April 7, 2021

Accepting Hearing Loss

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My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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If you had asked me 3 years ago about my hearing, and I’d have said there was nothing wrong with it. 

If you had asked me in Sept 2019 when I returned to work, I’d have said it was due to the adjustment of returning back to work and my focus wasn’t optimal yet. 

If you had asked me in spring 2020 and I’d have said things were fine – I could hear online students just fine. 

If you had asked me in September 2020 and I’d have said it was just getting used to masks again.

Then if you asked me again in Feb 2021 after returning from online to classroom …. yep I’m having problems hearing. Masks are a part of every day life, and my hearing isn’t getting better.  I haven’t adapted to masks any different than in September. It’s getting worse. Also, I have a large fan vent above my desk at school. I find it very hard to hear over at times. That won’t change either, as that room is pretty much mine now. 

Enter the difficult conversation with my husband, who says he noticed it years ago. Maybe it did start 3+ years ago… I have noticed the odd time at home when I ask my husband to repeat himself. That’s normal right? 

It took me a while to summon the courage to walk into a hearing clinic … something most people (myself included) associate with aging and senior citizens. But I just turned 40. I’m not old. Am I? 

My assumptions were turned upside down when I met the audiologist. He’s a young man, father of small children, and has hearing aids. I read on his website he has had hearing loss since childhood, and has dedicated his career to being someone who “gets it” when working with his patients. And he truly does. He explained everything, and made me feel comfortable in his clinic. 

The testing booth is pretty high tech – listening to sounds and clicking a button when you hear them. It’s also anxiety producing – something he said was a normal reaction. You’re sitting alone in a small soundproof room in dead silence waiting for a sound. Even with normal hearing, he explained, you’d wonder when/where the next sound is coming from, which makes you question if you have good hearing. 

After the testing, he shows you some neat scientific graphs. They confused me at first but then he used a graphic called the “speech banana” and it all made sense.  I’ve found one from google to reproduce here. 

This image shows the frequency and loudness needed to hear letters in speech. The yellow range is what range we need to be able to hear to hear clearly. 

The black line I’ve added to the image is basically where my hearing loss is. I have difficulty with the F, TH, and S sounds. If you look at the far right side, it’s considered a mild hearing loss. 

He explained that if I was a senior citizen at home the majority of covid, he may not recommend a hearing aid. They could turn up the tv or radio and for the most part get by. 

But I’m at school in front of students with masks, talking and listening for 6/7 hours a day. I’ve noticed the frequency with which I ask students to repeat themselves and it’s awkwardly often. So, to hearing aids we go. 

I’ll admit off the top I went with some higher tech (and higher priced) hearing aids. I wanted something that worked with my phone for controls/settings and calls and music streaming. I wanted something that could help with the muffle of masks. I wanted something that was discreet, so I didn’t feel like an 80 year old with chunky things around my ear. 

I’m grateful for the health benefits plan I have through work. Another reason to thank unions for the years of service (but that’s another whole post for another day). I am fortunate to have it. It’s there to be used, so I used it to the fullest advantage I could. 

The audiologist said he had the perfect solution, and he sure did. 

I feel like I’m wearing ear buds. They sit snugly in the ear canal and are discreet in the ear. At the time of writing this, I haven’t used them in class yet. I’m waiting for the students to ask why I’m wearing earbuds when they aren’t allowed to. Haha! 

At the time of writing this, I’ve had them for approximately 24 hours. For the 16ish hours I’ve actually worn them, I’m amazed at the difference. 

As a test, we stood (socially distanced) outside the clinic.  We stood on opposite sides of the entrance, with cars going by on the street in front of us, while he talked quietly with a mask on. I could hear everything he said perfectly! 

Over the last day I’ve appreciated the following: 

  • Hearing birds in the distance and close by (now I know why people with hearing aids talk about the birds.  So clear and beautiful!) 
  • The slosh of liquid pouring into a glass (crisp and clear)
  • The sharp clarity of voices (my son, my husband) even when talking quietly
  • The sounds of the house (furnace, fridge, etc) 
  • The ability to hear conversations easier in a store when there is music playing and cash registers beeping 
  • The freedom of not straining when listening to the drive thru speaker 
  • Mask mode – which has been researched as the frequencies that are most muffled by masks – and it amplifies them. I can’t wait to try this setting at work. 
  • Hearing the nearby train whistle…. from inside the house! 
  • And the list goes on…

I can’t wait to try it at work. I can’t wait to play with some of the other profile settings (like focused directional hearing) as I get more comfortable with it. 

And because everyone asks, yes, it has the technology to amplify quiet sounds and NOT amplify loud sounds. So when my son screams or shrieks with happiness (his usual noises) it doesn’t feel louder. Bonus! 

It isn’t lost on me that my Easter weekend is spent hearing the world differently. Jesus changed everything at Easter. And with this simple device, my world is changed too. It’s my Easter Miracle.

If you think you have hearing loss, I encourage you to take the hardest step of making the call and getting a test. You won’t regret it. 

Marilyn R.

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  1. Stacey says:

    So happy for you, Marilyn!
    It’s embarrassing to admit, but I never had any hesitancy to get my own hearing tested. I had it done within the same month that the boys were diagnosed in 2005. I was told at that time that I had hearing loss and needed a hearing aid. I have the benefits to help pay for it, but the appointments to get fitted just kept getting bumped over and over again, in place of what the rest of the family needed taking care of. I got re-tested 4 years ago and got the script to get fitted again.. now I am VERY dependent on lip reading and get headaches from straining to hear. With masks it’s a nightmare and I STILL haven’t gone to get them done. Might need the name of that great doc you went to…

Hi, I'm Stacey.
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My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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