Dear Reader

This blog is no longer active as of 2017.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dear Readers

When I put myself out on cyberspace via a personal blog, I wondered who in the world would be reading my posts. At first it seemed that no one was reading them or even aware that my blog existed. I had to twist the arms of friends and family members to take a look and plead for them to leave a comment. With their encouragement and the support of another blogger, I added my blog to DeafRead, a blog aggregator. That really boosted my readership.

Becoming part of DeafRead also made me aware of how many terrific blog writers there are on the subject of hearing loss. I actually started my blog because I wanted to create a site with the kind of information I was desperate for when I first learned I had a hearing loss. I wanted to know if what I was experiencing was "normal" LOL. There was no one I knew personally that I could ask and I hated to keep pestering my audiologist when I came in for my appointments. I also wanted to share the funny stories my adjustment to life with hearing loss and hearing aids seemed to generate.

When comments started to appear on my blog, I was thrilled. There were people out there who understood, who could laugh with me, and even better, educate and inspire me.

Once I made an email address available, I received some personal notes from readers. So far I have heard from a library school student, another hard of hearing librarian, a late deafened adult who has had a positive experience with life after hearing loss, a fellow headache sufferer and hearing aid wearer, and a doctoral student in audiology. I've enjoyed corresponding with them all.

Several weeks ago I hit a personal low and deleted my blog. I was really surprised how disappointed some people were. At least the ones who could tell me that to my face! Thankfully, I got my act together and decided to see if I could salvage some of my favorite posts and rebuild what I could and start fresh.

Dear readers, this blog would not be worth the screen time without you. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Best Gag Birthday Gift I've Seen

Last Saturday night, my husband and I attended the 50th birthday party of a wife of one of his long time friends. We brought with us a gift bag holding 50 golf balls and a funny card. A bowler and a golfer, she laughed when she saw it, especially when she read my note that said we had considered bringing 50 bowling balls, but the golf balls proved easier to carry. Hee, hee. Her husband told us he had given her a red thong for her birthday. I wasn't sure what to say to that... Imagine my delight when I saw her later wearing it on her head as a hat!

The surprise hit of the evening was inside a beautifully wrapped box sitting innocently among a pile of presents on the table. Not everyone had gone with a humorous gift, she also received some lovely clothes and jewelry. However, inside this present was a note on top that read "When I am old I shall wear purple" a reference to this popular poem. Underneath a layer of tissue paper was a purple dress - an old lady house dress. Good sport that she is, she immediately put it on. Underneath the next layer of tissue was an old lady pocketbook with a note that said "look inside". There she found a rouge blusher, sponge curlers, and a pair of reading glasses. She put the reading glasses on and announced, "Hey, I can see with these things!" At her friends' urging, she put the pocketbook on her arm. Next inside was a support bra. She had already received a birthday card with the words to the song "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" changed to "Do Your Boobs Hang Low?" She put the bra on over the dress. Tee hee. There was one final item in the box - a crocheted shawl. She gamely put that on too and before our eyes she had aged to a much older person. Everyone was roaring with laughter. But wait, something was missing. Where was the card that revealed who had brought this unique gift? Nowhere to be seen and no one would own up to it either. Someone suggested to her that she pass it on to her next friend that turns fifty, maybe with some support stockings added. Regifting at its finest.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mamma Mia!

I couldn't find a captioned version, so here's what they're saying:

[Music playing throughout.]
Every girl has a dream... "I want the perfect wedding and I want my father to give me away!" Meryl Streep: "Look at my baby! Her whole life ahead of her."
Every family has a secret..."I've read mom's diary and I have three possible fathers." "Oh my God!"
Every wedding has a few surprises. "Which one did you invite?"
Meryl Streep: "ooof". Pierce Brosnan: "You always knew how to make an entrance."
Meryl Streep: "There were three guys around the same time."
"You shady lady!"
Pierce Brosnan: "The last time I saw your mother she said she never wanted to see me again." Pierce Brosnan: "Donna!"
"So who is your dad?" "I don't know!" "It's very Greek!"
Meryl Streep: "Somebody up there has got it in for me. I bet it's my mother."
This July take a trip down the aisle you'll never forget.
Colin Firth: "Is your father here?" "You tell me!"
[all three men together each saying part]:"Sophie! I am your father!"
"What!" "Typical. Wait 20 years for a dad and three come along at once." "I've got three dads coming to my wedding and I have to tell two of them they're surplus. But which two?"
"Are you getting any?" Meryl Streep: "What do you mean?" drill sound.
"I don't care if you slept with hundreds of men." Meryl Streep:"I haven't slept with hundreds of men." Meryl Streep:"You sound like you're having fun already." "Oh, we are." Meryl Streep:"I used to have fun." "Oh, we know." giggle

I went to see this movie tonight with my girlfriend, Rachel. Oh, did we have fun. Both of us like ABBA music and Colin Firth. We part ways over Pierce Brosnan. I just don't see his attraction (with the exception of the Thomas Crown affair where he was really hot with Rene Russo). When Rachel started oohing and aahing over him, I made pretend retching motions into my empty popcorn container. hee hee.

