It’s been over a year so it was time for me to get a hearing test. My good ear didn’t feel like my good anymore. My hearing aids didn’t seem to be doing the job so I thought my hearing dropped again. I found a new audiologist through our HLAA meetings and he also sits on the state Advisory Council with me. His family has been in the hearing aid business for a long time. As a teenager, he built his first hearing aid. He has a doctorate in audiology somehow and he calls himself “a hearing aid nerd.” He doesn’t have a hearing loss but he wears hearing aids because he likes their technology so much. He’s very knowledgeable about all products hearing related. Impressed with him and what he does, I made my hearing test appointment with their business.
When I made the appointment a month or so ago, they asked me to bring a family member. I explained my boyfriend may be working and then asked why?
“We have the family member give the word discrimination test.”
“Why?” I asked with shock. “Of course I’m going to understand my family better than anyone. That hardly seems like a fair representation of the world at large for me.”
The receptionist shrugged her shoulders. The guy who just serviced my hearing aids shrugged his shoulders so when I got home, I rattled off a long email to the hearing aid nerd.
Here’s what he wrote: “ 1) it is important to know how well you understand someone who has not been trained to speak clearly and whose voice you will hear on a regular basis. 2) many of our patients are very skeptical. It helps them realize we are not fudging the test to make it seem that they hear worse than what they are truly capable of. 3) if it turns out that you (or any patient) needs a new hearing aid it is nice to have someone there that you trust helping you make that decision. We work with seniors and as such they can be vulnerable. We never want anyone to feel that we pressured them into something, so having a family member there gives you more backup.” So I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Yesterday was my hearing test and it was his dad who gave me the test. I brought my daughter feeling like she is a better representation of the rest of the world for me. They asked how well I understand her and she said, “She’s uses me as her interpreter all the time,” so we decided I hear her better than most people. He asked lots of questions, more questions than I’ve ever been asked. Tell me about your hearing, what’s your history? What’s difficult for you? Is it hereditary? Do you have tinnitus? What do you think of the telephone? Why did you switch audiologists? What else do I need to know? And more but I can’t remember them all. He checked my hearing aids and said they sounded good to him.
My daughter sat across the table from me, he sat in the middle and me opposite of my daughter. No sound proof booth. I like that and the word discrimination test ended up being totally different than I expected it to be. He explained they use short simple words to make it a little harder to piece together sounds, we hard of hearing people are so good at that. He had me take out one hearing aid, left side first. I closed my eyes and my daughter read words from a list he pointed to. I got 30% with that ear. I switched hearing aids and she read another list, I got 20%. Then he had me put my right aid back in and plug my open ear. My speech discrimination was ZERO. I hear better un-aided. Not good news he said.
Another realization hit me while listening to all this. I must lip read a whole better than I give myself credit for. I guess when I’m relaxed or just doing my thing, it comes easy without thinking about it. The harder I try, the worse I get.
Next we did the actual hearing test in the same room. He told me because I have tinnitus, he’s going to use a warbly beep instead of the straight beep. No one offered that before. Usually it’s hard for me to tell the straight beeps from my tinnitus. He slipped headphones over my ears right there at the table and had me close my eyes again. It turned out my hearing hadn’t changed much but we needed to do something about getting my hearing aids to help me more so he turned me over to his son, the hearing aid nerd.
He changed my main program drastically. He moved things around and pressed buttons without calling the company, yay! My daughter, him and I started talking to how the new settings worked. Too much “sh-sh” sound I told him. He clicked a button on the computer and it was gone. Both his and my daughter’s voice sounded richer. He turned on some background noise to make sure things were okay. He did a quick word discrimination test with me with my aids in and eyes closed (easier for me to hear men) and I was to 50% discrimination. In that small office, things already sounded a lot different. I felt like I had new hearing aids. He asked me to wear them for 10 hours a day. I groaned so he added if things got too loud, I should turn them down instead of taking them out. Then we set up an appointment next week for any necessary adjustments. I walked out of the office feeling good about the whole experience. I was there for two hours and they didn’t even charge me. Wow! People who care.
Traffic noise outside hit me hard. I went to my noise reduction program. I waited a few minutes and felt like my eyes were tearing up so I turned the volume down next. That was okay.
I could hear my daughter in the car easier. Road noise wasn’t overriding the conversation, that’s good. At home I heard new tones on the wind chime. I kept asking what certain noises were; dishwasher has a small barking sound to it at times, the chickens make a funny sound and his phone makes a weird sound when emails are sent that I’ve never heard before. The toilet flushing sounds horrendous making run out of the bathroom as fast as I can.
I wore them for ten hours yesterday and by the time I took them out, I was exhausted! Brain dead! My boyfriend tried talking to me as I laid down and I told him, “I”m sorry. I’ve had about all I can take of hearing today,” and sent him away. I fell asleep fast and slept hard.
Today I am waiting to put my hearing aids in until later. I have four hours worth of meetings tonight. I usually stay and visit with people so I just know I will be really glad to take them out again and crawl into bed. I hope my brain adjusts to all the new noise soon. If not, the volume has got to come down.
I have audiologist hopped since I moved here. I brought my hearing aids two and a half years ago. That guy seemed all right at first but he didn’t really listen to me. He only wanted to make small changes here and there. My second try with an audiologist was a lady who reset my program according to what the computer wanted, not adjusting anything. The third guy didn’t know my hearing aids at all and had to call Phonak to get issues straightened up. Listening and hearing are two different things and I feel like these guys listened to me. Time and probably more adjustments will tell but I think I found the right people. If you’re in doubt about your hearing aids, keep looking. We don’t have to settle.