      I gotta say I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, though it has given me a better idea of what people who lose their hearing or that might suffer from partial facial paralysis might go through. The least of what I could gain from this is empathising with what they have to deal with.

      The few days between my getting the ear infection and getting back to doing VOs were a total dead time, maybe 4 or 5 days. That could mean serious trouble for some VO artists and it might mean losing some less understanding clients or money that is seriously needed. Artists need to think of an emergency fund as well as a way to communicate this issue to their agents so as not to lose further business.

      Its a big subject matter with many ramifications, I just spoke of the physical part of it… but there is so much more.

      Taji