Why My Recent Hearing Loss Diagnosis Is a Blessing
Today I saw an audiologist and an ENT specialist. It was an appointment I feared and desired. I feared the outcome and confirmation of what I suspected about my hearing. I desired help and wanted to hear better if possible, but was struggling to admit there was a problem.
The audiologist introduced herself and gave me some instructions. I had to ask her to repeat parts of it, even though she was facing me and we were in a quiet environment. I sat in the chair and she started the test by reading a list of words for me to repeat. Then I raised my finger when I heard a tone. The audiologist returned to the room and showed me a graph that indicated I had moderate hearing loss in both ears, and it was worse at speech level sounds. Next I was told I would meet with the ENT specialist.
I had a long wait for the doctor. It gave me time to think. I thought back across the past year and what brought me to this appointment. At first, I was simply turning the TV volume up. I did not hear my husband call me from another room. I started missing words in sentences when people were not facing me. Then if they faced away from me, I could not hear them at all. I stopped using the telephone and had all calls directed to my husband. I began emailing my parents and texting friends. At work during lunch, I slowly stopped participating in the group conversation because I could not follow it. I had started lip reading to compensate and could not switch from person to person quickly enough. I became isolated. I could only hold one-on-one conversations in low distraction environments.
Fire alarms at school did not bother me. They were not loud. My hearing or lack thereof caused disagreements with my husband, who could not always remember that my situation had changed. And when my husband needed me for a medical emergency and called my name, I did not hear him. He called my service dog’s name, who began nudging me and lead me to him. I realized I needed to take action. All these issues were crystal clear after the doctor examined me.
The doctor explained that my ears had no problems that were causing the hearing loss. It was probably due to loud noise or aging. He asked if I had been exposed to any loud noise for extended periods of time. I could only think of one job I held for three summers where I was around loud machinery and we had no ear protection. In any case, the doctor explained I needed hearing aids in order to be able to understand conversations, speak on the telephone, hear TV and movies at a typical volume and hear alerts like the microwave, washing machine, telephone and alarms when they go off. I was not surprised at the news, but yet I was not ready for it.
I was handed information on hearing loss and hearing aids and an appointment was set up with the audiologist to fit me for hearing aids. I left the doctor’s office in a daze. I was not ready to process this information. I walked to my car, got in and texted my husband, “I need hearing aids. Appointment in 10 days. Will you still love me?” He immediately responded, “I love you now. I might love you better if you can hear me. Just kidding!” I sat thinking. How much was I missing? Did I know? Did my friends think I was simply ignoring them at times, or not engaging in the group conversation when the truth was I could not hear and could not participate? Maybe this could set me free from being so isolated. The little voice that had been saying “I don’t want another label or disability” was quickly being silenced.
I went to school the next day and spoke to the teacher of our hard of hearing students. I wanted to learn about hearing aids and batteries. She was helpful and answered some questions, but suggested I speak with another teacher who was recently fitted with hearing aids.
Erin (name changed) was willing and kind enough to speak with me. She explained her journey to me. It was similar to mine. I was able to ask for tips about my next appointment. What had me excited and a little scared is her description of wearing hearing aids for the first time: “Loud, overwhelming. You want to put your hands over your ears. Things will startle you. You will be amazed by what you missed. You hear birds sing. You hear sentences. You hear footsteps. You hear the wind. You hear raindrops.”
When she spoke, tears filled my ears and my throat choked up. I did not realize how much I had been missing. My world had been silent for so long. This diagnosis is a blessing! I cannot wait for my hearing aids and to be fully participating in the hearing world again.
Getty image by humonia.