Friday, July 06, 2012 9 Comments »

My mom’s hearing, or lack thereof, was legendary.  I’m not sure when her hearing started to diminish, but by the time she was in her 70’s, dinner conversations approached sitcom level, with mom jumping into conversations based on a misheard word, and then going off on a totally unrelated tangent.  The one where she mistook the word “woozy” for “floozy” was particularly memorable. 

At the beginning of May, I came down with the same summer cold that seems to have afflicted many of you.  My sinuses were stuffed up, and then one evening my left ear just closed.  That’s the only way I can describe it – it felt like it slammed shut.  One minute I could hear out of it, and the next I couldn’t.  When I talked, I could barely hear myself – felt like I was 100 feet under water. 

With rest, antibiotics and a trip to the beach, the cold finally went away, but my ear continued to be stuffed up.  Some days were better than others, but I could not hear people at work, I missed two-thirds of what was being said at our guild meeting, and I became terribly self-conscious about always having to ask people to repeat themselves or speak up.  I even started to wonder if some of my co-workers weren’t speaking extra softly just to get my goat.  Hubby suggested a visit to his ENT.

The ENT visit was yesterday.  Who knew that I had a badly deviated septum that was almost totally blocking my left sinus passages and Eustachian tube?  The blockage had kept that tube from draining, so my left middle ear canal was swollen shut.  Dr. Nose put me on a reducing daily dosage pack of steroids to reduce the inflammation and wants to see me in a couple of weeks to chat about septum surgery.  After a day of drugs, I do notice a slight difference in my ear and a really big difference in my stiff  knees.   The thought of septum surgery, though,  is keeping me awake at night. 

Wait, there’s more!

While I was there, he suggested a hearing test.  The one with the trained audiologist, the sound proof  booth and the big headphones.  I failed.  Boy did I fail.  I have turned into my mother.  According to the tests, I have roughly a 50% loss of hearing in BOTH ears.  Apparently my hearing has been going for quite a while, but the clogged ear thing brought everything to a head (no pun intended).  That’s hearing aid territory, folks.  What’s next, a Seeing Eye dog?
So in 2 weeks I also have an appointment with the Hearing Well Center, where we will talk about my options – the options being expensive hearing aids, wildly colored hearing aids, barely visible hearing aids or big-ass ear trumpets.  If any of you have experiences along these lines, please feel free to share – I’m in uncharted waters here and need all the advice I can get.  In the mean time, can you just speak up?  Eh?


BillieBee (billiemick) said...

Did the doctor give you a hearing test when your ear was still stopped up?

My DH and I should both go get a hearing test. Seems we are always turning the TV up or down. Mick bought some special earphones where he can listen to TV and mute the outside sound.

Pat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
howdidIgethere said...

I have no first-hand experience. My boss wears tiny hearing aids that I never even noticed, so I have no idea how long ago he started.

I should probably go get me one of those tests, as I seem to have problems discerning what is said if there's background noise. But I'll put it off a while longer...

Good luck. Or maybe I should say GOOD LUCK!

regan said...

I have no experience to share, except to say that my favorite phrase is "I'm sorry, what?" But I'm very sure it's because most everyone mumbles! Especially my hubby!

Selective hearing? Maybe!

Denial? Definitely!

Hang in there, and go for the hearing aides that are cute, so you can use them like a jewelry accessory! lol

Diane H said...

My SIL was like your mother. She got hearing aids a couple of years ago and absolutely loves them. They had a grandfather clock in their house that used to drive everyone mad but it never bothered her. Until she got her hearing aids and couldn't believe how loud it really was. Good luck, Pat.

Becky M said...

Oh boy, it really is inevitable that we all turn into our mothers! Sorry yours. Comes with hearing loss. :( I have lost some of my low range hearing due to lots of ear infections. I don't have an aid (yet) but probably should get one. Especially for hearing hubby! Good luck finding the right one. Keep us posted

Pat said...

Oh my, what an encouraging comments -- thank you so much for taking the time to write. As with a lot of other little things that "go wrong" with us, it's easy to feel as though you are the only one in your particular situation. It is heartening to hear such suppoortive comments, and it really makes me feel better about a situation that, despite the humor in my blog, was one that was making me quite upset.

The steroids have started to work, and with the reduction in swelling in my ear canal, I am hearing much better. Social interaction this weekend (a lengthy car ride with 3 other chatty gals, and a wedding shower) did not prove challenging -- I'm waiting to see how I do at work on Monday with all of those "soft talkers" I work with. I will still go through with the planned evaluations, and probably the surgery (ugh), and see where that takes me.

Again, thanks so much for your words of encouragement!

Pat said...

Dawn Marie posted the following by mistake under one of myb other blog posts. It really touched me, and she says some things that might benefit others who think they have a hearing loss. I've copied/pasted it here so all of you can see it. Thanks Dawn Marie! I trued to thank you in an email, but you are what we call a "no reply blogger" -- not email address available.

I failed my first hearing test in 2nd grade. Since then, I've failed many. I'm borderline whether or not I need hearing aids. My first husband wanted me to have them, so before I even turned 30, I had my first set of hearing aids. They fit completely inside my ear. And man, I didn't realize that when pages on a magazine turn it makes a noise. It was such an amazing and at times overwhelming experience. I adjusted to them and for the most part enjoyed them.

I found that restaurants were particularly troublesome. Everything was just so loud, it took a lot of concentration to pick out the sound I wanted to focus on. You really have to practice to do this in loud situations. That was 12 to 15 years ago. In one of those loud situations, I took out my hearing aids and ended up losing them. After that, it was as though my brain had been retrained to hear certain sounds.

I'm much better now even without them. My hearing loss still tests about the same and my ENT has told me that when it affects my social interactions it'll be time to get them again.

Since my experience, the technology has come a long way, and it's amazing what they can do. My advice once you get them. Give yourself time to adjust. At first, wear them at home only. Get used to the extra sounds that you had forgotten existed. Practice focusing on the sounds you want to hear and "tuning out" the background. It really is a skill. Then add social settings that are not as loud. Finally, start adding in restaurants. Keep a pouch or some kind of carrying case in your purse, so that in a restaurant if you need a break, you can safely remove them. Don't let the background noise frustrate you. You'll get used to it. Just keep reminding yourself that these little irritations are also going to allow you to hear some wonderful things, like the really quiet whispers of a grandchild. Good luck on your adventure!

Susan said...

Pat, I've had the septum surgery and it was totally worth it. I won't lie and tell you that the recovery was a breeze, but I was able to go back to work within a week. It is sooo nice to able to breathe through both sides of my nose.

The story about your mother is too funny and I can totally relate to your feelings of becoming your mom!

I was diagnosed with a high frequency hearing loss earlier this year. So far, it's not impacting me much as I can still discriminate speech sounds well. I do notice some difficulty with background noise and try to handle that by sitting next to a wall in a restaurant so that I only have noise on one side. At parties, it helps to stand in a corner to improve the acoustics.

Be sure to have your hearing re-checked after the septum surgery and the ear infection clears up to get the best evaluation (I have a degree in audiology and that's what I would do.)