Monday, January 26, 2009
Adapting to Hearing Loss in Everyday Situations
I read the following quote on Kim's blog: "Audiologists give you your hearing aids or implants, then act as if they’ve ‘fixed’ the problem. Their job is to help you hear better than you used to, not to help you adapt to deafness. Most of us who are late-deafened need to learn how to live like a deaf person....These are things an audiologist cannot teach you. Audiologists aren’t deaf."
In that spirit I'm going to tell you about my weekend and how I faced one of my everyday hearing challenges: coping with conversation and the noise levels at a school basketball game. Keep in mind I am not an audiologist. I am not an expert on hearing aids. I'm just an individual diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss, wearing two hearing aids (when it suits me), and willing to share my journey towards accepting my own deafness.
My son had 5 basketball games this weekend. At the first one on a Friday night, I sat in the front row of the bleachers in the middle section. A friend was sitting on my right side. I noticed that sitting away from the scoreboard was helpful to me. Previously this season the loud blasts of the scoreboard at the end of each quarter nearly knocked me over. I often found myself watching the final seconds count down so I could cover my ears. I made a mental note to myself to pay attention to where the scoreboards are located and sit as far away from them as possible. I also realized that I would have done better to grab a seat in the back row of the bleachers. That way nobody behind me is yelling in my ears. Yikes!
Since my friend was sitting on my right, I set my left hearing aid on the T-switch setting which reduced the volume tremendously. Sitting in a noisy crowd of sports fans is not my ideal hearing environment to say the least. I focused on being able to listen only to my friend. Obviously lipreading was a huge help to me here. I had to laugh when at one point, she apologized for loudly chomping her gum. I reassured her that I hadn't heard it.
During a break in the game, she told me a story about a lost hearing aid. Her stepmother had called her quite frantic and told her she had lost her hearing aid. She wanted my friend to check the school parking lot for it. I thought: oh no, not good. Snow and ice would be bad for a hearing aid not to mention the likelihood it had been stepped on by a student or run over by a car. But this story has a happy ending. After looking around the parking lot, my friend walked into the school. She happened to look down and just inside the door off to the side was the missing hearing aid. Perfectly intact. She credits St. Anthony, the Catholic patron saint of lost things.
At my son's second game, I made sure to sit in the back row (top) of the bleachers as well as away from the scoreboard. That helped tremendously. This time I ended up sitting with a group but I could still only understand the person sitting right next to me. When another mother had something to tell me, she had to touch my arm to get my attention and then lean in close. Fortunately she knows I'm hard of hearing and wasn't ignoring her.
At the third game, I ended up in the front row again. This time because a very good friend was sitting there and she is unable to make the climb up to the back rows. In this case, I chose socializing over my hearing needs. Unfortunately, several of the parents sitting behind me were screamers. Aaack. Eventually I removed both hearing aids, leaned in close to hear my friend speak, and covered my ears as necessary. When the game was over, I fled for a quiet spot in the school's hallway to wait for my son to change clothes.
The fourth game was a repeat of the second game experience - the quiet calm of the back row at a more sparsely attended game. The fifth and final game of the weekend was a repeat of the third game. Sitting with the same friend in the front row in a crowded gymnasium. Fortunately this time there were no screamers sitting nearby. What a relief. I still escaped at half time to find a quiet spot to decompress and couldn't wait to get out to the car once the game was over.
One final thought: losing my hearing and beginning to learn ASL has helped me pay more attention to the hand signals the referees make. I am even starting to learn what the various calls mean!
I don't know if my personal experience this weekend is useful to anyone or not. When I first found out about my hearing loss, I turned to the internet looking for practical information I didn't get from my audiologist. It was hard to find. That's one reason I started my blog. If you are new to hearing loss, I want you to know that hearing aids don't fix everything. Coping with your loss will be a learning process. What you need to succeed you will learn on your own by trial and error. Pay attention to your own needs and you'll be fine.