The hearing aids bit anyway!
I had a bit of a moment the other day where I felt really stupid. And I mean really stupid. Like I was incompetent and worthless stupid. It’s a more frequent occurrence than I would like!
I had to ask my hubby to repeat something several times and even in the end I still didn’t hear it properly. It’s not because I’m stupid, I just didn’t hear him. Don’t assume its hubby making me feel this way, it’s me and my hearing that is doing it. I was on my way out to get some milk and he said something, a joke probably but I just didn’t hear him. I sat in the car and it hit me just how much this is beginning to bother me and also how much I have been hiding it from others.
So what am I on about?
I have been losing my hearing for a few years, and up until now it hasn’t really worried me, it’s one of the reasons I was going to call the blog hearing aids and heels. But just recently it’s begun to have a big impact on my life – both personally and professionally. I’m struggling to hear students in class, made all the more difficult with the fact that they are international students and we were having to wear masks. I avoid talking to colleagues as I know I won’t be able to hear them. I smile and hope I’m looking like I can hear people and smiling at the right moment too!
I do have an appointment for another hearing test in the next couple of weeks as I’m well overdue but with pandemic delays and suchlike any previous ones had been put off. My hearing aid hasn’t worked for almost a year and is well overdue a service, I thought I was getting on alright without it but clearly I’m not.
When did it all start?
Just over 14 years ago I was having ear issues, constant earache, pain and suchlike. I didn’t worry about it I just thought it an inconvenience at the time as I’d suffered with ear problems when I was young. But after a while and realising that this wasn’t going away, visit number four to the doctors finally discovered I had a perforation of the ear attic. Bearing in mind this had taken two years to discover and things were not looking pretty. I was lucky as the doctor I saw that day knew a bit about ears!
I was booked an appointment to see a specialist in ENT. Went through lots of poking about and x-rays and scans. Then the bombshell hit. You have a tumour. Of course the first thing you think is I’s cancer. Thankfully it wasn’t it was a benign tumour, but it was in a nasty place and there was a secondary infection going on which given the nature of the tumour was making its way to my brain.
Cue the “right, young lady, let’s get you booked in for surgery and quickly, we don’t have much time” moment. To be honest I’m not sure if he explained much about it as I was in a fog but I signed the forms and went ahead anyway. It’s not every day you get told you have something wrong that isn’t normally bad but with the extra problem of an infection going on could kill you.
Well, me being me didn’t tell people it was as bad as it was, why worry others with stuff they can’t control. My parents would have been worrying (as parents do!) and I couldn’t be arsed with people fussing.
Hair shaved and off I go, I had the surgery to remove the tumour, get rid of the nasty infected stuff and rebuild my inner ear. Took a few hours but seemed to go ok. Things were a bit muzzy for a while. Head was itchy where the hair was beginning to grow back but it wasn’t all that bad. I got the piss taken out of me by family members but I’m the black sheep anyway so this was nothing new.
I am on lifetime care regarding my ear. I slowly regained some hearing in my rebuilt ear and things seemed to be all going tickety boo. Until I had one of my quarterly check-ups. And, boom. It was back! The tumour had returned and was obviously happy as it was growing far too well! This was almost 8 years ago. Back into surgery I went again, head shaved, ear sliced and off we go. I now have miniscule plastic tubes and bits where my little bones were. Micro surgery is amazing.
Anyway, same old operation, seven hours in and redone prosthetics. All is well? Not quite. This time my hearing really is shot. To top it all off the hearing in my other ear has been degenerating quicker than I would like and I’m now at the stage I am now. The surgeon managed to cut a little bit of my facial nerve so my face drooped a bit but thankfully wasn’t noticeable unless I was tired, it’s still a little noticeable even now but only if you look carefully!
I didn’t realise how much having poor hearing would affect me. I didn’t think it would be something that bothered me, but the pandemic and others wearing masks really has made my life hard. Over the years I’ve learnt to lip read, albeit in a basic form, and this has been a lifeline for me even with a hearing aid. But it really is frustrating when you go into a coffee shop and ask for something and can’t hear what the barista is saying as there’s noises of the machines, a mask over their mouth and people chatting. It was getting to a point where I put a note on my phone and showed them what I wanted.
I’m fed up of not quite getting what people are saying in conversation as they’ve turned their head a little away from me and I can’t see their lips properly. I’m fed up of getting frustrated by asking people to repeat things several times. I am at a point now where I don’t know where to turn or go to make this any better. I know some sign language but not enough to get by. I struggle with lots of noise in the background, or when both kids are trying to talk to me. I can’t manage a group conversation I can’t process it all with what little hearing I do have.
I am grateful for mask wearing given the Covid situation, and I am an avid mask wearer and still will to certain extent even though restrictions have been lifted. However, it hasn’t made mine or any other hard of hearing person’s life easy.
I was quite surprised when I heard on the news recently that BSL isn’t a legally recognised language like Welsh or Gaelic in the UK. Given the fact that there are eleven million people in the UK that are deaf or profoundly hard of hearing and only 131,000 actually use BSL I’m surprised they don’t teach it in schools, although I know by the already saturated curriculum that there simply isn’t any time to teach it and teachers simply don’t need any more stress. [source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/understanding-disabilities-and-impairments-user-profiles/saleem-profoundly-deaf-user#]. Apparently it is also the second most common disability in this country. I always thought it was an old person’s disability, but whilst figures do show 40% of the over 50’s are deaf it rises to 70% in those over 70, there are increasing signs of it becoming more prevalent in younger generations.
This got me thinking why this could be happening. Could this be our constant need to be plugged in to something? I know I’m often saying to the kids even with their noise limited headphones that they need to turn to volume down and take a break from wearing them. Of course I get ignored completely and their eyes roll but I think I may have a point. I found this article interesting and it’s not the only one saying similar things https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/53221-Kids-headphones-earbuds-hearing-damage-tinnitus
When we listen to loud music for long periods of time we damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear and the hearing nerve which is called sensorineural hearing loss. Of course hearing loss can be caused by many things, most commonly ear infection but I do think our habits play a big part in how we manage hearing loss in the future. I know I check my kids ears regularly, it’s habit, just like checking for head lice – you never know!
So let’s rally round and encourage our kids not to listen to their music or videos up too high, taking breaks away from it more frequently and hoping they have a sensible bone in their body to actually pay attention to the advice we give them. They’ll thank us for it later!
I’m hoping my hearing test won’t be so bad and that they’ll sort my hearing aid out and I can get back to being ‘normal’, as much as I can be.
Take care, stay safe