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I’m Sorry, Can You Repeat That?

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

This and many other eloquent ways such as “Huh?” & “Wha?” have become very frequent in my lexicon over the last several years and especially the last year. The reason is because I have been having increasingly more difficulty hearing. Sometimes if I am caught unawares in a large group I may just nod & laugh with everyone else rather than be singled out as the one that missed the joke. Usually though, I turn to whoever I am with and say something along the lines of the eloquent phrases listed above.

     I have had tinnitus since I was a small child. They would do hearing tests and ask me if I had ringing in my ears. The very literal me (who though of bells ringing or telephones) would say no.  Now, had they said “Do you hear a high pitched electronic whine?”  I would have said “Fuck yes & it is loud as hell do something about it!”  I am a literalist if nothing else when it comes to words and I didn’t realize until I was in my 20s (yes, I can be that thick sometimes) that the noise I hear was what they meant all those times. Moving on…

     I finally wrung a referral for a specialist out of my GP about a month ago. Who by the way, acted completely like we hadn’t talked about my failing hearing multiple times since last August and she repeatedly blew me off. Including one of those times being “You only missed 4 on the hearing test we gave you.”  My reply: “Yes four out of *EIGHT*! The last time I checked, that was a failing grade!”

     Fast forward to today for my appointment with the specialist.  They did much more detailed hearing tests.  I realized halfway through the tests that I was holding my breath so that my own breathing wouldn’t keep me from hearing the beeps & blips. That was a real slap in the face when I realized what I was doing.  I had to consciously make myself breath through the rest of the test.  They sent me back out to the waiting room and I was sitting there thinking over what had just happened with my unconsciously trying to compensate to hear.  It got me to wondering about other things I do to compensate that I may not be as aware of. Bit of an eye opening pattern of thought I tell ya.

     They call me back to see the doctor.  She enters the exam room, shakes my hand & introduces herself.  She sits down, looks at me and asks me if I was ever exposed to very loud music repeatedly or *explosions*.  Yes, she said explosions. I was a little dumbfounded by the explosions part and said no.  She proceeded to rattle off a few other things, such as gun fire, hunting and machinery work.  I answered yes to the first two.  (I started shooting when I was like 3/4. My dad’s an expert marksman and taught all his kids and most of the grand kids to shoot.  Back then we didn’t use ear protection, it was the 70’s and most people didn’t; they didn’t know better, like we do now.)  

     The doctor turns her laptop around to show me the graph of my hearing. She says “Your hearing loss is indicative of exposure to explosions or the like & shooting repeatedly would explain it.”  There’s several nifty colored levels to her graph, the top is “Normal Hearing” and the bottom is “Extreme Hearing Loss”. The level just above “Extreme” is “Severe Hearing Loss” & that is where she showed me mine was.  She then told me that the only thing they can do is give me hearing aids.  

     Thanks to a post by a lovely friend several months back and a few subsequent conversations with her at munches & seeing her own hearing aids, I was already thinking about hearing aids. Even then, I discovered today that I had held out some faint hope that it would be not so bad or an easy fix. (Dreams are nice dang it! 🙂 )  On the one hand it was nice to have an explanation.  On the other, looking at the realities of the answer was a bit of a tough pill to swallow.  I found myself tearing up in the office and trying to remind myself of the positives of this.  

     The doctor then informed me that she would set me up with a fitting appointment and that they would send home a set with me for two weeks to try out.  She also said she wanted me to try with only one hearing aid during that time on each ear and then with both ears.  I need them for both ears but she explained that these things are very expensive (and I am not shitting about the *very* part, holy crap!) and that insurance companies didn’t like paying for one much less two of them.  She said “I want to tell you now that one hearing aid is better than none if they won’t pay for the two.”  (It’s a sad commentary when doctors know up front that you probably won’t get what you need even though you have insurance…just sayin’.)

     They set me up for the fitting on May 9th. I left the office & sat in my car for a while much more emotional that I’d have thought I would be. (Eric will happily tell you how I think my emotions are superfluous & ridiculously unhelpful. I think *your* emotions are just fine, it’s mine that need to be excised. lol)  I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to digest this and think of all the positive things. Like that I can turn off the closed captioning on Wolf’s beloved television and he won’t have to be subject to them when he doesn’t need them. 🙂 And that I will be able to go to movies again and not be frustrated that I will miss at least 25% of the dialogue.  There are SO many positives.

     I am a rip the band-aid off kinda person. Band-aid ripped; now can we get on with the application of topical analgesic or new skin?  lol

     I have discovered that many people aren’t aware of my hearing loss unless they have to interact with me in larger groups (munches, meetings, etc.) or noisy places like bars/restaurants.  I of course thought it was more than obvious to everyone and it has been frustrating and very frustrating. Maybe a touch embarrassing but mostly just personally frustrating.

     I did realize that my not wanting to talk on the phone much and preferring texting has been in a large part due to this. So if you have been overly annoyed by my lack of willingness to talk on the phone much and texting a lot more I do apologize. I really began to realize today how much of my life this really has affected and it was a lot more than I thought.

     I am feeling overwhelmed with all the stuff with my mom lately and now this.  Am I scared about this?  That my hearing may continue to get worse & eventually hearing aids won’t help?  That I will be the one in the room that only her partner can “talk” with because he knows sign language?  I surely am! But, I know I will get through it because not going forward isn’t an option for me.  I have an amazing family of choice, friends and partner.  I know that they/you are all there for me, supportive, loving, caring and glad to send me good energy & strength if I just ask.  

So, I am asking…

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