We all know what hearing loss is, but what does it look like? I’m often asked how I feel about my hearing loss, how I treat it, and how I cope. Truthfully, I ignore the fact that I don’t hear normally, slap in my hearing aids, and hope for the best. Yet, there are days when I wonder what it might be like to converse without aids or to hear every word in a song. It would be lovely not to feel exhausted after spending two hours with friends, struggling to hear against background noise.
It doesn’t matter what type of hearing loss you have, late deafened, conductive, sensorineural, mixed or single-sided. As someone experiencing the loss of a sense, you can easily become discouraged. You might feel left out. People may purposely avoid you because they don’t know how to handle your hearing loss. You might decide that socializing is no longer easy or comfortable so you stay home, hibernating.
It is important to have your hearing loss diagnosed and treated. People with conductive hearing loss can hear sound but the loudness varies from dull to inaudible, depending on the severity of the disease. A conductive hearing loss can occur from a build-up of earwax, from tumors, after taking ototoxic medication, or after trauma. Sometimes it is curable.
People with sensorineural hearing loss have damaged inner ears. An audiogram and medical history are used to make this diagnosis. With this type of hearing loss, one often hears harsh sounds (bass sounds), but not soft sounds (alto and soprano sounds). As this type of hearing loss progresses, words sound garbled because you lose the ability to hear consonants. Turning up volume doesn’t make a difference. In fact, loudness can make hearing impossible and unbearable.
Mixed hearing loss involves both a conductive and sensorineural loss and is treated in various ways depending on the severity and cause of the loss. Single-sided hearing loss occurs in one ear. A physician must determine the root cause of such a loss before recommending treatment.
I suffer from sensorineural hearing loss and the disease has progressed through the stages of mild, moderate, severe, and now profound. I treat my hearing loss with the best technology I can afford, make regular visits to my audiologist, lip read, and try to remember to ask someone to repeat when not hearing them.
Like all with hearing loss, I’ve been caught pretending to hear. When Florida began to open up, my husband and I invited another couple to join us for dinner in our home. During the evening, one of our friends asked me a question. I thought he had made a comment about something we had been talking about, so I sat there nodding. Finally, my husband looked at me and said, “Did you hear what he asked you. We’re wondering what you think.”
I was frustrated because I thought my new hearing aids equipped with artificial intelligence were failing. They were not. We have to understand that even with the most technologically advanced hearing aids and implants, our hearing will never be normal. I asked our friend to repeat his question and then answered appropriately.
For me, that’s what hearing loss looks like. Good hearing mixed with moments of frustration. As I meander through the hearing world, I try to do the things that I know will help me hear. But when all systems fail, I shrug and hope for better hearing next time.