Rachel and I have talked before about how great it would be to travel to Greece together. Now we want to go and reenact the movie's great musical numbers. Our favorite was "Dancing Queen" where all the women of the village join in singing and dancing and feeling seventeen and desirable again.

As you can tell from the script above, the movie has lots of funny lines. We laughed almost the whole way through. I did tear up during the song "The Winner Takes It All" which Meryl Streep sings to Pierce Brosnan. That song has always gotten to me.

The wedding story has a twist at the end which I don't want to reveal. Maybe you'll see it coming, but I didn't. I left the theatre with a dance in my step and a song in my heart.

Friday, July 25, 2008

When a Sense Fails It's No Sense of Failure

Last Saturday my mother-in-law celebrated her 94th birthday. To mark the occasion, my husband, son, and I went to see her at her nursing home. She was feeling fine so we took her out for a birthday lunch. At 94 years of age, this is not an easy thing to accomplish, but with the help of her walker, her wheelchair, my husband's supportive arms, and given all the time she needed to manuever, she managed quite nicely.
We went to a nearby restaurant that she had been to many times before with us and with other family members. What we had forgotten was how dimly lit this place is even at lunchtime. It was a problem because my mother-in-law is losing her vision. It's been a long time since she was able to read and now even discerning the outlines of objects around her is becoming difficult. I was startled on a previous visit when she was unable to tell if it was me or my husband who was standing next to her until I spoke. Fortunately for her, she still retains good hearing, and I think she relies on that more than we know to decipher the world around her.
A darkened restaurant out of her normal surroundings proved to be rather confusing for her. When she asked us about the dog sitting on a nearby table, I knew she was struggling. I felt so empathetic. I know what it's like to try and pull meaning out of something that doesn't seem right and to come up with the wrong conclusion. There wasn't a dog on the table. In fact, we never did figure out what she was looking at that seemed doglike. Without my own experience with a diminished sense, I would have been sure that she was becoming mentally unsound. Yes, her memories have gotten a bit mixed up and sometimes my husband is her son and other times he's her brother. But in this case, I think there was something else going on.
We rely on our senses to provide us with the cues that help us understand our surroundings. When one of those senses fails, our brain tries to fill in the gaps but isn't always successful. When we're placed in a challenging situation (think a noisy crowded party for those of us with hearing loss), we're bound to make a few mistakes. As long as we're with people who love us, it will be okay. The important thing that is that we're together and we're celebrating life.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer in My Garden

Originally posted June 9, 2008

I was inspired by DebAnn's Summer Song and LaRonda's Spreading Some Heartshine to share with you some lovely photos of summer in my garden.

These irises are my "legacy" flowers. They were given to me by my Uncle Henry out of my late grandmother's garden. The one on top is a bluish-white and the one on the bottom is a yellow iris. They are so fragile and last only a brief time.

Once the irises are gone, it's time for the peonies to take the stage. These flowers were here when we bought our house. We've been able to divide them twice and transplant them to other areas of our yard. What's interesting about the peonies is that they come out in tight buds which are opened by ants. The ants climb over the buds for a few days before they blossom. These peonies are a light pink and have a delicate fragrance.

These photos show the gate on the side of our garage that leads to the backyard. Aren't these lovely hanging baskets? They feature petunias which like to be in a sunny spot. An annual, petunias will continue to bloom all summer if they are watered and given plant food.

This is my new glider swing, just purchased two weeks ago. Where it stands now, we used to have my son's swingset. Now that he's outgrown it, I was pleased to pass it on to a friend with young children and replace it with this grownup swing.Wouldn't you just love to sit here with me and have a glass of lemonade? If you did, this is what you'd see from the glider. Our backyard water garden. It has a waterfall down the slope on the right. My husband envisioned this and built it himself six years ago.

