Saturday, February 09, 2008


The 'Mutton Jeff Midwife', has a certain ring, but it's a serious business, this gradual hearing loss of mine: I went for a review of my hearing at the audiology department - us 'hearing impaired' can have a repeat 'pure tone' hearing test every 3 years or so, courtesy of the NHS. It involves having a pair of headphones stuck on your head and having the audiologist fire notes into one ear or the other and you having to press a button when you can hear them. The tones can be very faint - and I start imagining noises are happening even when they're not! I already knew that my high frequencies were shot to pieces - but now they are just about ready to fall off the bottom of the scale. This means I can't hear the consonants of speech, as 'p', 't', 's', 'sh', 'k and 'g'' are all in the high frequencies. Most people sound like they are mumbling. And children are just impossible to interpret. I work out a lot of what people are saying from context - my lipreading skills leave much to be desired. I can sometimes get a conversation hilariously wrong: like when a doc said to me that "we'll wait and see" and I responded "No, nothing wrong with her pee"...

It helps if you attract my attention first before speaking to me, so I can pay attention!
This is the audiogram for my Right ear: Anything between 0 - 25 dB is considered to be Normal Hearing (above that dashed line). Then:
26 - 40 dB Mild Hearing Loss
41 - 55 dB Moderate Hearing Loss
56 - 70 dB Moderately Severe Hearing Loss
71 - 90 dB Severe Hearing Loss
>91 dB Profound Hearing Loss

So I have normal hearing in the Low Frequencies, but a severe to profound loss in the high frequencies, commonly known as a 'ski-slope' loss. As my audiologist said - there comes a point when hearing aids aren't much help as they can only amplify the hearing you have. No wonder my speech discrimination isn't much cop - even WITH my hearing aids, I'll have problems deciphering some words because so many of the consonants are missing - "00 u unneran?"


And that is my Left ear.

The 'speech banana' and the pictures show the sounds I can hear to the left of the line, and all the sounds I can't hear to the right of the line. I can hear jackhammers, crows, dogs barking, pianos, bass lines. I can't hear folk whispering, clocks ticking, high pitched alarms and bleeps, crickets chirping and birds singing - often not even with my HAs IN! This has implications for work: I can hear Fetal heart tones fine - and take blood pressures OK - though I have to take my hearing aids out to use a stethoscope which is a pain in the butt. I can't hear the new alarms from the rooms on Delivery Suite - they are very high pitched. This means I rely on others to tell me when a woman I'm caring for pushes her call bell when I'm out of the room. And I wonder what's going on when everyone rushes to answer the emergency buzzer. This is NOT ideal. Phone calls are variable: for some reason, '2' and '3' sound exactly alike when spoken over the phone. This makes taking down phone numbers and the like problematic. Sound quality varies - I'm OK if the line is clear and the person's voice is distinct. But I'm useless if they are quiet or on a mobile with a poor reception. I can use the phone with my hearing aids in, but I strain, so I prefer to take one out and jam the earpiece against my earlobe and ask the other person to shout at me. Anyway I'm off to 'Soundbase' in Exeter next Wednesday to see what sort of 'Assistive Listening Devices' I can get hold of to help me out which I guess I should have done way before now, but I'm good at procrastinating. I am fortunate to work in a Team with very supportive colleagues - everyone is aware of my hearing loss (well - it's not something that can be hidden, even though it's not particularly visible - the constant use of 'whaaaaaaat?' is a bit of a giveaway).

I guess what's got me so preoccupied with all this is that there has been a definite deterioration since my last hearing test - and I'm YOUNG to have this happen. What will I be like when I'm 60? I'll cross my fingers that the technology available will keep pace with my hearing loss, and try and protect the hearing I have left.

I have digital behind-the-ear aids - and the one good thing that came out of yesterday was that I was given a new pair - rounded and a dark grey colour called 'granite' - no more pink slugs for me! I like them. Thanks to Mary (Quite Contrary) who has the most gorgeous purpley blue HAs (and got them on the NHS) for the inspiration: As a result of seeing hers I asked for a different colour. I was told that they do do different colours but that these are for children and more expensive. (So is glitter in the clear ear moulds for children, but I got that!). But the 'granite' pair comes at no extra cost so I got those. There's an amusing (and so true) response to an article on getting used to hearing aids - see Amanda Kvaslvig's letter: "Follow up of people fitted with hearing aids" BMJ 2002; 325:1304.

As a result of the new aids, I nearly jumped out of my skin when someone texted me the other day. The sound was so loud!

9 comments:

Artis-Anne said...

Sorry to read about your hearing problems ans hopefully as you say new technology might have something to offer. It amazes me how things have changed in medicine over the last 20 years. I , like my mother and two brother would have died by now but thanks to modern medicine and operations I am still here whining LOL. Good luck at Exeter and hope the new aid carries on jumping you out of your skin ;-) !! (in the best possible taste )

TutleyMutley said...

Anne - you have sooo much more to deal with than a piddling amount of hearing loss - well, the frustrations are very different I'm sure. Thanks for the well wishes and I hope your NEW medicine works miracles.

Susie Hewer said...

Terri, I'm so sorry to learn of your hearing problems. I can only imagine how frustrating and worrying it must be for you (I have crap eyesight so can only compare it with how that makes me feel). I think you are right to have faith in new technologies as things change at such a fast rate nowadays that what seems impossible now is commonplace in the future. Hope the new hearing aids give you a boost - sparkly it always good!!!!

TutleyMutley said...

The new hearing aids are great, Susie. It's funny - I don't think of my hearing problems as anything to be 'sorry' about (though I appreciate the kind thoughts my way) - they're just another frustration of living - like being overweight! At least I know it's not going to kill me. Though I guess the thought of being profoundly deaf in later life is alarming (being deaf is so isolating unless you happen to be 'D'eaf and part of the Deaf Community).

fol said...

How did you get your audiogram up on the blog? I'd like to post mine one day, when I run out of things to write about!

I think coping well with deafness is all about attitude. I don't worry about mine getting worse, I just live for today. I admit, I am gravitating towards the 'D'eaf community in an attempt to make my life more sociable but it's a fun journey.

fol said...

Oh I forgot to mention a tactic to try with phone numbers - ask for them in pairs, or repeat back in pairs, e.g. 278936 : twentyseven, eightynine, thirtysix.

Other numbers that sound alike in running speech are 7/11, 6/8, 15/16, 17/70, 18/80 etc. So I always double check with the speaker.

TutleyMutley said...

Now that's a really useful tip re phone numbers - ta! I usually do double check with the caller!

To get audiogram on blog: I googled speech banana audiogram and got the blank audiogram, then uploaded it to my picture editing application and put my last results on manually - saved it then uploaded it to blogger. Voila!

I usually live for the day - and have great fun too - so it will 'let it go'! thanks for your helpful comments, Tina...

sarala said...

If I lost my hearing I'm not sure I'd be able to work anymore at my current job (child psychiatrist). Good luck with the assistive devices.

Steve said...

Love the little graphics on your audiogram - never seen that before.

I know what you mean about imagining sounds during a hearing test - you do start to wonder if it's just your ears ringing or whether the sounds are really there. I asked my audiologist about this a while back and he said that he uses a sloping scale to make sure that we are not pressing the button when we are not hearing something. They have us sussed!