Adjusting to New Hearing Aids: Part II

Click Here For Part I

While talking with my audiologist, I learned new hearing aids have levels on them up to four. I’m not clear on what these levels are, just that they are there. And the hearing aid industry pushes for level four. My audiologist—and I love her so—doesn’t believe in the four and set mine at level two.

Level two is loud. As in I turned down my car radio to the point where my son had to tell me to turn it up. I don’t even want to consider what level four would be! For some reason everyone thinks we need it to be loud, loud, loud!

No, no, no! When I put in a hearing aid my aid decides what I hear. Not me. It will pick up something dropping to the ground over the person I’m talking to. It will pick up the music in the background more than what I’m trying to focus on. It will pick up person B when I’m listening to person A. I’m using hearing aids to function. Yes, I love music. But I’ll listen to music with my hearing aids off. When I have my aids on I want to understand my son, listen to the television, and be alerted to important environmental sounds. I don’t need to hear a mechanical clanking from my keyboard.

And yes, I’m hearing my keyboard. And as a writer, I type a lot. I’m used to typing being this quiet thing. But now all I hear is “click, click, clack” in a high pitch. It was cool for the first ten minutes, now it’s annoying and I’ve removed my hearing aids specifically for quiet writing time.

There’s another point: people with hearing loss know quiet. We enjoy quiet. It’s nice and cozy to us. I have never been hearing. I don’t know what sounds are truly like. All I know is the mechanical sounds filtered through my hearing aids. Make no mistake: hearing aids don’t correct hearing. They amplify with mechanical sounds. I don’t hear what you do. I will never hear what you do. And frankly, I’m okay with that.

So the thought that the hearing aid industry is pushing loudness makes me shudder. So many people who are needing hearing aids the first time struggle. Making the sound uncomfortable will just make it worse. No one wants to spend thousands of dollars on a device(s) they don’t use. But it happens all the time.

Back to me, Ms. Experienced getting her latest aids. From the time I sat in the audiologist’s office, I knew my left ear felt blocked. We tweaked a few levels but at this point I knew it might be me adjust to the hearing aid. The tinny sound remained. These are not things I fixed while with my audiologist.

Adjusting to hearing aids take time. I always tell people to give it two weeks. Wear the hearing aids. Study the sounds. Figure out what works and what doesn’t. With my previous set of aids I had trouble listening to Bon Jovi, my favorite band. When his voice got high and shrill, I closed my eyes from pain. But John doesn’t have a high voice, so I had to continue listening to make sure I knew what wasn’t working.

Therefore I left my audiologist with plans to call her once I figured out what needed tweaking. I got to work and discovered that my left hearing aid was reacting to one of the phones. This phone is portable with a flat surface, so the flat surface is pressed up against my ear. This phone is also quiet for me, so I have to hold it close. Only holding it close had my hearing aid whistling. I have to hold the phone away from my ear.

Mental note: I need that fixed.

When I went to take off my hearing aids that night I had to adjust my routine. My old right hearing aid had the ability to turn the hearing aid off before removing it from the ear, thus saving me the whistling the process demands. My new ones don’t. I tried popping the battery door open, but the position is different and is not easily accessible.

My left hearing aid, I discovered, is smaller than my old ones. I have young hands, no arthritis. I almost dropped it. Hearing aids are wet and messy and coated with wax when they are removed. My tiny little aid slipped in my hands as I tried to clean it off before setting it in a dehumidifying container for the night.

I’m getting used to the slippery hearing aid. But the blocked sensation in my left ear lingers. And some sounds are not right, but I’m not sure exactly what, beyond “tinny.” I know things that crinkle, like paper or foil, are not comfortable to listen to.

On the plus, I’m having a much easier transition than some of my friends. And I think the level two has a lot to do with that. I can’t imagine a higher level. I’m understanding my young son better. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s what I need out of a hearing aid.

Click here for Part III

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Adjusting to New Hearing Aids: Part I

I wanted to make this post for two reasons, the first to help anyone getting hearing aids for the first time and give them something realistic to reference. The second for anyone who’s interested in knowing what it’s like to wear hearing aids.

New hearing aids are a process, even for someone who’s worn them for almost three decades. I’ve worn and adjusted to many different types. Different hearing losses respond differently to hearing aids and technology. For the record, I have a mild loss in my left ear, and am (now) moderate to profound in my right. Simply put: I listen with my left, always have, always will.

I wear two different types of hearing aids, an in-the-ear for my left, and a behind-the-ear for my right. My decision to do this has nothing to do with appearance, but rather to do with sound. For my left ear I wanted the sound to come from the entrance of my ear, rather than from behind my ear. It makes it easier to talk on the phone and allows the sound to be a little more natural. It’s also more comfortable when I’m wearing my glasses and a headband.

