Sounds

I’ve known for some time that my hearing was not what it once was, but I blamed the stuffy feeling in my ears on my allergies. Surely, I told myself, the doctor will be able to clear me up. So, I got a referral to an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor, and went for my appointment during Christmas break.

The ENT checked my ears, nose, and throat (surprise, surprise), and declared me healthy. But what about my plugged up ears? Apparently, they are not plugged up. The next stop was a couple of rooms over to the audiologist for a hearing test.

Here are the results of my hearing test.

Audiogram

The y-axis shows the loudness of the sounds (in decibels), and the x-axis shows the frequency ranges. According to the CDC, the range from 250 to 6000 Hz is the most important for everyday hearing. The yellow part that is highlighted is the “normal” hearing range for adults. The up and down jagged lines on the graphs that look like someone’s heart rate is declining…that’s my hearing range. I can’t hear anything above that line. As much as I often pride myself on not being normal, this is not AT ALL what I expected.

Then the audiologist said the words I had been dreading. “You are a prime candidate for hearing aids in both ears.” I felt like I had just aged thirty years in the past half hour.

The doctor was very nice about the whole situation. He’s a little younger than me and also had hearing aids. That helped some. I went back about a week later to pick the hearing aids up, and as of this writing, I’ve been wearing them for almost three weeks. My hearing aids are small enough that I’ve had to tell most people that I have them in my ears.

The doctor also showed me my audiogram with a speech banana superimposed on it. This banana is not edible, but it sure left a bad taste in my mouth. Briefly, vowel sounds tend to be easier to hear for most people because they are spoken at lower frequencies, but consonants are more important for understanding speech in conversation. The problem for me is that most consonants are outside of my hearing range. That’s why I often thought to myself that I could hear the words people were saying but couldn’t actually understand what the words were. It was slightly frustrating.

I had no idea how bad my hearing actually was until it got turned back on (so to speak). My hearing will never be “normal”…just better than it was. The doctor and I are still working on getting the sound quality worked out, but overall, it is nice being able to hear what’s going on around me. I didn’t realize how much I was missing. Here are some observations from the past couple of weeks.

  • EVERY door in our house squeaks when it opens and closes. I need some WD-40.
  • The toilet is much louder than I thought when it flushes. No wonder my five year old daughter gets scared of it sometimes.
  • The dishwasher beeps when it’s done?!? Who knew?
  • My kids play really well together most of the time, but they scream way too much.
  • I’m not looking forward to the next time we have a fire drill at school. The fire alarm made my ears hurt when I didn’t wear hearing aids. I can’t imagine what it will sound like now.
  • I don’t always want to hear everything my students have to say. Ignorance really is bliss.

So what about the stuffy feeling I had in my ears? I noticed right away that the feeling went away with my hearing aids in and came back when I took them out. It turns out that the stuffy feeling is one of many symptoms of hearing loss. That feeling that my ears were all plugged up was just in my head…or not in my head…well I guess technically it WAS in my head…the inner ear part of my head. Oh, whatever.