The Story of My Hearing Loss: Part 3—Kindergarten

I seem to have jumped ahead with the story of my surgery, let me backtrack to Kindergarten, when my hearing loss was first discovered. Specifically, my Kindergarten teacher’s reaction.

I could title this: how not to treat a child with a hearing loss.

I could also title this: I just registered my son for Kindergarten, may he have a better year than I did.

I already mentioned how I failed a hearing test in Kindergarten (Part 1). What I haven’t mentioned was my teacher’s reaction. After my mother received the letter informing her I had failed, she called to notify my teacher. Said teacher thanked my mother for her call.

Said teacher also went back to class and whispered behind my head. Whispered. Nice, huh? I heard her. I’m not deaf. I’m hard of hearing. In the right conditions I can hear whispering. She called my mother back and told her: “Your daughter hears perfectly fine, she’s just not listening.”

(I’m pausing here to prevent myself from typing something I would later regret.)

I don’t have many memories of Kindergarten. I do know that I learned one of my hearing loss survival skills that year: when you can’t hear, look at your neighbor’s paper. Yes, in some cases that’s called cheating. In other cases that’s called survival. Regardless I needed this skill at the age of six.

In this teacher’s defense, she had no clue how to teach a child with a hearing loss. She liked to have students sit under their desks after recess and read a quiet story to calm us down. A story I wouldn’t be able to hear. Needless to say, it wouldn’t have calmed me down.

If my friend whispered to me, I would whisper back. Only my version of whispering was louder than others. Guess who got caught?

I was shy kid and my experiences in kindergarten did not help. My teacher did not expect me to go on to be successful. Who does that to a young child? I look at my son and if someone were to say that about him at this age I’d be livid. He’s five. The world is his oyster. Five or six is much too young to have these types of issues.

But those of us who are different become ripe targets at any age. I’d like to say this teacher taught me to be stronger. But she didn’t. That came from inside. From others who believed in me. Who didn’t make me feel less than for not hearing correctly.

I’m fortunate that this was the only teacher to give me a bad experience due to my hearing loss. Very fortunate. I’ll never know how many of my insecurities can be traced back to this period of my life. I will say this: I view 95% of my experiences with hearing loss as positive. As experiences that have helped me become the adult I am now, the adult I want to be. This is part of the 5%.

Missed the beginning? Check out the links below:
Part 1
Part 2

 

Muse In Hibernation

I’m putting down a sign, sticking it into the 70+ inches of snow surrounding my house, and declaring my muse in hibernation. For the most part I’ve been going with the flow in this winter of a thousand storms, and been fortunate that my jobs allow me to do so. But as the snow keeps piling up my muse is shutting down.

Snow

Suddenly everything is crap. Old new, it doesn’t matter. It’s crap. And the solution? The crap is me. My muse isn’t even lecturing me with a ruler anymore. No, now she’s shivering under a blanket, eye mask in place, shooing me away with a half hearted hand wave.

Bitch.

But I think there’s more to this. Preparing for storm after storm is tiring. The roads have been horrendous. And there’s no end in sight. Even if there was, the snow has to melt, right? Which will just bring on a brand new set of issues for a storm weary area.

A part of me wants to wave the white flag, snuggle under a blanket, and read while I munch of Valentine’s chocolates. Sadly, even my enjoyment of reading has been a struggle. Which, in all honesty, scares me. There has never been a better feeling to me than curling up with a good book, and when that feeling fades I feel itchy.

At the end of the day, it’s going to be a long winter. Nothing we can do about that. Certainly cutting out a storm scene in my current editing project is not the solution. I resisted, but oh how my fingers twitched. My inner muse screamed “No Snow!” But I held firm. This isn’t a depiction of the winter of ’15. This is a fictional storm intended to strand my characters over night. Removing the scene will do nothing to the 70 inches currently outside.

So, there you have it. The snow has claimed my inner muse. I’m sure I’m not alone. Even the homebodies are getting cabin fever this year. I’ll do my best to enjoy the fluffy white stuff and nurture my muse until she comes out of hibernation.

