I spent a good part of the morning last week at the audiologist and in the testing booth. It was my third trip in the last month as "we" have been trying to resolve some issues with my hearing aids.
My new audiologist is a bigger brain than the other guy, who recently retired. He explains in detail how my ears work (or how they don't), why I am now afraid of heights and get off balance when on the edge of a trail. He uses terms I need more time to Google, so I just nod and pretend to understand. Did you know that our senses change as we lose some, and then others make up for it, and then some go off kilter....and we, as people, overcompensate for what's missing....? I did too.
The other guy, who recently retired, sat in the other room reading something that looked like a magazine and sipped his coffee. He's "merging" into retirement but "helping them out". My appointments before consisted of hemming and hawing and looking in my ears and clicking his tongue and then send me off with a tuned up pair of aids. No explanation. Just a lot of talk about the next vacation for both of us.
I love how the new audiologist over-enunciates and uses his hands when he talks to me. I don't know sign language, so I hope that's not what he was doing. In the end, when lip reading becomes the norm and necessary, if you are faced down or turned away from me, I am not going to be able to communicate with you. I will follow you around, grab your face and turn it towards me so I can see. Living with hearing loss means working harder to interact with the world....with you. More importantly, when I retreat into solitude in a crowded room it's because I just can't.keep.up. and I'm missing out on what feels like everything.
Miscommunication is probably the most embarrassing thing in the world and when Kevin sat across from me on our first date, I read his lips as he spoke, having stupidly not put my hearing aids in beforehand. (I'd probably been more focused on my hair and mascara) I pulled them out discreetly and popped them in my ears, pointed and said "I'm hard of hearing - soooooo I've got these things in"...
I tried to be casual about it, knowing it could be a bit much for someone to deal with, the potential to not be heard or have to speak up to be heard. I figured, might as well bring it up right off the bat so he can decide if he wants to deal with me or not. Instead, he raised his voice up a notch to be sure I could hear, asked 103 questions, and carried on.
If you know him, you would recognize the tone in his voice when one day he said to me "I think it's cool that you've got those - it makes you special." When I changed the batteries in front of him for the first time, he said it made me look a tiny bit "bionic".
I’ve been hearing things differently, like the fridge running at a new decibel, trucks digging across the harbor, some new bird species that's been flying around the neighborhood this season. When you're hard of hearing, you miss what your child is saying while she's crying in your lap, telling you a story about "what happened" that day at school - her high pitched voice isn't in the range that you can hear very well...you miss half the movie in the theatre because the special effects drown out the words...your kids might not watch TV with you because the subtitles lining the bottom of the screen drives them nuts.
Since I no longer have people in my life who yell things into my face like "DO YOU HAVE POTATOES IN YOUR EARS?", I've relaxed a bit about this obstacle. Kev sometimes lifts my hair to see if my hearing aids are in - my knee jerk reaction is that he's going to demand that I put them in - but every time, it's that he wants to know how he needs to speak. There is nothing bionic about wearing hearing aids, except that it just helps you cope, hear a little better - often times, it doesn't help at all. I still don't hear as well as the average person, and often hear things I don't want to hear, like the flushing toilet next door, the cats scratching in the litter box and the beeping of the trash truck in the next town away. At the end of every day everything's on overload and I rush home to tear the things from my ears.
It is hard not to feel like I am not complete. But - I can read lips. So there.