Who knew then, that we'd be acquiring a water dog who considers that pond to be his personal swimming hole. No photo essay of my garden would be complete without a photo of my faithful companion, Rusty. Totally content to lie in the shade by the hour while I weed. An occasional stick to gnaw on is all he requires. Rusty is a golden retriever, the reddish gold kind. He's lived with us for three years this summer. Hope you enjoyed this look at summertime in my garden. I'll update it as the summer progresses.

Update: View the slide show to see more photos of the garden as the summer has progressed.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Should I Say Something Or Let the Opportunity Pass By?

Recently I had two conversations with strangers about hearing loss. Both took place at work and in each instance I wondered if it was appropriate to broach the subject.

Right outside the library's technical services department is an elevator being repaired. At various times throughout the day a loud drilling sound can be heard. Behind closed doors and at quite a distance from it I am still aware of the sound. I wondered what it would be like to be the one doing the drilling in such an enclosed space. One afternoon I passed the elevator repairman and asked him, "Do you wear ear protection?" At first I think he thought I was joking. After I explained that I had a hearing loss and he could see I was serious, he replied that he did not because he hadn't considered the noise to be that loud. After some more thought, he told me that his mother was hard of hearing and that perhaps he ought to be more careful with his hearing. I walked away thinking possibly my question had done some good.

The next day in the university cafeteria I noticed someone new at the cashier's station. A middle-aged man with plastic tubes in his ears. Hmmm. I wondered if they were attached to BTEs like the ones I wear. I always have trouble hearing in the noisy serving area and I wondered if this was a problem for him too. When it was my turn to pay, I asked him, if he had BTEs like the ones I wear, lifting my hair so he could see them clearly. "Yes," he replied. He went on to say that he had no difficulty hearing in the cafeteria and that he enjoyed wearing hearing aids. He was amazed at all the sounds he could now hear that he had missed without realizing it. One example he mentioned was being able to hear his dog panting. We got rather involved in our conversation and the person behind me in line moved to another cashier. Oops. My only excuse is that it was wonderful meeting someone else in the same situation.

Usually the only people I spot wearing hearing aids are elderly. Occasionally I have considered talking to them about hearing aids and hearing loss but have always decided against it. When I'm at a stoplight and another driver pulls up with a car stereo blaring away, I often think of saying something about how noise affects hearing. I'm not the only one as Cindy explains in this story.

When is it okay to discuss hearing loss and/or hearing aids with a stranger? Is it better to let the opportunity pass by out of politeness or is it worth the risk of embarrassment if you can perhaps educate someone or make a new friend?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Strange but True

Originally posted on October 23, 2007.
It finally happened. Ever since the day the library's emergency exit door alarm went off and I couldn't hear it to turn it off, I've wondered what would happen if an alarm sounded on my shift again. It happened but it turned out different than I ever imagined.

I was alone at the reference desk when I became aware of a mechanical voice saying "elevators". I listened closer. This time I made out the phrase "do not use elevators". Hmmm. Just outside the library's entrance one of the university's elevators was under construction to the accompaniment of loud drilling. Did the elevator repairmen set off an alarm? I went to check with the circulation staff as their desk is located closest to the entrance. They said they hadn't heard an alarm message and to check with the director. I went to the director's office area. I found her standing next to the photocopier with a large stack of papers going through the feeder. She hadn't heard anything either. Strange. I returned to the reference area and could hear the entire message this time - an alarm was sounding and the building needed to be evacuated! I started informing the patrons at the computer terminals that they needed to leave. None of them had registered an alarm. One patron said she had thought the sound was just someone's cellphone ringing (which isn't too far off base not counting the message part of course). By this time staff members and patrons from other parts of the library were filing out to the front door. Having verified the alarm, the director came to help me get the stragglers in the reference area to leave. There was still one woman gathering up her belongings when patrons and staff members returned with the all clear message.

Fortunately, it was not a real emergency but only a false alarm. I never found out if it was caused by the elevator repair crew or not. Most important, I can sleep at night knowing the library is safe with me on duty. I would never have imagined that I as SpeakUp Librarian would be the only one to be aware of the alarm. Real life- it really is stranger than fiction.

In and Out

I have a love/hate relationship with my hearing aids. I love that some days I feel as though I could “pass” for hearing. On those lucky days, I blithely manage conversations with store clerks and other strangers. I don’t make any obvious blunders and I don’t betray myself with a puzzled expression on my face. On those occasions, my little coping strategies help me make it through the day smoothly.

Then there are the days of pure hate for the blasted things. Days when no matter how much I spent on them, they don’t magically make me into the hearing person I long to be. Days when it seems as if everyone around me is speaking in hushed tones rather than normal volume. Days when someone tells a long, complicated story that I can’t follow and I feel stupid and slow. Days of unexpected turns of phrase or unfamiliar word combinations.

