In addition to being the Territory Manager for the state of Virginia at Phonak, I am also the daughter of a wonderful woman who is currently wearing the new Audeo V90 10 (yes, ruby red!) hearing aids. My mother has a moderate to severe sloping hearing loss in both ears. Her hearing loss began years ago and has been slowly declining the past 8 years since she was originally fitted with hearing aids. I tell you, it has not been an easy counseling process, getting her to wear her hearing aids regularly, but now, she can’t take them out! Here is what she has to say…
For years, I’ve been mystified when hearing people refer to their hearing loss in percentages. “I have lost 37% hearing in my left ear.”
Since I was thirteen and had my first audiogramme, that is how I’ve been thinking of hearing loss. In decibels, presented as a graph of how loud a sound needs to be so I can hear it, at various frequencies. I’ve showed my audiogramme on Open Ears already but here it is again:
As you can see, at 500Hz I don’t hear sounds below 50dB, but at 4000Hz (higher pitch sounds) my left ear has almost “normal” hearing, as I can hear sounds as soft as 20dB. As is the case for most people, my hearing loss is not the same at all frequencies.
Assistance dogs have a reputation for being well-behaved and there’s a reason for this: they have a LOT of training!
At the UK charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, puppies are socialised by volunteer Puppy Socialisers who work with the pups to get them house-trained, confident in various settings, comfortable around people and other dogs and happy to walk on a lead. They also start them off with the basic commands of ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ and train them to come when called.
The audiologist will tell you many things when you get your first hearing aid. Keep it dry and don’t wear it with wet hair. Put it in a desiccating box, and change the gel packs every six weeks. Blue stickers mean the left ear, and red stickers mean the right. Come back once a year to get it re-adjusted to your latest decibel range. Cover it up to keep from getting sweaty during sports practice. Always leave your hearing aid at home when going to the beach. Clean off the wax as often as you can so the microphone does not get clogged. No one can hear anything if their hearing aid is full of wax.
Absent from this long list of warnings are instructions on how to proceed through the infamous dating game with a hearing loss.
I’m a talker. Have been since my first words, or so the legend goes. Even as I became part of the “hearing lost” I didn’t stop talking.
According to my audiologist when we lose hearing we have two choices, really — to recede and/or to step forward. Or in my case, to do what has always come naturally.
Being a talker with a hearing loss hasn’t always been a good thing. In fact, it’s caused me countless embarrassing exchanges more times than I have data for.But I discovered that if I talked I didn’t have to listen — or listen as much. I would simply try to outrun the speaker’s attempt at a conversation. I would try to anticipate where the conversation was going and leap into the middle of it with some confirming words or experiences of my own to try that might match the “attempted” conversation.
I started with single-sided deafness when I was thirty. As time passed, I often thought that even if my deafness in that ear eventually became profound, I would be able to manage so long as I had hearing in my other ear. Then otosclerosis developed in my other ear and I needed to wear a hearing aid. The aid, lipreading and positioning strategies enabled me to cope and continue my job as a trainer for a local authority.
And then, (if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know) I lost the hearing in my better ear quite suddenly and my single-sided deafness switched sides: the severely deaf side was now the ‘good side’ and the ‘good ear’ was now a ‘dead ear’.
It was a confusing time – not least because after years of ‘positioning’ everyone to my left side, I now needed to do a complete switch. Not that I left the house much immediately after the sudden deafness, but when we did, my husband Richard and I both kept getting muddled up about which side we needed to walk on or where to sit.
As a consequence of my sudden deafness, I discovered the CROS hearing aid and the BiCROS system.
I am having an exceptional experience with a new Phonak Audeo V hearing aid which I received on January 23, 2015. It’s one thing hearing sounds more clearly than I had previously, but as a singer it’s quite another to be able to hear many more facets of my voice than I had been hearing for decades with other aids.
I’ve been a professional singer and recording artist since the ’70s. I studied voice, speaking and acting for years in New York and worked very hard at creating a voice and a style that employed my musical gifts and talents. But when I lost much of my hearing between 1978 and 1982, I also lost touch with that voice and all I had worked so diligently and passionately to develop and perfect.
Scroll ahead to today and moving beyond the challenges I’ve faced, the news is better.
Getting involved in charity work raises a lot of questions on what the right way to do things is. I have the privilege of being a member of the Hear the World Foundation since it was initiated in 2006. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to help. But spending the money wisely is not as easy as it sounds. What kind of projects should we support? How do we define sustainability? There are so many deserving projects out there, how do you choose?
One learning has been the importance of visiting projects personally. It’s been a mere week since I returned from Haiti. I cannot stop thinking about what I have seen there. You can say it has truly gotten under my skin.