My right ear I have no choice. Because of my hearing loss I can only benefit from the behind-the-ear model. This has never bothered me. I started off wearing two behind-the-ears. And since I talk on the phone with my left ear only, this is what works best for me.

Getting new hearing aids is a process. I know this, I’m aware of this. I’ve been through the drill many times before. My old hearing aids were nine years old, with the way technology advances these days, I had a lot to adjust to.

First things first: I wanted fun new hearing aids. I had no fun options for my small, in-the-ear hearing aid, but I went with color for my right. Here are my new aids:

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They are both from the same manufacturer. My left, the small gal, I could have gotten smaller, but this was already small enough. My right, on the other hand, is the most powerful aid they provide. This doesn’t surprise me at all, in fact, I found it comical how powerful an aid I needed (and the model name does include “power” in it).

When I picked up my new hearing aids we started with my left ear. I put the hearing aid in and was hooked up to my audiologist’s computer system. She adjusted the aid to my audiogram, then we talked and I let her know what sounded off so she could tweak some more. At one point I noticed an uncomfortable tinny sound. My audiologist asked if it was a high sound. It wasn’t. But I had no other words to describe it.

I did complain about some background noise, which we discovered was a fan blowing in the room. Just goes to show how much we really don’t hear, even with hearing aids. There will always be something new to my ears. And the older I get, this “something new” is harder and harder to identify and process correctly. Now it gets lumped into “sound,” at times “annoying sound,” and the only thing I can do is turn my hearing aid off to avoid it.

Once my left ear was set, we put in my right hearing aid. The very first thing we did with each ear was a feedback test, a series of beeps getting higher and higher as the hearing aid and program communicated. My right ear is profound in high sounds, and I expected this testing to be quieter than in my left ear. I was wrong. This told me immediately just how powerful my new “power” hearing aid was.

(Side note before anyone gets emotional: I don’t care about hearing. Truly. Honestly. I don’t want to better my hearing. But I do function in the hearing world most of the time, so it is important for me to hear. While it’s fascinating how much sound my right is able to receive, I would be perfectly happy with the previous level of sound I had.)

Click here for Part II

How I Got My Agent!

I still can’t believe I get to write this post! This is the post every writer dreams of writing and secretly fears may never happen. The ending of my story moved fast, but make no doubt about it, this has been a journey.

The first novel I seriously queried was my second novel, an adult contemporary romance. As I went through querying, entering contests, and meeting more writers and critique partners, I learned a ton. My novel changed for the better. When I stopped actively querying I had sent out 80 queries and had two requests pending.

I kept writing, penning drafts to three more adult romances. Then I wrote something different. Darker. Edgier. Younger. My first New Adult novel, a single POV story with a hard of hearing main character. From the beginning I got great feedback from my readers. Before querying, I entered it into my first contest, Nest Pitch. I was thrilled to receive requests for more writing from more than one team! I was chosen as a finalist and had two lovely mentors provide feedback on my first chapter and help me clean it up.

The contest came and I watched as most of the other participants received requests. I received none. I was crushed and bummed but I took faith in the fact I had been chosen for a team. I started querying. My first ten queries yielded me two full requests! I started to believe I was onto something with this novel.

I entered a second contest, The Writer’s Voice. I ended up with two teams fighting over me! Something I always dreamed of from watching contests and not getting through. For those who still dream: yes, it’s wonderful, but it’s also brutal! Two wonderful teams want you and you can only choose one. I hemmed and hawed, bit my nails, and drove my friends crazy. When the agent round came I was prepared for nothing, again. I got three requests! I knew it, something good was coming.

But then the rejections started coming back. Generic rejections, with no information to let me know what was wrong. I’d learned so much from rejections with my previous novel, I knew something wasn’t working and I wanted to know what.

Then I received a rejection from my very first query request (this one from the slush, not through any contest). I got a little feedback: the agent wanted the novel to go in a different direction than I did. I was bummed, but more so, I was curious. I summoned up my courage and sent off a short (two sentence) email asking the agent if she minded sharing her thoughts.

A few weeks later I received a response. A long e-mail pointing out some areas that needed work. And it ended in an offer to resubmit! An R&R! I was thrilled, but unsure about the notes.

Side point here, this novel is very close to my heart. So those comments on what needed to change were hard to swallow. I wasn’t sure it was the right path for me or not, but I also knew I had nothing to lose by trying. I had recently penned my male’s POV of the story, allowing me to delve deeper into his character. I personally love dual POV stories, and even though I worried about juggling dual in first person, I decided to merge the two together, taking in the agent’s notes, to see what happened.

