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For about ten minutes, she strained her ears for sound, raising her right hand from time to time. Only a few times did she raise her left hand, and that was from sounds so loud her right ear could pinpoint the direction. Then there came a stretch of several minutes when she didn’t hear anything, and finally, Mariah tapped her on the shoulder.
“He’s done,” she said with laughter in her voice. Bookworm peered around again, to see the doctor intently scribbling, pulling out one graph after another and studying them closely before going back to his notes. Finally, he sighed and looked up from the papers. Bookworm swiveled around on the stool, trying to read his expression.
“Well, then,” he said. “If your hearing was average before, your right ear is currently at about 40% of what it was. It does seem to be healing on its own, albeit slowly. If it’s possible, I’d like you to stay a few weeks, so I can continue to monitor it.”
Bookworm looked at Mariah, and the two exchanged wry smiles. “Considering we don’t have a home in Babbage right now, I’d say it’s possible,” Bookworm said. “What about my left ear?”
“That is another matter,” Dr. Miller said seriously. “The damage in that ear is too great–it will never heal or function on its own.”
Bookworm closed her eyes and sighed. She’d rather suspected that, but to hear the news said… “Is there anything that can be done?” she asked, opening her eyes again.
“Actually, yes.” Dr. Miller picked up something from the table and showed it to her. “Most people I treat opt for this device. It fits in and around the ear like so.” He put it in his own ear, showing how it was supported by the loop that went around the top of the ear. “It isn’t really much heavier than some earrings women wear,” he said. “It operates on special batteries I created for this. If you decide on this, I will, of course, undertake to keep you supplied with the batteries. However, considering your… line of work, I doubt that this is right for you.”
“Indeed,” Bookworm said. “I’d be advertising my weakness to everyone. All it would take would be for someone to damage or steal it–or even just for the batteries to die during a fight–and I’d be at a distinct disadvantage. So–what do the rest of your patients opt for?”
Dr. Miller removed the device from his ear, set it down, and then pointed to a petri dish. “This.” Bookworm peered inside, and saw a very small… something. “What is it?” she asked.
“This is, in essence, a mechanical eardrum.” Dr. Miller took a pair of tweezers and gently nudged the tiny device. “This can be surgically implanted in your ear, replacing your own damaged eardrum. And the best part is, whatever energy it needs to function, it draws from your own body processes–specifically, the small electrical fields of your brain.” He leaned back in his chair, a rather smug smile on his face.
A smugness that was justified, as far as Bookworm was concerned. “That’s amazing!” she exclaimed. Then she gave him a shrewd look. “So what’s the catch?”
Dr. Miller chuckled. “Very good. One problem is that it needs to be surgically implanted. Recovery will take a little time, and depending on the sorts of adjustments I may need to make, there may be a few more surgeries. Though once that is done,” he hastened to add, “it should last for your lifetime.”
“Well, we’d already decided I’d stay here longer, so that shouldn’t be an issue. What’s the other problem?”
His expression turning sober, Dr. Miller leaned forward, elbows on the table, leaning his head on his hands. “As remarkable as this small device is, it isn’t perfected. This–” he gestured to the small eardrum in the petri dish, “does not operate as efficiently as this.” He gestured to the larger device. “Patients using this aid usually experience no more than 10% hearing loss. With the implant, it could be as high as one third.”
Bookworm winced at that, and sat staring thoughtfully at the two devices that were on the table, literally and figuratively. Finally, she said, “I still think the disadvantages of the external device are worse. Let’s do the implant.”
“All right. I’ll start making the arrangements. It would be better if you stayed here for several days after the first surgery, for recovery and for any adjustments I need to make.”
Bookworm rose. “When will it be?”
“How about… two days from now?” Dr. Miller flicked a quick glance at Mariah, who gave him as quick a nod. She knew the doctor was a busy man. Getting Bookworm in that soon would cost extra, but Mariah would quietly make arrangements to pay that. She knew Bookworm would be anxious to return to Babbage soon; she just hoped her surprise would be ready before then.
After seeing the accommodations Dr. Miller had to offer, and at least partially discussing payments, Mariah and Bookworm took their leave. As they were riding back in another hansom cab, Bookworm asked, “So why was Dr. Miller so… discommoded about me being a Heroine?”
“Oh, you heard that?” Mariah asked, startled. “Well, about a decade ago, he was still living in Caledon. He came to the attention of a Hero–one who saw the trappings, and refused to consider further. Made life miserable for the doctor, until he finally decided to move here.”
“I see,” mused Bookworm. After a few minutes of silence, she said, “Well, I just hope he can deliver on what he says.”
“I’m sure he can.” Mariah placed a reassuring hand on Bookworm’s arm.
‘Well, we’ll find out soon enough,’ Bookworm thought as they arrived at her parents’ house, ready to tell them of what was to come.
((To be continued…))
Get well soon Miss Bookworm!
Surgery near the brain and on the ear drum itself…Book are you sure you’ve thought this through?