By Chelle Wyatt
In 30 plus years of wearing aids, I’ve never had hearing aids longer than 6 years until now. My current pair of aids are over 8 years old so this is a milestone. They might go 10 years with effort. There are minor glitches such as static on the right side until I wiggle the wire to my ear mold. They also don’t sync together, that means I have to change programs on both sides instead of one. Nothing huge but I’ve decided It’s time for new technology with more connectivity.
This involved getting a new hearing test. My last hearing test was over four years ago. I suspect there’s been some change but nothing huge. Hearing loss can be sneaky, dropping slowly therefore easily dismissed. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve had a significant drop in hearing and this too is another personal record.
New Hearing Aids
Overall, I’m excited for the opportunity to get new hearing aids. It’s a new adventure with new technology. I’m going to love being able to tweak programs in the app more to my liking. (I’m a bit of a control freak.) My new audiologist is hard of hearing himself. I’ve heard good things about him through my local HoH friends so he comes with recommendations.
He waved me into his office for a chat before the test. Because he’s hard of hearing, he’s good about facing me while talking. I didn’t wear my hearing aids going in, what for? They are going to come out for the hearing test anyway. I let him know. He goes on with questions about my history with hearing loss. There’s a small moment of panic as I get used to his voice and how he talks. I remind myself to wait for it, a technique we teach in our Lipreading Concept class. I catch on and it gets easier.
He asks about my last hearing test 4 ½ years ago. I forward my last audiogram to his email. He looks at it and looks back at me, “I’m really surprised you are doing so well without hearing aids” I tell him, “It’s because I’ve learned to advocate for myself and I teach lipreading classes.”
Lipreading & Self Advocacy
Hearing loss doesn’t get better, but I “hear” better than I have in years. What gives? It was me and my ability to create healthy communication boundaries using the 3 Golden Rules. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, no hearing devices…these 3 rules have to be applied for successful communication:
Hearing aids are a great tool. I’ll never be without hearing aids as long as they help me. However, hearing aids alone haven’t gotten me where I am. It’s also taken the tribe, accommodations and being proactive.
the Hearing Test
He uses a soundproof booth, something my last audiologist didn’t do. It feels odd getting back into one. Funny thing is, I’ve been in this very booth before. My first audiologist in Utah had this office. He retired and this new AuD bought the business. Once hooked up, he starts with the beeps. I wait…and wait. I’m picking through what is tinnitus and what are real tones. Sometimes my tinnitus mimics the beeps.
Next came the word discrimination test. It’s a computer voice, no lipreading is possible. Cowboy. Hotdog. I repeat what I hear. Those words are expected from years of previous hearing tests. Then it goes into one syllable words which are harder. Because he’s hard of hearing, he has to stop the computer voice and ask me to spell what I heard. I can tell I heard wrong because I see the corner of his eyes crinkle up into a smile above his monitor.
Hearing in Noise Test
All these years, I’ve never had a “hearing in noise” test, abreviated as HINT. It starts with multiple people talking and at some point I’m supposed to pull in a voice that sounds closest to me and repeat what I hear. Out of 3 examples, I’m only able to figure out some words on the first test. The next two tests I couldn’t pull a word from. It blew my mind. I suck at hearing without my eyes.
After the tests are all done we go over my results. In the past, my ears have stayed about equal, the red and blue lines (for right ear and left ear) mingled and crossed as they plunge down to the profound in a classic ski slope hearing loss. This time, my left ear has only dropped a tiny bit in a few frequencies. My right ear, however, has taken its leave of the blue line. Its line now stands alone below the blue line. My word discrimination is 64% in the left ear and 40% in the right ear, with the appropriate level of amplification. “It’s a small drop in hearing.”
The 20% drop of word discrimination in one ear doesn’t hit me all at once. It’s only a little loss. True enough, I’ve had bigger drops in the past. Count myself lucky??? Plus, I have already been dealing with the hearing loss without knowing it for probably the last six months. As I sit in the office, a few pieces of the puzzle slide together with recent incidents.
It is a loss.
He lets me try a pair of hearing aids in the office to see what I think. I wasn’t sure so we made another appointment to try other brands. As I leave, I feel the excitement of new hearing aids. It takes a day or two for me to mull over the 20% loss of word discimination in the right. A little grief starts to settle in.
To be continued.
Even though it’s “only a little loss”, it has ramifications. I feel the loss and it shows in my day to day life. I’ll explore that in another blog soon.
Past posts that might interest you…
Did you like this blog? Read more about our Lipreading classes. These classes have made a difference in my day to day communication. We shared Vulnerability with hearing loss in this blog/podcast.
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