Other times, I just honestly hate how much louder everything around me is with hearing aids. As my audiologist said, I like it quiet. What bliss it is to take them out and relax in the “muffled” quality of my natural hearing. Choosing not to “hear” for awhile and allowing myself to tune out for a needed break.

The movie Read My Lips illustrates this beautifully. Carla, a secretary, who is hearing impaired and an excellent lip reader, wears hearing aids to cope with the demands of the office, particularly the telephone. On her coffee break, she removes her hearing aids ---ahhh--- a true break from the clamor.

Book Review: Talk, Talk

I just finished reading Talk, Talk by T.C. Boyle. This book is a thriller that explores the question of what someone might do if their identity were stolen. Dana is a deaf teacher who finds herself pulled over by a police officer when she rolls past a stop sign on her way to the dentist. A bad situation becomes a nightmare when the officer arrests her and takes her to jail. With the help of a translater she learns she has been charged for crimes she never committed. Once the mistaken identity is cleared up, she is released from prison but finds she can't let her anger go. She can't leave it up to the police to apprehend the thief and bring him to justice. She must go after the man who has caused her so much trouble. How far will she go and what price is she willing to pay for revenge?

Dana is not alone in her quest. Her hearing boyfriend, Bridger, is literally along for the ride as Dana chases the thief from California to New York. Their relationship faces difficult odds as most deaf/hearing couples don't make it. Will this trial bring them closer or tear them apart?

Talk Talk spoke to so many fears of mine like vulnerability, identity theft, communication struggles, and relationship worries that I was compelled to turn the pages and find out what happens to Dana and Bridger even as I bit my own nails in empathy.

Spelling It Out

October 2007
I had a patron call me for help with his library account number. I said I'd be happy to look it up and asked for his name. He very helpfully spelled out his surname with examples for each letter (ex: V as in victor). I was so pleased with this that I complimented him. Then he told me his first name "ghteyr". Uh oh. That wasn't clear at all. I asked him to repeat it. He said the same thing again "Ghteyr". I swallowed my pride and asked him if he could spell it for me.
G-a-r-y. Oh. Then he says something about having allergies and apologizes for not speaking clearly. At that point I had to fess up and tell him that I have trouble hearing. Why is it so hard for me to admit that?

Another habit I've been forced to adopt at the reference desk is to write out each request I receive by telephone. This takes longer but has saved me so many times. People just naturally rattle off long titles or title plus author plus publisher information expecting me as the librarian to get it all immediately. When I used to type directly into the computer I often made mistakes. Writing down the information, naturally I only get part of it. Then I read that part back to my patron and ask for the rest of the information again. I have never had anyone complain about this technique. I think patrons realize I really want to help them when I take a little extra time to get their request right the first time.

People Who Get It

Someone recently handed me an audiobook on CD saying "I think you'll like this story." I was less than enthusiastic as I have never enjoyed listening to audiobooks. My mind just drifts away and I lose track of the storyline. Now that I'm aware of my hearing loss, I was sure it would be just too much "work" to grasp the story without any visual input. Nevertheless, I put it in my CD player and started listening to the story. Within 10 minutes I had given up on the narrator's unsuccessful attempt at a Southern accent and I was returning the CD to my friend.

I have another friend who really gets that I have trouble hearing. Diane always speaks clearly and with the necessary volume. If she wants to tell me something, she gets my attention first. On top of that, she has taken a class on sign language and is willing to practice with me. Needless to say, just seeing her makes my whole day.

I came across this very reassuring passage on p. 119 of a book called Coping With Hearing Loss: Plain Talk for Adults About Losing Your Hearing by Susan V. Rezen and Carl D. Hausman: "I don’t have hearing aids at the present time. How do I tell when I really need them? Different people in different situations will vary in their need for a hearing aid. A retired person who lives alone will have very different needs than a librarian, who constantly deals with people who are speaking softly.” These authors get it. Be grateful for the people in your life who do.

Book Review: Ruffly Speaking

Originally posted: October 7, 2007. Over the weekend I read Ruffly Speaking, which features two hard of hearing characters and one hearing ear dog. This book by Susan Conant is worthy of note for its description of Rita, a middle aged woman, who has difficulty acknowledging her hearing loss and experiences a rough adjustment to hearing aids. Rita is the friend of Holly, the mystery's amateur detective. Holly is the one who convinces her to get her hearing tested and even goes so far as to try wearing Rita's hearing aids to understand what she's experiencing. The Ruffly of the title is the hearing ear dog of a female Episcopal priest. The dog's unusual behavior and the mysterious cutting out of her owner's hearing aids are all part of the strange happenings surrounding the recent death of a friend of Holly's.

