A Re-Awakening

Have you ever sat on the couch, absorbing media (electronic or written) and suddenly realized you were drifting away? When reflecting on this, you find it nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly when “chill” became “sleep,” but are jarred awake by some unexpected event? Well this is the best analogy I can think of to explain how I felt, really stil feel, whenever adjustments to my hearing aids are made: I don’t need them, I hear just fine OH WOW! I hadn’t known how quiet the sound had become.

Of course there are the normal issues. As I’ve noted many times, the aids tend to slowly clog and drop out of service, such that I find myself returning to my audiologist for emergency intervention. Each time this occurs,I vow to not wait until hearing levels are urgently low, except that I inevitably get too caught up in life to pick up on the subtleties until I’m back at that point again.

So we had an issue with this last week. Thankfully, it hadn’t gotten to the point where I couldn’t hear anything at all and I wanted to ensure that it didn’t! I went in, got the tubes replaced, and put them back in. Turned the aids on, and UGH! still clogged sound. What on earth is going on here.

Other tests were conducted, and the aids were found to be functioning as well as they had usually done. “I think” the audiologist informed me “that we’re long overdue for another hearing test”.

I groaned loud enough for everyone in the building to hear. It’s a torture chamber, because trying to dig the beeps out of the static and to understand “airplane!” “baseball” and at a whisper “oatmeal,” “oatmeal,” makes my head pound and leaves me feeling quite incompetent. Nevertheless, I relent and allow the appointment to be scheduled for today.

First, I should note that, as a huge relief to me, the biggest extent of my problem hearing last week was weather-related. I am usually aware of this, however most times the cloggage, or feeling of fullness as the medical professionals put it, is accompanied by a high-pitched ring. This time it was just as if someone had shoved a wad of cotton deep inside, and no changing of the volume would help me. But by the next day, I could hear “normally” whatever that means.

I slunked through the week, a sense of dread building as I approached the DAY OF DOOM. Work today was to be only a halfday, and it probably amounted to the longest half day in the whole history of me. I spend most of the morning kind of cold, unoccupied as the product was a bit backed up, and with far too much time to ponder things.

Finally, I make my way to the clinic, a good hour and a half early. I sit in the wait room trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to read. I also overhear an older woman, whom the receptionist asks the innocuous question of “How are you?” engage her in a nearly ten minute long conversation about travel and jewelry. I’m guessing they both enjoyed it, but in any event I admired the willingness to get in touch with someone at a human level, a virtue in short supply these days.

At the appointed time of 1:30, I hear the executioner, uh doctor, call “Mr. Miller?” I meet her newest graduate student trainee, (they almost always have students involved because they’re university-affiliated), and make my way to the back. I ask if she can attach electrodes to my head and read brainwaves. “We could, but that would involve digging through and making sense of a lot of data”. “Well how about just marking me as Profoundly Deaf and calling it done?” “Well, that wouldn’t help me do anything about the aids”. I puff out and give in, slumping into the chair of the soundproof booth.

I think I did OK on the left side, mostly. I’d sometimes guess, raising my hand randomly and saying something like “o” that maybe they would take for the correct word, whatever it had been. On the right side, well I may as well forget it. I barely know when it has started, let alone really make out any of the words. An odd thing is I can feel a vibration on my head that tells me, at least occasionally, when the right side has beeped. Is that cheating? I don’t know.

“Ok, Mr. Miller” they say as debriefing begins we can definitely reprogram those aids so they’re doing for you what you need. There’s a cost with that though and you’re an adult, so you can decide if you want it”. She says that the aids still fall within a power level that works for me, so I opt at least at this time not to continue acquiring new ones. That still may change, though.

Anyone who has had his or her aids reprogrammed maybe knows about the carrot recording they use for calibration. I can probably remember most of it, hmmm.

“The carrot is a vegetable and a member of the parsley family. It is grown all over the world, in gardens and in the wild in fields.” I think maybe he says something else, but ah well. It always amuses me.

It takes her 30 minutes to complete this calibration, and when I plug them back in I immediately note that it now sounds like they’re brand new again. I have been out and about, and can go into restaurants and other establishments without having to make significant adjustments to listen to the cashier. It was also so easy to talk to my driver as I came back, even though I heard the thwack thwack thwacking of tires against the road again. It reminds me of when this process started nearly 11 years ago, and it’s pretty cool. I am concerned about how work will feel, with the roar of machinery that will probably cause me to turn them nearly off. I will also have to readapt to the feeling of disastrous closeness I get walking down the street as cars whiz by loudly, knowing that much of that feeling is in my mind.

On the whole though, I am happy that I allowed myself to be talked into going through with the test and its subsequent suggestions for improvement. It can be so easy to tell ourselves that we’re our own experts on what is happening to us, and yes for the most part this is true. However, we must acknowledge that our brains are powerful machines and can convince us that things are fine when really they need looking into. Speaking for myself at least, I know that I must continue to be willing to open my mind to the possibilities that these professionals might, sometimes, know what they’re talking about. I thank them for working with me and giving me choice, and of course thank you for your continued support.

3 Responses to A Re-Awakening

  1. Pingback: Not Your Grandma’s Hearing Test | A Blind Man's Journey

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