Whimsy for Today

Becky Kueker

My husband and I recently celebrated our anniversary and, of course, pictures were taken. I sent them off to friends and family and received several back from anniversaries celebrated many years ago. As I sat studying the 1970s to the 2021 pictures, I did a double take—something has happened to my ears. They are sticking out from the side of my head like Dumbo about ready to take flight. “What on earth?” I thought in shock as I rushed to the mirror. Had I just not noticed my ears protruding before? Had the masks been too tight? It’s not bad enough that your nose grows bigger as you age, but now I have protruding ears. Yikes!

Whipping up the laptop, I asked Google to research, and found out that masks can cause ear infections and TMJ. Tautly-stretched mask ear loops lead to discomfort, which I know because my ears start hurting after an hour. So do I have COVID ears because of the mask? Well, Palo Alto, Calif., facial plastic surgeon Jill L. Hessler, M.D., says yes you could. “I have seen more inquiries and discussion about protruding ears since wearing masks. Wearing masks for the past year with straps that secure the mask to the face can pull down, bringing increased attention to the ears. Patients that have been concerned with the prominence of their ears are now more bothered by it than ever.”

So there you go. I was right—there is such a thing as COVID ears. Looking at those old pictures I can tell that my ears are much more prominent. Should we start wearing our masks backwards to get our ears back in shape now that things are opening up? What a dilemma. Have we not had so much to worry about during the last year, and now prominent ears are an issue?

At the grocery store I looked at people carefully while pushing my cart down the aisles. I spotted many with COVID ears and wondered should I alert them? Some were much younger and have more to lose as they age. At my age I guess I am stuck with my big nose and now floppy ears but younger people can still save themselves. Is this the price we all pay for doing our job of masking up and saving others? Will this be a new generation moving forward with big ears that never retreat because of COVID? So many kids whose ears are not even fully developed are having to wear masks. Where are the doctors when you need them for these kinds of life-altering discussions?

I alerted my husband immediately to the COVID ears issue, but he said I was just paranoid because of my nose and to give it up. I sized his ears up while he was watching TV and they seemed ok. His nose however, not so much. I guess we will see the COVID fallout in the next few years as more and more issues come to light for other reasons. Me, I’m checking out a new hairdo to cover my COVID ears!

After retiring from a career as senior partner in a commercial architectural and interior design firm, Becky Kueker published a memoir on life after retirement, Hiding in My Pajamas that launched a national speaking career. Her second book, A Classic in Clown Shoes was published in May 2019. Her books are filled with deep, funny, and intimate discussions and poignant stories from women and men who have proven that aging does not have to define you and that laughter changes everything.