This is the first novel I've come across with a hard of hearing character. I emailed author Susan Conant about Rita and found out that she is included in other books of the series but mainly as a minor character. One book that features her more prominently is Gaits of Heaven. However, in that story her hearing loss is not mentioned because she has adapted to it. Amusingly, Conant also said that readers can assume that Rita would now own the spiffy new kind of hearing aids available in a variety of colors.


I was walking through the mall with my friend Linda recently. We live about 2 ½ hours away from each other and like to meet at a mall located halfway between us and shop until we drop. My friend Linda is something else! She can outwalk me any day of the week. This was the first time we’d met to go shopping since I began wearing my hearing aids. I wondered how it would be different now. I did pretty OK hearing her soft spoken voice in the noisy food court when we had lunch. But later on as we continued shopping, I got so tired of coping with all the loud sounds around us that I turned my hearing aids to their “T switch” setting. This is the closest to an “off” switch I’ve got without removing them altogether. Well, I promptly forgot that I had done this and was I in for a surprise when I passed through a security gate at the bookstore. Zzzzzap! I winced and probably even staggered. If it's possible I had just been "electrocuted" by sound... Linda looked at me like "What's your problem?" The problem was invisible. Ahhh....hearing aids.

This was originally posted October 5, 2007. Since then I have continued to zap myself - believe it or not. It happens most often when I walk in the vicinity of the security gates located next to the library's circulation desk and main entrance while wearing a PocketTalker (an assistive listening device). When I forget I reel back as if someone has hit me, when I remember in time I make a strange and sudden retreat from the area. I'm sure our circulation staff finds me pretty amusing at times.

That's Entertainment

Awhile back my friend Linda told me she had started watching DVDs with the subtitles feature turned on. I was surprised because she has no difficulties with hearing. She explained to me that she enjoys watching literary movies with lots of conversation and often the actors use British accents so she finds the subtitles helpful. After that conversation the next time my husband rented a DVD, I decided to try it out for myself. Wow! What a difference - I was able to relax and enjoy "reading" the movie. I had never realized how much energy and effort it took for me to try and understand movie dialogue.

If you are new to hearing loss, be sure and give captions a try. It's much better than what my family was doing before: cranking up the volume for the conversational parts and then rushing to turn it down during the action scenes.

This was originally posted: October 3, 2007. Here's an update: Since then I have become completely hooked on captions. Recently we rented two films without captions -The Last Mimsy and The Blair Witch Project. During The Last Mimsy I was constantly asking my son, "What did he/she say?" I really missed the captions. For the Blair Witch Project I got by okay since it was pretty obvious what was happening. I am very blessed that my family and friends do not mind having the captions running along the bottom of the screen during a movie. I really enjoy sharing movie time with them. We have still not purchased a television set that supports captioning so my television viewing is pretty limited.

Missing Sounds or Con-onant-

This chart shows where vowel and consonant sounds are heard. Comparing it with my audiogram, it shows that I miss these sounds: k, f, s, h, and th. Even wearing my hearing aids, I often get mixed up by th and f. Here's two amusing examples:

A friend was telling me about an exhibit she had seen at a museum featuring parts of the body. She described different displays and then mentioned that they even had "the finger". Hmm... when she said that she was leaning forward with her chin on her fist. None of her fingers were showing...why was she sitting like that? She saw my puzzled look and added, "You know, by Rodin." Aha - the Thinker.

My next example is not for the easily offended. Okay, you've been warned. One day my son was looking at the packaging for our dog's medicine and he asked, "Mom, what are feces?" I explained. Then about an hour later he came back to me and asked again, "Mom, what are feces?" Exasperated, I replied that I had just explained that to him. No Mom, I'm not talking about feces, I'm asking what are the theses that Martin Luther nailed to the church door." Oops.

If Ever I Saw Your Face

Today at the reference desk, I had a patron begin her request by looking at me and then in mid sentence turn her face away towards the book shelves as she continued speaking. When she finished, I had to tell her, “I missed what you said when you looked away.” Then she turned toward me and very s-l-o-w-l-y and emphatically repeated her request. I don’t know if she meant to be cooperative or condescending but I did understand her this time. Score one for me for speaking up!

