Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hear The World

Only a handful of people know this, but this is what has been bothering me lately.

A few months ago abruptly and without warning I lost hearing in my right ear completely. There was no pain, no ringing, no dire illness, no explosive sound causing damage, as far as I knew it was just gone when I woke up. Though I could still hear from the left ear, it became harder and harder to understand what people were saying because noise through the left ear sounded as if wind or static was in the background constantly.

At first I attributed it to a cold or something. You know, something that would go away. A week later with no improvement I began losing that hope and taking it more seriously.

I went to a regular MD, and later an ENT who had me on medications attempting to fix possible inner ear damage caused by a virus as well as an immediate MRI of the brain to rule out a tumor or other such growth in the brain. Awaiting the results of that MRI was the longest week of my life.

After many tests and examinations it was determined that the hearing loss in the right ear was severe where the loss in the left ear was only moderate. This meant I hear practically nothing at the moment from the right ear and can only hear well enough to understand from the left ear speaking to people in small groups, preferably 1 at a time. If there was a lot of traffic, or other background noise it made hearing (read: understanding) very difficult. Next to impossible, really.

To get an idea of what it's like to be deaf you can go here and listen through the moderate loss option, severe isn't even listed since people with my loss hear practically nothing. But it will give you an idea at least... Make sure you listen to the normal hearing afterward to compare the difference. Usually I'm just guessing at what someone has said to me and responding with what I think they asked/said/etc. Which creates a lot of misunderstandings, some of which can, at times be hilarious.


The medication did not help and the MRI came back clear. Which means I do not have a brain tumor. While that was definitely good news, it also meant that the cause of my hearing loss was irreparable -- I'd just have to live with it. Whatever had caused the damage in the first place had already run it's course. Based on my white cell count, the best estimate was fever.

I was told I would need a hearing aid in order to restore any of my hearing ability. That didn't seem so bad, I mean at least it's not fatal. I was then told that insurance doesn't cover most hearing aids because they are considered "medical devices" and that the very cheapest they come is $1000 and are as expensive as $25000!

Thankfully however Phonak does cater to people who are not rich and provides a line of products which are covered by many types of insurance.

I went to the audiologist for my consultation and submitted the forms to my insurance. Unfortunately this claim won't even hit the person who can clear it's desk until late April, so I probably won't have my hearing aid until sometime in May. Which of course means for the next 3 months I just have to do my best to understand what people are saying to me despite the fact I can't really hear them.

I was given a few guidelines to help me understand daily conversation:

1.) Always make sure to speak to people face-to-face so you can read their expression and the formations they make with their mouths.

I've actually tried this and it does help, but it's hard to get people to face you directly when they don't realize you cannot really hear them. I practically need to yell at them to get them to pay attention long enough for me to understand wtf they're saying. Most people don't have to deal with anyone who cannot hear them, so they just start talking and wander off, look at things around them, etc. It can be very frustrating.

2.) Try to avoid talking to more than 1 person at a time. This way what you do hear doesn't get drown out by two or more voices at once.

Granted this is a good idea, it's not really something I can apply very well. In my experiences people talk over one another all the time, usually without even realizing it. The fact they do it without realizing it is the part that makes it unreliable, even if I ask them politely to talk 1 at a time, they're still going to slip up.

3.) Avoid talking in areas with lots of background noise. Trying to hear someone over other people at a party, or over a radio is futile.

Yep, totally agree with the futile part. I can do this, but there are always going to be instances where I am in a social situation which revolves around that irritating "background noise." Watching a movie for example, or being at a party.

4.) Let people know you're hearing impaired.

You know, this seems like it would be the simplest solution to many of the problems listed above, but it's surprisingly not. Even people who know still do the exact same things the people who don't do. Not on purpose, but they forget, or get busy and that is very frustrating to me. I don't have the luxury of forgetting I'm hearing impaired.

Sorry just had to get that off my chest.

I'm not as pessimistic as this makes me seem. I'm honestly excited to receive my hearing aid in May and being able to hear the world again! My family has been great, though there are times I can't understand anything they're saying.

P.S. 11:11, I win!

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