Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Noise, Noise, NOISE!

I got my hearing aids yesterday.
They are small and lightweight and most of the time I don't even feel them when I'm wearing them.
And since they are small and roughly the same color as my hair, they are not particularly noticeably in my ears.

They are one of the newest types of aids and they work with my iPhone. My phone is the controller and I can use it to adjust the volume. It has specific settings for cars and restaurants and other common places and I can program in settings particular to me. I can even adjust the settings so that the GPS on my phone switches the hearing aids to a particular setting as soon as I enter that place. I can use the phone as a microphone to amplify sounds that I struggle to comprehend. Since the aids work with the Bluetooth on my phone, when the phone rings I hear it through my aids. This makes talking on the phone considerably easier. And I shouldn't get that awful high-pitched buzzing that you sometimes hear from older types of hearing aids. The technology behind it all is pretty amazing!

As for the adjustment to hearing, my first impression is that the world is incredibly LOUD! I can hear voices easily now, which is wonderful. But I also can hear my shoelaces tapping and silverware clinking and people turning the pages of books from across the room. That isn't so great. Almost everything sounds far louder than I have been accustomed to. Right now, I feel like I'm standing in front of a giant speaker all day and it's just LOUD. I will adjust to all this amplification, but it will take time. My audiologist promises that my brain will eventually learn to filter out the extra noises and I'll go back to not noticing them. I hope that happens soon!

Some sounds are almost painful to hear. The turn signal on my car is so ridiculously loud that I can hardly concentrate on anything else while it is blinking. Crumpling paper is awful. I opened a bag of chips today and had to pour out the chips and throw the bag in the trash because I could not stand the sound of the foil. It will take some experimenting and some advice from the audiologist to make these sounds bearable, I think.

I'm also having some difficulty interpreting what I hear. I pick up on auditory nuances that I've never heard and it changes the way I've thought things sound. Last night at supper I kept sneaking peeks at the dish washer because it sounded like it was running. Eventually I realized that the sound I was hearing was the hum of the motor on the refrigerator, a sound I had not consciously heard in years. I find myself hearing something and then looking around to see where it's coming from and what it might be. Is that the washing machine or does Steve have water turned on in the yard? Is that really the neighbor's voice I hear from my house? What is that chirping sound? Who knows? Obviously, this will improve with experience.

I have gained new respect for my students with autism or ADHD or other sensory processing disorders. Like them, I now hear every tiny thing and I can't sort out what is important and what isn't. It's hard to listen to so much. I totally understand why one of my former students used to cover his ears and scream, "Too much noise! Too much!"

School with hearing aids is...interesting. Preschoolers are loud. They were loud before I could hear clearly and they are incredibly loud now. I can understand them better, but I also hear every dropped block and water table splash and six conversations at once. It's pretty overwhelming. I may need to program two settings for school - one for play time (with the volume turned waaaay down) and one for quiet conversations during work time. That will be another challenge for the audiologist and I to work out.

Hearing is great. But right now it's also hard. My brain is tired of listening. I must admit, it was a relief to take my hearing aids out last night and sleep in blissful, muffled quiet. Today was a little better and I'm sure that tomorrow life will sound more normal again. I'll get there, one loud step at a time.

I have had many, many people ask about my hearing adventure and comment that maybe they should get their hearing checked. My advice is YES! If you think you might need hearing aids, you probably do. If you have difficulty following conversations or understanding certain words or you have to ask people to repeat themselves often, then you probably have a hearing loss. Hearing loss is greatly under diagnosed  and many people are slow to admit they need help. I knew I was not hearing well, but I was shocked at how poor my hearing actually was. The audiologist estimates that I have had a hearing loss for at least 15 years! Go get your hearing checked. If you would benefit from hearing aids, get them. The world is full of sound, don't miss out on it.

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