Understanding My Audiogram

One of my jobs at the library involves cataloging. The benefit of this work is getting a look at the new books before anyone else. Fortunately for me, a few months after my hearing exam, I received for cataloging Everyday Audiology: A Practical Guide for Health Care Professionals by Kazunari J. Koike. Although this book is intended for audiologists, I found the first section on audiograms very helpful.

You see when my audiologist showed me the results of my hearing tests, I didn't really understand much except to know that it wasn't good news. For anyone who doesn't know, an audiogram is a graph that shows how a person's hearing tested at different frequencies (shown along the top). The amount of hearing loss is shown in decibels (shown along the left side). The x represents the left ear and the circle is the right ear. You'll notice on mine that the left and right ears tested practically the same and as the frequencies get higher my hearing drops off.

Everyday Audiology explains what the decibel numbers mean and also what the effects are on communication for hearing loss from mild to profound. After reading the book I dug out my audiogram and marked it with what I had learned about my situation. You can see on my audiogram picture I have labeled the varying degrees of my hearing loss and also drawn on a horizontal line at the top which shows what normal hearing would look like. If you have any questions about your audiogram, check out this book. It can be requested by interlibrary loan at your local library.

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For the best explanation of audiograms I've seen online, check out Kim's post on the Say What Club Weblog: How to Read Your Audiogram.

Rumors Of My Demise

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” – Mark Twain

I was startled at the Reference Desk recently when a coworker remarked, “I saw your obituary on the Internet.” After my jaw hit the floor she tried explaining what she meant. She had noticed the new obituary lookup service advertised on our library’s website – a service provided by someone else not myself.

It's good to know that sometimes it’s not the hearing loss that’s to blame for miscommunication.

Say What?

One of the positive things that comes with hearing loss is always having some amusing stories to tell of what you thought you heard people say. Here are some of my classic errors:

Misheard at a sporting event:
An athlete's mother was proudly telling my friend and me that she had been promoted from a temporary cashier job to a permanent position because she is "fat and accurate". Huh? Inside my head I'm thinking - now this woman is a bit on the heavy side and I have heard about attempts to stop discrimination against fat people but something doesn't seem right here...fat and accurate...fat and accurate...Wait a minute, she must have said fast and accurate. Thank goodness I hadn't said anything though I bet I had a surprised look on my face when she made her announcement.

Misheard around the library lunch table:
A friend was telling an amusing story about a bird that got loose from its cage inside her mother’s home. She added dramatically that the bird landed in the “cat dish”. Hmm…haven’t heard of a cat dish…must be something like a dog bowl on the floor…why is everyone reacting to that…she didn’t say it got wet or anything…cat dish…cat dish…aha – cactus! Oh hey, ouch, that would hurt. Of course my friend had moved on with the story by the time I figured this out and interrupted to ask, “Did you say the bird landed in the cactus?” Lesson learned: don’t interrupt a good storyteller in midstream. It's better to get the real story later.
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Comment from tutleymutley: Good story! My favourite mishearing (that I can recall, anyway!) was when a doctor said "Well, we'll just wait and see, then-" and I replied, "Her pee is absolutely fine". Blanks looks all round.

My reply: Yeah, those s sounds are hard to get. Good story.
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Misheard at the library close to Halloween:
Yes, it's a spooky season with lots of eerie happenings. But really that's no excuse for what I misheard today at the reference desk. A woman came in and asked for a book about flesh. Ewww. I did a double take. She repeated it again, "flesh". In disbelief I started writing out the word on scratch paper to confirm with her what I was hearing. Fortunately, just before I got to the vowel, she added the enlightening comment, "It's about multimedia." Ohhh. Flash - as in the computer program. What a relief.

To paraphrase Art Linkletter, when you have a hearing loss, people say the darndest things.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name

Fall 2006

As mentioned before, I experienced hearing aid failure and was quite huffy about it. Here's a bit more of the story: The day I went to the audiologist and learned about ear wax, I actually had an earlier appointment with an otolaryngologist for a second opinion about my hearing loss and the hearing aids I was prescribed. I was that upset about my hearing aids failing.

Of course I had never been to this doctor before and was unfamiliar with his waiting room setup. I was also anxious about squeezing this appointment in before I went to the audiologist. When my name was called at the exact time of my appointment, I was impressed. The nurse called out my first name "Sarah" and remarked to me, "The doctor's going to see what the problem is" which sounded reassuring.

Then she led me in to the examining room which surprisingly looked exactly like my optometrist's. Hmmm, I thought to myself, maybe he has to share his office space because his is being remodeled... The nurse had left the room before I had a chance to ask.

