by Chelle Wyatt
Last month I shared my most recent experience getting a hearing test, Hearing Tests: Mixed Emotions. The red & blue lines on my audiogram have mingled together in the past but this time, my red line took a step away from the blue one. My word discrimination went from 60% to 40% in that ear, with amplification. The audiologist said, “It’s only a little loss.” True, it’s only a step down but I certainly feel the grief for that little bit of hearing loss.
Among the hard of hearing (HoH) tribe we all fear hearing tests. When I told people I was going for my hearing test appointment, my HoHs checked on me before I went in and wished me luck. They asked me to touch base with them after because they know every little drop in hearing counts. We collectively hold our breath until we get results. They will congratulate me if there’s no change and they sympathize if there is a change.
A Small Drop in Hearing Explains Big Differences
When the audiologist told me it was just a small drop, it wasn’t that small to me. Right away it explained a few things that have been happening. When I sleep on my left side, sounds fade away. This is not a bad thing perhaps…unless there’s some emergency.
When I’m driving and someone is talking to me from the passenger side, I can’t just listen. I lean over the center console to get closer to the passenger, stealing glances for lipreading (this is with hearing aids in). This is not safe and there’s been a few close calls while trying to “hear” passengers. This new hearing test proves casual conversation in the car is not doable. That’s grief. People like to talk. I’m going to grieve that little bit of hearing loss.
In the living room, I sit off the left side of the couch in a recliner. That means my right ear points toward the couch. Not long ago, my husband accused me of tuning him out while watching TV. “I’m not, it’s just that all sound becomes background.” Looking at my current hearing test, that is an aha moment.
It adds up. I’m not shocked yet I still feel the stab of grief. It’s not a wave washing over me like the big hearing drops in the past. I’m thankful it’s not that. However, it creates a ripple in my life. It doesn’t just affect me, it affects my husband who has already confessed he misses casual conversation while watching TV.
The Tribe Understands the Grief
The HoH tribe understands this. That’s why not long after I got home, they were the first ones texting me asking for the results. They didn’t just ask me how much I lost, they wanted details. What was my word discrimination? What brand of hearing aid was suggested? Could I get colorful hearing aids? (Love that one because I will get color again.) Those in the tribe without hearing loss also checked in shortly after making sure I wasn’t knocked out of the ballpark again.
People outside the tribe say, “At least it wasn’t a big drop. Glad you’re getting new hearing aids.” The subject changes because they can’t know what it’s like until it happens to them. Maybe this is because I handle my hearing loss well these days. That doesn’t mean I don’t break down, that I don’t feel the loss. I keep putting one foot in front of the other.
The support from the tribe is comforting. It helps me to talk about it with them; the test, the brands and oh crap! Did I really forget to get my word discrimination scores?! And a copy of my audiogram?! I lost my senses… 20% more of my hearing. The following week I went back to test the hearing aids again and choose a brand. That time I made sure I had a copy of my audiogram with all the information.
Without chatting with my HoH friends, my grief might not have been understood. I greatly appreciate the tribe for this reason and more. This is why I encourage people to find other HoH friends. It helps immensely. I’m not devastated with this little drop in hearing. I’m not lost either, but there went a little more hearing… Again.
Can you hear my big sigh?
There are 48 million Americans with hearing loss. Some of us have found the tribe through community groups, however I still find many who feel alone with hearing loss. The SayWhatClub and our local HLAA chapter had my back with the last big drop in hearing 13 years ago. Without them, I would not be where I am now. I want everyone connected to that kind of energy.
Join the Hearing Loss LIVE! monthly Let’s Talk About It chats. Every month we have a different topic. We encourage participation but together we are better.
Try social media. There’s more than ever out there. There’s so many ways to connect with social media; Reddit groups, Facebook groups, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. Connect online, then attend a hearing loss convention.
My favorite is the SayWhatClub annual convention. They were there for me in the beginning back in the late 90’s and they are still there. Their conventions are small and intimate so we get to know each other. I’ll be presenting a workshop for them this year in Vancouver Canada: Technology for Communication with Hearing Loss. More information on that soon.
The tribe is hard of hearing, but it also includes faithful hearing partners. Let’s also be sure to include our wonderful CART providers and dedicated providers of assistive listening. It’s those who provide hearing instruments and give us all the resources and knowledge we need to be successful. (See our visit with Dr. Ingrid McBride.) It’s anyone who tries to spread awareness about hearing loss and communication needs.