I've mentioned in a couple of blogs that I am hearing impaired. Actually, saying I am impaired is like saying the Great Wall of China is a fence. I'm not stone deaf, but certainly the next best thing to it, not that there is anything "best" about it. I've been told my hearing loss hovers somewhere between severe and profound. Call it profoundly severe.
With my hearing aid I can hear what I'm focused on --- such as conversation, television chatter, or music --- but background sounds will go unnoticed. To understand speech, it is imperative that the speaker be facing me so I can lip-read. Lip-reading is the only way I can take sound, separate it into syllables, and then string those syllables into words. If the speaker turns away I would still hear him, but he might as well be speaking Klingon for all the sense I'd make of it. My kids learned at an early age this fact of life that comes with having me for their mother. I remember doing some ironing one afternoon and Mitch, who was five, started yammering about his day in kindergarten. I heard him, but being in the middle of a particularly intricate bit of ironing, I didn't want to look up for fear I'd run the iron over my fingers. When I finally set the iron aside, Mitch, extremely put out by now, said, "Mommy, LOOK at me when I talk to you!" I suppose I should be grateful he didn't ground me and take away my privileges for a week.
It started when I was three years old. My mother was the first to notice something was not right. I wouldn't respond when she talked to me or asked a question while my back was turned. Nor would I come running if she hollered at me from another room. She took me to a doctor and the doctor very nicely told her she was being paranoid; that it was typical for little kids to be so absorbed in whatever they were doing, they would have the world --- and mom --- shut out. Given that I was able to converse perfectly normally face to face, she decided the doctor was right.
I turned four and a few months later, it's Christmas. My parents had gone to a party and left me with the babysitter, a high school girl from down the street named Nancy Marks. I have no idea why I remember her name all these years later, and generally I am truly awful at names. Anyway, I can see it now: Nancy sitting in my dad's chair in the living room, me on the floor at her feet, and she's trying to teach me the words to Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I had the worst time understanding her. Looking back, I think the reason for that was because she was singing the words, which distorted them, and also because the melody was in a higher pitch than a normal speaking voice, and I had lost my ability to hear in that range --- not that anyone knew it at the time. Over and over, I had to ask her to repeat what she'd just said. It made an impression on my small brain, and the next day I told my mother what had happened. I can only imagine what must have gone through her mind when I innocently confirmed her fears from months ago: Paranoid, my ass!
As the story goes, I am being tested --- presumably NOT by that first doctor --- and the doctor came out and asked where I had learned to lip read. My parents said I had never been taught; shoot, they were just now finding out their one and only kid had a hearing loss, but the doctor said I was the finest little lip-reader he had ever seen. It seems that while I was losing my hearing, something I didn't know was happening until the infamous choir practice, I was subconsciously focusing on the speaker's lips and teaching myself, again subconsciously, to "read" them. Obviously, I was much smarter than I looked.
What caused it? Probably antibiotics. There are a lot of ototoxic medications out there. Even aspirin, that so-called wonder drug, can temporarily disrupt a person's hearing ability.
My first hearing aid was a body worn instrument, a box a little smaller than a deck of playing cards. I had to wear a harness around my chest and the harness had a little pocket to hold the hearing aid. The aid had a long wire that ended in an earpiece that was inserted into my left ear. My mother, always looks conscious, made me wear the harness and the aid under my clothes, but there was no covering up the cord or the weird rectangular bump sprouting in the middle of my chest.
In the second grade, I got to ditch the box and the scratchy harness for a behind-the-ear (BTE) model that was much less conspicuous. Except for a period in the 90's when I gave in to vanity and wore an in-the-ear version --- a big mistake that was --- I have always worn a BTE aid.
Several years ago the ear drum in my "good" ear, which is like saying a D- is a good grade, ruptured. I don't know how it happened, except I woke up early one morning with severe ear pain. My ENT diagnosed the problem and said it would take several weeks for it to heal. During that time, I was really and truly deaf. I couldn't even hear the clanging of a metal spoon against a metal pan, even with my hearing aid turned up as far as it would go. My hearing did gradually come back, but there was some additional permanent loss as a result of that mysterious rupture.
When he married me, my husband never dreamed his vow to love, honor and cherish would include "...and call her gynecologist for her yearly Pap smear." Not surprisingly, Alexander Graham Bell's invention and I do not get along. I honestly can't recall the last time I picked up a receiver and said "hello" into it. Thankfully, email and texting are wonderful boons, and Skype has potential if they can ever synchronize the audio with the video. But for some things, like doctor appointments, I have to depend on Richard to make the occasional phone call. He's come a long ways from those first stammered medical conversations:
Nurse: Dr. Soandso's office! May I help you?
Richard: Ummm...I need to make an appointment for my wife.
Nurse: Certainly, sir. What does she need to see the doctor for?
Richard: Ummm...it's for a...(aside)...what do you call it?
Me (in background): Pap smear!
Richard: Pap schmear.
Suddenly, I feel like having a bagel.
Cat and friend: icanhascheezburger.com
That awkward moment: 9GAG.com
Zenith hearing aid: http://newgenerationhearing.wordpress.com/tag/digital-hearing-aids/
Man with "hearing aid": http://michiganhearingaidcenter.com/services
Get notified of new content! Enter your email address in the space below to get started...