Thursday, September 29, 2011
My Hearing Loss, My Self Image: A New Start
Today I had my fitting for the pair of hearing aids I will receive as part of the Oticon Focus on People Award. My previous audiologist doesn't work with Oticon aids, so I went somewhere new. It was nice to have a fresh start. While reviewing my medical history with my new audiologist, I surprised myself by just how much I've learned in the five years since my hearing loss was diagnosed. I could accurately describe my past audiogram results using the palm of my hand as a "chart" and could pepper our conversation with lingo like the speech banana, T4/M4, T-coil, and sensorineural. Impressed much?
When we discussed when my hearing loss might have begun, I shared that I didn't know for sure. I can remember feeling extremely fatigued in college. Could it have been from all the listening required? I distinctly remember one English writing seminar where a professor used a video for one of our classes and a light bulb went off in my head. I immediately grasped the concept. I've often wondered if I'm a visual learner due to my hearing loss.
Looking even farther back, I wonder if I had normal hearing as a child or not. I don't know for certain because I never had a childhood hearing test. Of course, none of my teachers ever indicated there was a problem. But since I'm nearsighted and have worn glasses since I was 9 years old, I was usually seated in the front row of the classroom. Maybe I was the shy, quiet girl because of my hearing or maybe that was, and is, just me. Hard to say.
My husband used to puzzle over how quiet I become in group situations. I could chatter on comfortably one on one, but if there were three people or more present, I was rendered speechless. Now we've realized that my difficulty in following group conversation puts me at a disadvantage. When I'm lagging a few beats behind everyone else, it's hard to contribute the appropriate response that moves a conversation forward. To this day, I prefer spending social time with my friends one-on-one as much as possible.
At the audiologist's today, I took the usual battery of diagnostic tests. I hate to admit it, but there was a part of me that secretly hoped she would say that my hearing is normal. That my previous diagnosis had all been a mistake. But no, that didn't happen. Instead she said that the conduction test proved that nothing medically could be done for my hearing and that hearing aids were my only option. She said that technology had improved in the last five years and I might be much more satisfied with the way my new aids would sound. But I would continue to struggle with hearing in noise because my hearing is impaired. My audiogram came out just like all the others.
Even after five years time, I still struggle to accept my situation. At work recently I have been reassigned from my shifts at the information desk. When I told the audiologist that, she said that was a good idea in my situation. So now I have to re-imagine myself as a virtual librarian offering help electronically rather than face-to-face. I have to accept that when I'm interacting with hearing people, conversation is harder for me. I'm going to be the quiet one.
I hope with my new aids, I will come to an acceptance of who I am now and who I always may have been. In the spirit of I. King Jordan's famous words, I can do anything except hear perfectly and it's time I get over that and move forward. I'm looking forward to living better with Oticon. I get my new aids next week.