Next thing I knew there was a small commotion in the hallway. Even though I didn't have my hearing aids on, I could discern someone saying, "You called my name." Uh oh. I went out to investigate. The nurse was there speaking with another woman and a doctor. I asked the nurse if she had said, "Sarah". "No, I said Vera," she replied. Oops. the doctor turned to me and said, "Are you here to see the hearing doctor?" I nodded. "Good!," he replied. Crushed, I returned to the waiting room hoping no one out there was aware of my faux pas.

Unfortunately, the otolaryngologist was running behind schedule and I never did get in to see him. I told the receptionist untruthfully that I would reschedule. Frankly, I couldn't wait to get out of there! Fortunately the audiologist fixed my problem that day and equilibrium was restored to my universe.

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Comment by Cindy of Beethoven's Ears: "I'm always afraid something like this will happen to me, too. Anytime I have an appointment, I stress that I'm hard of hearing to the receptionist - sometimes people that overhear my conversation with the receptionist will let me know when it's my turn."

My reply: "That's very kind of them. I'm thinking that from now on when I sign in at the doctor's office, I'm going to ask the receptionist to put a Post-it note with "hard of hearing" on my chart."

Why Ask Why? Drink Bud Dry.

That classic Budweiser slogan - Why Ask Why? - is what comes to my mind when I ponder the essential question of why this hearing loss happened.

During my first visits to my audiologist, I asked her what I had done to cause it. Had I injured my ears by using Q-tips? No, she patiently explained that it was nothing that I had done to injure my ears. I have a sensorineural hearing loss - a loss in the inner ear which is sealed off and cannot be reached by Q-tips or anything else.

Could it have been from noise? No. Even if I were listening to an iPod at full volume every day that still wouldn't have been enough to cause it. She said my current hearing was comparable to the hearing of a 65 year old man who worked construction his whole life. Hmmm. I'm 40, work in a library, and enjoy quiet hobbies like puzzles and cross-stitch. No, noise induced hearing loss wasn't the answer.

How about ototoxicity? Ototoxicity means toxic to the organs of hearing or balance or to the auditory nerve. I looked up a list of medications that have ototoxic effects but I hadn't taken them.

Eventually I learned that it's very common for medical professionals to be unable to explain to patients why a hearing loss has occured. I found information at this link on to be very helpful to me.

Life is full of mysteries. It's best not to dwell on the unanswerable questions but move on to life's pleasures. Indeed, why ask why when you can drink [insert beverage of your choice].

Stupid, stupid, stupid

Fall 2006
My hearing aids came with a 60 day trial period. Thank goodness for that because very soon after getting them I did the stupidest thing. I wore them while blowdrying my wet hair. Stupid, stupid, stupid. The instruction booklet warned to keep the hearing aids away from 2 things: water and heat. Of course I learned this afterwards. Have you ever heard of a librarian who didn't carefully read an instruction booklet? Yikes.

Well, needless to say, soon afterwards the aids failed. I took them in to the audiologist and she sent them off for replacement. Fortunately it was during the 60 day period and they were replaced with no questions asked. Of course I had to live without them for about two weeks while they were getting fixed but I got by.

Then about a month later, one hearing aid failed and then a few days later the other stopped working. I knew I had done nothing wrong this time. I tried replacing the batteries with no improvement. What could be the problem?

I returned to the audiologist again this time in a little bit of a snit. If these things were going to be breaking down so often, what was the point of wearing them? Never mind that it was all my fault the first time.

If you wear hearing aids, then you probably know what the problem was. But for everyone else I'll reveal the culprit: ear wax. The audiologist unscrewed one earpiece from its hearing aid and placed a thin plastic wire inside the tube. She pushed out a clump of ear wax just visible to the eye. It was the same problem in the other one. "Stupid, stupid ear wax," she said. To myself, I thought, "Hooray, all is not lost. Ear wax I can deal with." In fact, the audiologist gave me a few of the plastic wires to take home so I could handle the problem on my own next time.

Common Misconceptions about Hearing Aids

Many people seem to think that hearing aids are like eyeglasses - that by wearing hearing aids I can hear what I couldn't hear before in pretty much the same way that my eyeglasses and contacts correct my vision. Well, that's not quite right. I've learned that my hearing aids don't allow me to hear the high pitched sounds that I've lost. What they actually do is boost the loudness of sounds at the edge of my hearing loss. The best analogy I've come up with to describe this is to imagine looking at a painting with some parts of the picture blotted out and some parts blurred. With hearing aids, the painting as I perceive it still appears with missing parts of the picture but the blurry parts have become sharper and more recognizable. Does that make sense to you?

