Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Huh? The world of the hearing challenged

I had an appointment with a new and very helpful audiologist today. I've been "hearing challenged" for twenty years or so, many of them spent in denial. Not me, I said. I never listened to loud music much. I didn't fly in a lot of airplanes. I finally got over my denial when I read that women who had been given a certain combination of hormone therapy were experiencing early hearing loss. My family pushed, shoved, and threatened not to talk to me if I didn't do something about it. The first EENT doctor I went to said I needed an aid in at least one ear, he didn't care which one, and had his audiologist hand me a pair to take home and try on. No testing, no fitting, no directions. I declined, went to a commercial audiologist and was tested, fitted with aids, and seen every three months. Three pairs of hearing aids later (and they are not cheap!) my hearing is still a problem.
In really noisy restaurants, I might as well rudely pull out my cell phone and occupy myself because I can't hear a word; church is difficult but I catch most of it; even a gathering of six for happy hour in my own home was difficult for me today. I kept waving my hands and saying what we say to the grandchildren, "Inside voices! Inside voices!" The phone is impossible and particularly difficult with my brother who gets upset when I can't hear and don't tell him. And this morning Jordan was trying to say "warm, wet washrag" to me and she might as well have been speaking Greek. I had to hand the phone to Jacob. Sometimes, you can hear the person talking clearly but the comprehension just isn't there. As a result, I'm probably really rude to telephone solicitors, and every once in a while I come close to missing an important call because I don't understand what's being said.
Today I learned that I haven't had my hearing tested in four years; nor have my hearing aids been adjusted to my changing needs. I was tested (actually improved a bit), the aids adjusted. I learned how to hold the cell phone so that the speaker is directly over the receiver of my aid instead of squarely in my ear. I was challenged to wear my aids all day every day so my brain wouldn't have to keep trying to adjust. Other hints included sitting as far from loudspeakers as possible in restaurants, and sitting with my back to the noise. There's more to be done, but I feel encouraged tonight. When I came home at lunch, even the domestic sounds of rattling around in the kitchen sounded loud.
Hearing loss, as I've learned, can isolate you, even from friends you care about, and it frustrates those around you. I'm going to keep working at this. And if you're in denial, as I was, go do something about it. You'll be glad.

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