Thursday, June 01, 2006

Favourite word being "Wha...?"

Helen Keller, a deaf and blind writer and lecturer, once said: “Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people”.

Am I ‘hard of hearing’, ‘hearing impaired’, ‘mutton jeff’ or just a little bit deaf with a small D? Certainly not deaf enough to be Deaf, as in Deaf Culture. which I’ve learnt a bit about since acquiring a pair of hearing aids. I've the utmost respect for Deaf people, having experienced just a little of what they have had to endure for all their lives.

It’s been said that a person experiencing hearing loss will not do anything about it for an average of 10 years, it happens so gradually. That loss will be noticed by friends and family much sooner! I've been losing hearing (how careless) since I was 30ish, but didn't really notice until I was mid 30's when I found I was struggling in lectures when I was training to be a midwife. I went to the University Occupational Health Nurse and had my ears syringed but she said they were remarkably clear of wax and of course it made no difference to my hearing problems. It took me a few more years to get around to getting a referral to the audiology department from my GP. Mostly because I couldn’t hear the telly no matter how loud I turned it up. I was REALLY shocked when they said I would benefit from wearing hearing aids. It was a blow to my self image – and everyone knows hearing aids are just so untrendy – ugly, pink, sluglike and yuk. Theyr’e supposed to be flesh tone, but I don’t know anyone who has flesh toned like that. Where are the purple, polkadot, jewel encrusted ones, ay? I’d decorate them with nail varnish but I think I’d be in BIG trouble from the NHS dept. should I need to exchange them.

OK, so why not get those neat 'in the ear' things that can't be seen - I did have one once (bought privately at huge expense) for vanity reasons. Several reasons: 1)It gets blocked up with wax and goes wrong much quicker,
2) the NHS don't do them and 3) it's actually a boon if people see your hearing aids and realise you DO have a hearing problem, not just attention deficit disorder.
Although it's amazing how people don't see such things. I had a tooth abcess couple of weeks back - and the left side of my face swelled to twice its normal size. Interestingly people's eyes would slide away from my very obvious deformity. When I went to the Casualty to try and get some antibiotics, the nurse asked me "What for?"!

I got given one hearing aid for my 40th birthday but not much information - it took a great deal of getting used to. Having a plug of something in your ear feels much like you would imagine – but large vents helped and gradually I adjusted and my brain adapted. Thank god for the internet, where I learnt most of what I wanted to know. I can remember a lot of turning this hearing aid on and off with incredulity – playing ‘now you hear it, now you don’t’ games with myself. I can’t hear crickets without my HAs. I also can’t hear bird songs or telephones from another room, or highpitched alarms. Speech is the worst – expecially children. Everyone sounds like they’re mumbling without my hearing aids in. Now I have 2, which is better for working out where sounds come from, and makes sense when hearing loss is same in each ear. I’ve had them for over 8 years, and wouldn’t be without them. I even forget they’re in. They are not a panacea of all ills, though – I can’t use them with digital phones as they whistle and feedback. And even though these new digital ones from the wonderful NHS have a directional microphone, I still find it difficult to hear what people are saying when there’s any kind of background noise. It would be great to be able to hear properly in the pub. And I'm not brilliant at lip reading, though I hear better in daylight, so I must do a bit. Communicating in noisy environments is tiring and I’m likely to float off into a daydream after missing the joke for the umpteenth time, which doesn’t endear me to people, who think I’m dreamy, aloof, stupid or just antisocial.
Hearing loss is invisible and not something which attracts much sympathy. I get impatient with myself when I have to ask folk to repeat themselves for the second or fifth time. Even DH gives up and says “It doesn’t matter, not important” which is guaranteed to make me furious.
And being mutton jeff does not equate with mental impairment. No.

I've been told my hearing loss is typical of yer average 80yr old - a ski slope line on the audiogram, with normal hearing in the low frequencies and moderate to severe loss of high frequencies. Noone has been able to tell me why I have hearing loss. I reckon it’s because of NOISE. I’ve been to some loud concerts in my time, and I’ve ridden around on motorbikes for a good 15 years (including a couple of weeks on a 400/4 with an exhaust needing replacing). Lots of rock and roll casualties out there… see the rollcall of honour here

Work was OK - though I notice they (the local hospital) don't have loop systems anywhere but in the audiology dept. They also have intercom systems to access buildings which rely completely on hearing! Having a hearing loss hasn't made that much difference apart from having to take my HA out every time I want to use a stethoscope (I've lost at least one HA because of this). I have got into a spot of bother when I've been on call and haven't heard my pager go off, OR the phone (which has a loudspeaker in the bedroom) at night. I rely on DH to be an alarm and wake me up - but he's a sound sleeper too!

I’ll be surprised if people actually bother to read through this self indulgent rambling to the end. But that’s the good thing about blogging, ay?


nanatoo said...

My father has just got a digital HA instead of the non-digi kind and is finding it a lot easier, but it's a shame to hear (oh dear, not intentional) that even with that the background noise makes it hard. My MIL had a HA for the first time last year and it was as if she had knocked 20 years off in one go, as she is no longer excluded from conversations and huffed and puffed at in exasperation. She fought it off because of vanity and finally at nearly 80 gave in.

I can imagine that it is very trying and would like to give a little sympathy now, having seen the way Dad and MIL have been treated on occasions.

TutleyMutley said...

Yep, they really ought to get some designers to make HAs more desirable and pretty - there'd be a lot less lying about in drawers I suspect!

Rain said...

Thanks for posting this. My Mum has just been told she needs a HA and it's good to know how others deal with it. It's been at my insistence that she went for a hearing test as I noticed that I had to tell her things several times, she doesn't realise - just that I sound annoyed by the time she hears it. I'm certainly becoming more patient now I know she's not just ignoring me.

ra said...

It must be a bummer. I had a friend where I worked before who was in her early forties and had a hearing aid. I was always forgetting that her hearing was poor, but she was remarkably forebearing with me. I hate hearing other people's noise and have been known to wish my hearing was less acute, but I know that that is a VERY FOOLISH THING TO DO!

TutleyMutley said...

Rain - if your ma wants to ask me anything about getting used to HAs then my email is on my bookcrossing shelf! Families always notice hearing probs before the 'victim' does!

sal the spider said...

Having been an Audiologist in a previous incarnation I was happy to read your post as it bought back lots of memories!!!

Rain said...

Thanks TutMut. It helps to know there's someone she can ask if she has problems with it.

m said...

I just saw you post about your aids. I just got upgraded to my second set of digitals, and demanded something other than mucky "flesh" colour. I now have purple aids (on the NHS). Unfortunately, they are so small that they just don't show up when i'd like them to! Sometime soon i'll pst a picture on my blog.

TutleyMutley said...

M - Purple???? I'm jealous. When these need replacing I'll have to ask. I did get sparkly moulds once...
YOur blog won't allow me access :-(