Another misconception people have is that I can control the volume of my hearing aids. Well, I can but not in the way that they're meaning. As mentioned previously I have 3 settings for my hearing aids. That does allow for a bit of control. However I can't "dial up" the volume to focus better on someone's voice speaking to me or even as some imagine to be able to eavesdrop on someone else's conversation. Hearing aids pick up on all the surrounding noise not on a single sound of my choosing. My best option for hearing better is to move closer to a speaker or to move the conversation into a quieter area altogether. In the past hearing aids had manual volume controls but today's hearing aids are digital which means they are programmed to automatically adjust to the noise levels in the environment. Hearing people's brains have long ago learned to filter out background noise that is distracting. Those who are new to hearing aids like me have to learn that skill all over again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Whole New World

October 9, 2006

After a few weeks wait, my hearing aids have arrived. At the audiologist's office I am fitted with two behind the ear (BTE) type hearing aids. Surprisingly, they are easy to put in and feel very comfortable. There are small buttons that switch the hearing aid settings between three options: Program 1 (Front microphone only - my most powerful setting) Program 2 (front and back microphones are turned on - used for noisy settings like a restaurant. It seems counterintuitive but turning on more microphones actually dampens the extra noise.) Program 3 (T switch- used for talking on the telephone or when an assistive listening device is available like in a theatre).

As soon as I have my hearing aids in I am amazed at how much louder speech is. Both my voice and the audiologist's are easier to hear. As I walk down the office hallway to see the otolaryngologist next I am surprised at how loud my flip flop sandals sound. Can everyone else hear how loud my shoes are?

The doctor is pleased that I have been fitted with the hearing aids and that my throat infections are clearing up from the antibiotics he prescribed.

When I leave the office I am startled by how loud the outside world is. As I drive home, I discover that cars make a swooshing noise as they pass your car. Have they always done this? When I arrive home I take a walk in my neighborhood and enjoy the awakening of my senses. I remember when I was a child and received my first pair of eyeglasses. Suddenly I found out that it was possible to see individual leaves on trees where there had only been a blur. My walk that day felt much like that experience.

SpeakUp Librarian is Born

September 20, 2006

At the doctor's office my ears, nose, and throat were examined and then an audiologist tested my hearing several different ways. I remember being tested with a tuning fork. That wasn't too bad. Then I went into a soundproof booth and had to listen to words and say out loud what had been said. Yikes - there were several possibilities in my mind - which one had been said? I wanted to answer it was either this or that.

The worst part of the testing came when tones were played and I had to push a button as soon as I heard them. At first the tones were heard easily but then it was harder to distinguish...had there been a new tone or were only echoes floating in the air? Should I push the button or not? I wasn't sure. Then the booth became completely quiet but the test wasn't over. My heart sank.

The audiologist was very kind when she went over my test results with me. I will be forever grateful to her for that. She explained that I had permanent hearing loss. My colds and allergies and stuffed up nose did not account for my being unable to hear the alarm.

She said I was a candidate for hearing aids. I was completely shocked! At my age how could this be possible, I wondered. But of course I wanted to hear. There was not going to be a time of thinking about it as she suggested. I placed my order that day.

My Last Day of Blissful Ignorance or How It All Began

September 19, 2006

Over the summer of 2006 my family and I gradually became aware that I was unable to hear a few sounds that they heard with no problem. I couldn't hear the basement telephone ring or the kitchen's coffee maker timer chime unless I was standing right next to them while my family could hear them from other rooms. All spring and summer I had been battling sore throats and recurring infections and was constantly stuffed up. I just figured I'd hear those sounds the next time as soon as I was feeling better.

On September 19 I was sitting at the library reference desk when an emergency exit door on the far wall was opened triggering a steady high pitched alarm. The key for turning the alarm off is kept in the reference desk so it was my job to turn it off. But I didn't hear it! All I heard was a distant throbbing. I thought construction was going on in another part of the university and didn't think much of it. After the alarm continued for several minutes, the reference desk supervisor came to assist. She didn't realize I couldn't hear the alarm. As I walked with her toward the emergency exit door, I began to hear the alarm but it wasn't uncomfortable to be around as it had been in past times. Something wasn't right.

As soon as my desk shift was over, I got on the phone to make an appointment with an otolaryngologist. When I explained what had just happened, they gave me an appointment for the very next day. At that point I assumed the doctor would say I was just terribly plugged up with my throat infection and that all would be well with the right medication.