To wear my hearing aids…or not?

It’s been awhile. Life picked up the pace in October and hasn’t slowed down since but tonight I have a few hours so I’m going to take advantage of that. This post has been in my head for over a month so it’s time I get it down.

I’ve been wearing hearing aids since I was 23 years old, that’s 22 years now. I started out with analog hearing aids which turned everything up, not just the high frequencies I needed. I worked in a salon with multiple blow dryers and hair dryers going (one hair dryer is 90+ decibels) which I heard too well. I worked 7-9 hours a day clenching my teeth the whole day waiting for that moment when I finished that last client and took my hearing aids out for a much needed break.

That my friends, started my habit of only wearing my hearing aids at work. When I don’t work, I don’t put them in unless I go out into public again. In my opinion, I did fairly well getting along in the world without them at home with my family and even with quick runs to the grocery store or bank.

Recently that has changed. I wear them more since I started working at the Sanderson Center. I also had to wear them at Ken’s parents house because his mom’s voice falls under my radar. I wore them so much, my ears dried out, got itchy and I created sores with my scratching. When I laughed or smiled too much, my outer ears ached from the mold.

Naked ear

Naked ear

Either I got too used to the volume or I’ve lost more hearing recently because when I take them out, sounds recede so far it scares me. For the first time in my life I think to myself, “Wow, I’m really going deaf.” I have to watch lips to understand conversation now. This scares me enough that I don’t want to wear my hearing aids and that doesn’t make sense.

Except to me it does. My hearing loss is progressive. I can go some years without much change and then a big change occurs. Or I can keep losing that little bit every year and after a while that adds up too. At some point, my hearing aids won’t be of much use so why not save using them for the moments/hours I need them most. I’ll turn them on a feel it will feel like magic compared to my new normal.

But they say the brain needs to get the noise and that I need to wear them to handle the ‘noise.’ Well I’m getting to the point where the ‘noise’ and hearing aids don’t bother me, is that because I’ve worn them so much? Am I doing myself a mis-favor by opting out again? And so my see-saw thinking goes back and forth.

Wearing them doesn’t bring back perfect hearing, that’s part of the frustration but every little helps. I’ve taken a 10 day break from my hearing aids to let my ears heal up again after scratching open a sore. Tomorrow it’s back to work and back in they will go. Tomorrow I’m working out in public so I must wear them. When I work at the Sanderson Center, I don’t need them so much because the Deaf people are slowly working me into sign language. Those that are hard of hearing and speak, know to get my attention first. There I cope better in my muted world and I feel blessed to be working there.

Once used to my quiet life, I feel okay with it all mentally and more accepting. I’m normal me again. With hearing aids, I hear better (20%) more but the whole deaf thing frightens me more when I take them out. This must be another transition phase to be thinking about it all so much. I suppose I should get my hearing tested again soon to see.

6 responses to “To wear my hearing aids…or not?

  1. Progressive loss seems to require so much more management than sudden loss, all of the adjusting and then more change. A dilemma for sure. And ouch, sores!

  2. Yes, always adjusting. What worked once, doesn’t work anymore so there’s more adapting and finding other resources. Then I get used to doing it that way and enough hearing drops again that I have to go at it all over again.
    But! It’s always something. We all have something to deal with in our life and this is my biggest issue perhaps.

  3. I can relate to your dilemma with hearing aids. I first noticed problems with my hearing after a traumatic brain injury in 2001, I was 19. At the time, I only had mild hearing loss as a notch in the mid-frequencies, right in the middle of everyone’s speaking voice. At first I was fine unless there was a lot of background noise, then I had to make sure the speaker was on my right side I could still hear them (my better ear). I also tended to listen to the TV at what my partner calls “nursing home volume,” but it never bothered me…

    Flash forward to last Christmas. My mom commented that she thought my hearing was getting worse, and so I went back to the audiologist. Sure enough, I now have moderate hearing loss in both ears. I guess I have progressive loss, though no one is saying it, as my hearing loss went from -30 dB to -50 dB between when I first got checked 10 years ago and now. I got my hearing aids back in March, and have been wearing them most of the time since. I find that wearing them as much as I can helped me filter out some of the background noise that was also amplified. My aids definitely help in certain situations, but the noisier it gets, the less they help.

    Over the last few weeks I feel like I am understanding people less. I had a tune-up and hearing screen back in December, and my audiologist said my hearing hasn’t changed, but that’s not what I’m experiencing. As it gets harder to understand other people, I get more frustrated trying to have conversations with people anywhere but the library. I’ve also noticed that I get tired very easily when talking with people, especially in noisy places. It doesn’t help that I’m also dealing with an undiagnosed progressive neurologic condition that leaves me fatigued all the time and is slowly taking my strength. I’m pretty sure the aids help me conserve at least some energy, even in quieter situations, and I am thankful for that.

    I know the quiet you are talking about (especially, for me, how quiet people’s voices can get). I try to look at the positives though. Sure, it’s scary how much hearing I’ve loss, but I sleep a little better at night because every noise doesn’t wake me up. ;-) It also scares me that I have no idea if or when I’ll lose my hearing to the point that hearing aids don’t help, and I can relate to you there. I’ve started learning ASL on my own as well, which helps me feel like I have at least a little control.

    Thank you so much for your blog. It helps to hear from others out there who are going through similar things. I wish you the best of luck. If it’s ok, I may repost some of my comments on my own blog.

    Kim

  4. Hi,

    Very interesting blog, I found it while searching around for blogs about hearing loss, in inspiration for Cochlear’s (where I work) own new blog about the Baha bone conduction hearing solution.
    I don’t know if this is something you could benefit from – but if you want to check it out, this is the link:
    http://thebahablog.wordpress.com/

    Best of luck!!

    • Isn’t the Baha geared for conductive hearing loss? I have a sensorineural hearing loss. I have several friends who have a Cochlear implant and they live them. I think I’m right on the edge of qualifying for one of those.

  5. Hi,

    Actually, the indications for a Baha system are conductive loss, mixed hearing loss and single-sided sensorineural deafness (SSD). So it’s quite different from a Cochlear implant.

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