I finished the revision, only I had no idea if I liked it or not. I sent if off to one of my betas, who loved the original version. She came back with hearts in her eyes, she loved the dual POV revision even more. I still doubted but by then it was time for another contest, PitchWars. I sent off the revision to PitchWars.

I didn’t get in. But I did receive some very encouraging words back from one mentor. I dived back in and realized I liked the revision. A lot. It worked, it hit the notes a romance needed to hit, and, I hoped, it hit the agent’s vision.

I entered one more contest, WriteInclusively, even though I had this feeling my contest days were over and I was ready to move on to the other side. Foolish, right? I made it to the finals and received four requests! So even though I was still waiting for some critique partner feedback, I took comfort in my cheerleader beta telling me it was ready. I sent it off to the contest requesters, and to the others who were waiting for my revision, including the original agent.

All e-mails went out on a Monday. On Friday I was feeling sick, a sore throat brewing, and planned to take it easy. I settled down on my bed and checked my e-mail. In it was a message from the original agent, requesting to chat with me about my manuscript.

When I say I freaked out, I mean that to the fullest extent of the words! My hands shook, my heartrate skyrocketed! I sent my husband a text he had to use a code master to decipher. I sent my writer buddies a message they needed no codes to decipher and jumped up and down with me.

I had to respond to the agent. But I was in my pajamas and my hearing aids weren’t on. Foolish, we weren’t talking right then, but I should at least shower first? Right? I showered. I sent off the e-mail with my availability. I made lunch and settled back at my computer, to the hordes of messages from my cheerleaders.

And an e-mail from the agent. Could we talk in a half hour?

I tried to eat my lunch, wasn’t happening. I put it in the fridge. I paced, I drank water for my sore parched throat. Then the agent called and within a few minutes I knew this was it. This was THE CALL!

When I hung up the phone I had an offer from an agent. I fired up my “offer of representation” emails, messaged my writer friends, and tried to keep my head on straight. Did that just happen?

Next began the waiting. If you thought you checked your e-mail a lot before an offer, ratchet it up a few thousand degrees when you’re waiting for responses. At this point I was very happy with the offering agent, I was ready to sign. But I couldn’t do so until either I heard from everyone, or the end date arrived. Such a short amount of time but it felt like absolutely forever.

Now I can finally announce that I am represented by Rachel Brooks of L. Perkins Agency. And no, I am not entirely sure I am not dreaming…

A few stats:

I started writing my first novel in 2002.
To date, I have completed three novels, and have four more in completed draft form.
I started my NA in October of 2014, sent my first query in May of 2015.
I’ve sent about 114 queries total for all projects, but only 30 for this one.

An Apology To Myself On Writing Diverse

My first novel didn’t have diverse main characters. I always wanted to write about hearing loss. Silly me assumed—and we all know what assuming does—that readers wouldn’t be drawn to Deaf and Hard of Hearing characters. Therefore I put my diversity in my supporting character. The closest I got was a primary supporting character who was a CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults).

I was influenced by what was out there. I hid my true self in hearing characters. I failed to embrace what made me, and therefore my writing, different.

My second novel was little better at first. Once again, I had a strong supporting Deaf character. But my main two were both hearing.

A funny thing happened when a rejection letter pointed out my opening needed a hook: I realized my male was Deaf. And in edits it became clear: he was always meant to be Deaf, I hadn’t realized it. Suddenly the story had more power, weak plot points solidified, and I fell deeper in love with the story.

A second funny thing happened: this revision gained more attention than my original. Perhaps it was just the hook my opening needed. Or it boils down to diversity is wanted. Diversity is needed. And even as the publishing world struggles with how to make it happen, we all see the need and have the desire to make it work.

When I finally put my diverse angle front and center, with both main characters with a hearing loss, the novel gained more attention than any other. I’ve received such love for this concept from so many directions. Only this time it means so much more to me. My main character has a hearing loss. She begins the novel with the identity of hearing impaired, although I never call it such because I don’t like the term. Throughout the novel she grows comfortable with herself and her hearing.

This was me. I hated my hearing loss for years. Until I took an ASL class in college and it changed my life. This journey was my initial concept for the novel. I created characters and gave them stories that differed from mine, but the underlining theme remained the same: hearing impaired girl becomes Hard of Hearing (capitalized to denote part of the culture).

The story has my heart and soul all over the pages. It has parts that are so important to me, and important to others with hearing loss. And to have people express interest and give me positive feedback? Huge.

I won’t go back to writing non diverse novels. At least, I don’t think I will. I have one work in process that I love, even though both main characters are non-diverse. Maybe this, too, will change in revisions. I struggle since I’m not sure I can write every novel with main characters who have hearing loss. But I do plan to continue with my initial goal: every novel will have hearing loss somewhere in them.