Total Pageviews

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Today I ended a two-week trial using hearing aids. I'm relieved, so far, to have those things out of my ears, but the trial was more revealing than I expected.

First let me explain that I am far from deaf; I have, however, a genetic issue that makes mid-range and low-range voices difficult for me to comprehend, especially in environments where any other noise is going on or when I can't see the speakers face and lips, to get visual clues to what they are saying. My son, who is much younger than me, has the same exact difficulty, and he has worn hearing aids for more than five years now. For that reason, I can at least say my hearing issue isn't one caused by old age. I take some solace in that fact, anyway.

Probably because of my age, however, I gets all sorts of offers for free hearing tests, all given by companies that also sell hearing aids. No surprise there. When the offer for a free trial came in, though, and for a type of hearing aid that is invisible, because it is inserted near the eardrum, my interest grew. It had many advantages, in that they were a type that stays in the ear. I did not have to take them out to shower or sleep. In fact if I did take them out, they would have to be reinserted at the audiologist's office; I could not insert them myself.

Not convinced that I needed hearing aids at all, but aware of my difficulty understanding certain vocal ranges, I went in, subjected myself to all the tests, and sat while tiny yellow devices were placed deep in my ear canal. The audiologist then walked out the door and down the hallway, where I could not see her. Along the way, she asked me questions as she went. I heard each question clearly and could answer easily. Bingo! Maybe we were onto something, I thought.

I went to a party that Saturday night, my new hearing aids secretly tucked inside my hear where no one could see them. I thought I would have a great time, able to hear everyone who spoke to me. Instead I felt as if I had my fingers in my ears, but all the ambient voices attacked me anyway. I did not like the feeling. I wanted to rip those things out of my ears, but I didn't.

On the upside, at home I could turn the television volume down considerably. On the downside, my adorable parakeet's squawks made me jump through the roof. I have no loss of hearing at the high-pitch range, and the analog hearing aids amplified everything, high and low. Ugh.

The next big test came on a Tuesday, when I bowl in a league. More than twenty lanes of people bowling, bowling, bowling, unnerved me with my new hearing aids. Despite all the noise, though, if someone stood right in front of me and talked, I could hear the voice coming through all the noise. I thought it was a little improvement over being without hearing aids, but was it enough?

My ears itched at time, and I was told not to put my finger in my ear, because I could push the appliance farther into the ear canal than intended. I couldn't wash my ears, either. Ick. Although I had been told that swimming was okay, as long as I didn't put my head fully under water, I put off pool aerobics, because I like to swim a few laps, too, as long as I'm in the pool. Another drawback.

Toward the end of the trial, when I had decided the hearing aids were not for me, I called my son to ask him about his hearing aid experience. His voice, which is in the low range that is difficult for me to hear, came through loud and clear for the first time in years. Ah, a plus. During our discussion he admitted, "Mom, it's been frustrating to talk to you for many years."

I knew I often asked him to repeat himself and complained that he mumbled, but he did not sound like he was mumbling when I wore the hearing aids. Maybe I was the one at fault after all.

He quickly backtracked and apologized for saying anything bad, but I stopped him and thanked him for his honesty. I needed to know the truth. I have thought I did not really need hearing aids because I live alone, and no one has ever complained about my requests for repetition, not even my sweet son, who had been suffering in silence. He lives in D.C., though, while I'm in Georgia, and we talk to each other only every few weeks. Hm. Maybe he would call more often, if he didn't get reamed out for his alleged mumbling.

Okay, today I am relieved to have those plugs taken out of my ears, but I'm a little more convinced that I may need hearing aids. I'm educating myself about other types of hearing aids that are more programmable, so that they help me with the mid range without hurting my ears by amplifying high-pitch sounds that I already hear quite clearly. I see hearing aids in my future, but not quite yet. It's a big decision, a serious life change, to admit to any physical disability. In addition, it's a big step to get into the habit of wearing hearing aids.

I did hear my son's voice more clearly than I have in years, though, and that thought alone has kept me thinking that maybe the time has come. Or maybe I'll wait until 2014. Then again, maybe I don't need hearing aids at all. Oh, what to do?

How does anyone admit hearing defeat and spring for hearing correction? Hmm. Much to think about.