Until then. Thank God for chocolate.

The Ugly Truth About Hearing Aids

I was at work, minding my own business, when I realized my right ear felt blocked. I flicked my thumb over the microphone, expecting the static sound letting me know everything was okay. Only nothing happened. I took the hearing aid out and for the next five minutes checked the battery, looked for any cracks or wax buildup, etc, only to come to one conclusion:

My right hearing aid was not working properly.

My right ear is my worse ear, my left ear takes care of 70+ percent of sounds, so taking the hearing aid out didn’t do much to change my hearing. Only now all sound was coming through the two microphones in my left aid, and my right ear was getting next to no sound in.

My hearing aids are nine years old, which puts them in the elderly category. And if there is no easy fix I don’t know what I will do. Hearing aids cost, brace yourself, between two to three thousand dollars, on average. Each. And I wouldn’t need to just replace my right hearing aid, as my left hearing aid is getting frail, and I would want the stronger hearing aid in my stronger ear.

Yes, there are cheaper options, but a $30 over the counter type of device is not, I repeat, not going to help me. Those devices just amplify sound flat across the frequency range. Hearing loss is not that simple.

Many people think hearing aids are like glasses, put on a pair and you’ll be fine! I wear glasses—they bring my sight up to 20/20 vision. I wear hearing aids. They bring my hearing up, but nowhere near 20/20. Hearing aids amplify sound. They do not correct hearing.

Hearing loss is not a flat line. It’s either a curved line (curving downwards in higher frequency, often found in late onset loss) or an up and down line (like me, for those of us with genetic loss). A perfect example: my right ear doesn’t hear the “h” sound. A word like “that” has a gap in it for that ear. No amount of amplification will change the fact that I just can’t hear that sound anymore. (And yes, I am cringing at the unintentional pun and over use of a single word in the previous sentence.)

I need a device that will bring one frequency up higher than another. I need a hearing aid smart enough to quiet background noises. My aid will not know where I want to listen to, but it will do its best to filter the sounds.

That’s not a $30 device. That’s a $3,000 dollar device.

Now, hearing aids don’t let me hear what sounds are actually like. I was born with my hearing loss, so I’ll never how things are supposed to sound. I got my first set of hearing aids at the age of six, young enough that adapting to the new mechanical sounds was easy. This also means that an adult who needs hearing aids is in for a shock. The sounds they once knew will never more be the same.

Yet hearing aids are a wonderful tool. They help me and while I won’t consider surgery for my ears, I will consider replacing my dead hearing aid. Funding depending.

So, there you have it. The ugly truth about hearing aids. They cost an arm and a leg and do not provide natural sound. For an adult with late onset hearing loss I often recommend going in with an open mind and committing to giving the hearing aid a two week chance, at least. Only with time and listening does one learn what needs to be tweaked.

For example, with these aids that are currently bidding their fond adieu, I noticed a shrill sound from my favorite music (Bon Jovi) caused a piercing pain. I couldn’t figure out what, exactly, I was reacting to. The sound was high, and while Jon can hit a high note, he’s not hitting a soprano. So I listened again, and again, and again. Then explained as much as I could to my audiologist. She was able to tweak the hearing and I no longer cringed during my favorite songs.

I’ll go through this process again when I get my new hearing aids, tweaking the sound levels until they give me the most hearing without causing me pain. And yes, the stronger the amplification, the more chances of pain.

In recap: hearing aids are great! Only they cost a ton and don’t sound organic. So the next time someone like me says “What?” stop, rewind, and have some mercy on our poor ears.

Lonely Girl

sad girl

Alone
By choice
Is not always what it seems

Alone
No choice
The path laid out for me

My choices
My paths
Not the ones I dreamed

My choices
My paths
Would I trade?

Another chance
To stare at the crossroad
Which would be chosen?

Different or not
The end will be
The same

Alone