I started losing my hearing a little at a time at 14. Back then I was the typical teenager wandering around saying, “Huh” so no one caught it. I got by but all the signs were there such as making sure I sat up front in vehicles so I could hear better. I talked loud and had to learn to feel my voice. I asked for repeats often.
At 19 I developed tinnitus, constant ringing in the ears. Tinnitus is often the beginning stages of hearing loss. By 23 years old it was very obvious I could not hear as well as others and my mom told me to go get a hearing aid. So I did. It made a difference.
I continued to lose my hearing every year. The doctors don’t know why so I stopped asking years ago. Some years I experienced bigger drops than others which seemed to coincide with periods of heavy stress.
I have a sensorinueral hearing loss meaning I hear decently in the low tones but have lost a lot of the high frequencies. I hear but can’t make sense of what I hear. For instance I hear vowels best but consonants are difficult. My brain is constantly scrambling trying to fill in the missing sounds to make sense of the words I did not hear correctly. My brain continues to work while I listen to other sentences hoping for clues to what I missed. If I get no immediate clues I am lost and have to stop conversation to ask what they are talking about or give up and fake it.
Yes I am a great faker of hearing. I pick up the mood of the conversation and can judge by facial features or tones the ‘appropriate’ way to respond. I used to do this a lot. (At times it got me in trouble agreeing to something I shouldn’t have.) Then I realized I was wasting the other person’s energy by doing this and often hurting myself only worse. Most of the time I will ask for repeats now or find the topic of the conversation. Sometimes I run into people who no matter what cannot speak up or talk clearly. I ask them to look at me when talking or tell them I can’t hear to please speak up. If they don’t or can’t work with me then I will go into fake mode. Only those closest to me seem to know when I fake it and bust me. All I can say to that is sometimes my brain gets tired of make sense of it all and I’ll fall back on what seems easiest.
A year ago I realized answering the phone was extremely difficult and stressful for me. When I answered the phone in a place of business it was no longer professional. Some people had to repeat names and numbers multiple times and sometimes I still couldn’t get it. I developed a huge dislike for the phone. I will only answer when I know the other person. The people I hear best on the phone are my mom and my boyfriend. There are a few other people I talk to but they have they patience to repeat when needed as much as needed. I have recently started using Sprint Captel for phone calls. It helps but has a tendency to be slow when the net is busy and I still get behind.
So here I am at 42, almost 43, using the last pair of hearing aids available for my hearing loss. In the best of conditions (sound proof booth) I have 60% of my hearing. Entering the real world with all it’s noise my speech discrimination drops rapidly from there. When my hearing loss out grows these hearing aids there is nothing for me except maybe a cochlear implant. Or perhaps technology will keep ahead of me.
I am involved with The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). We recently had our first Walk4Hearing in Salt Lake City. I am currently president of our local HLAA chapter and co-chair for the Walk4Hearing. Keeping in touch with others who have hearing loss keeps me sane. I also receive support from the SayWhatClub.
Hearing loss is a daily struggle. I take it best with a sense of humor. When I can repeat what I thought I heard, “Bun crunchies” and repeat it back to the other person who laughs then I am ok. (It turned out to be “band concert” by the way.) These pages will be my daily struggle; the good, the bad, the ugly.