So what would you do to keep your hearing? Wear hearing protection when you mow, when you go to concerts, when you are in a loud manufacturing environment? How much would pay to keep your hearing? $5? $50? $500? $5000? $5 million? If money was no object I’m sure we’d all say ‘sure five million.’ Now given your current life how much would you pay? Is it work giving up a vacation? Giving up cable? Giving up internet? Giving up your cell phone? to have the money to hear every day? Unfortunately that’s what some people face.
You see recently I had to face the fact my hearing was deteriorating. To0 many times people told me I didn’t have to yell. Too many time I had to ask people to repeat themselves. The TV was no longer loud enough on 12 it had to be 23 or 26. On one of my podcasts it annoyed me I couldn’t hear him but I’d turn it up to hear him and she’d blast me out. WTF was wrong with their mix? Answer nothing, something was wrong with my hearing. When it finally dawned on me in November I vowed to go to an audiologist the after the holiday. Well that time was last week.
I learned a lot about hearing loss from my visit and yes I took notes to share with you. Because that’s how I process things I learn. I share them. First off the she questioned me about what I was experiencing. Losing lower tones I said men’s voices or lower voices are harder to hear. I find myself asking men and low voiced people to repeat themselves. Did I listen to music? No not really not any more just don’t enjoy it like I did. Had I had any ear infections in the past five years? Yeah. a bad one over a year ago but less than two. But it cleared up after a round of antibiotics.
Okay testing time. First one was just to test the flexibility and pressure on my ear drum. Just sit still and quiet while she stuck a stick in my ear. No it didn’t hurt. Felt strange like I needed to yawn but was told not to. Then the other side. Okay now to sound booth.
In the sound booth I sat facing a wall of egg carton soundproofing. I closed my eyes after she finished fitting my headphones. First instructions were to say yes as soon as I barely heard a tone. That led to omg I hear it did I respond fast enough? OMG it’s been longer since there was a tone, did I miss one? Hey they seem to moving around like coming from lower right then upper left and so on. She did the right ear then the left. She told me she switched.
Next I was to repeat the words she said to me. Again right side first then left side. I knew I missed two there they were only barely heard… sea..something. Uhh something Tea?
Then I was out and sat at a table while she got my results together to explain to me. But first I got a general lesson about hearing loss. So stand back I’m going to be giving numbers to you and you’ll either have to visualize this or sketch it. (I’m not great at generating graphs on Excel and couldn’t find an audiogram that was licensed for use without a fee). An audiogram is a graph of your hearing pitting volume measured in decibels against pitch or frequency measured in hertz. on the left axis is at what volume (decibel) you first hear that pitch (hertz) so at the bottom of the axis on the left where it meets the hertz it starts with 110 decibels (jackhammer or average concert) and going up the axis it gets smaller stopping at 10 decibels (rustling leaves). This is the typical range of human hearing lower the healthy ear can’t pick it up higher the ear is damaged immediately. The bottom axis is hertz or frequency 20 Hz (below this is felt but not heard infrasound see Freaky Friday -Dyatlov Pass post about these effects) on the left where it meets the decibel to 8000 Hz on right (the upper limits of treble setting). Again these mirror the full range of healthy ears hearing from bass to treble.
Now most normal hearing needs about 10-20 decibels to be heard by healthy ears regardless of the hertz. However if you need to boost a frequency to 20 -50 decibels to hear it that’s a mild hearing loss considered normal living loss and isn’t treated. So if you want to walk through life with acceptable hearing you’ll hear all the frequencies in the human hearing range as long as they are between 10 and 50 decibels. Treatable hearing loss starts when a frequency has to be boosted to over 50 decibels to be heard. If a frequency has to be boosted to 51 -80 decibels you have moderate hearing loss at that frequency. If it has to be boosted to 81 – 100 decibels for you to hear you have severe hearing loss. If it must be boosted to greater than 101 decibels you have profound hearing loss at that frequency. So treatment starts at moderate hearing loss.
Now most people have an audiogram that looks like a ski slope. Their hearing loss is at the higher frequencies around 200 hertz and higher. This is caused by loud music, shooting, loud motors, and such. Here is where she said we get the sensation of clarity of sound. So when things start sounding muddled people come in they hear stuff but the understanding of what they are hearing is going. BUT…
That’s not me. I have a rare audiogram called a reverse slope. Then on top of that my reverse slope is unique. You see I have moderate hearing loss in the 87-150 hertz range. I hear deep bass normally and I hear treble normally. What I’m missing is the middle of the range of human speech (85-180 hertz). The most common frequencies humans gravitate to too because it’s our speaking range. As you can see by the numbers I’m missing the middle chunk of my species favored frequencies. No wonder I was saying HUH? Can’t hear you. Repeat that? What? All the time or why I was speaking louder. I had to get over 60 and in some frequencies 70 decibels to hear. My left ear was bit worse than my right and unlike my right which was normal except in the 87-150 hz range my left had mild loss at about 5000 on but not much. If that was my only problem first off I probably wouldn’t have noticed it and secondly it’s not in the treatable range.
So what causes the unique reverse slop? Well it’s kinda limited genetic defect which then it starts at birth. So nope not me. No she assured me I did’t just wear out my years talking or listening to people. The shape of mine looked to be a viral infection loss a SNHL loss or senorineural hearing loss. That ear infection just over a year ago could have done it. Or a sinus/head cold when my ears felt full the then cleared. So my life of wearing hearing protection was good I still had that range but I’d lost my human range. As she said I was walking through life only hearing the treble side no wonder music lost its appeal. I would need two special hearing aids that were programmed to only amplify those frequencies and there open ear piece to allow my ear to hear all the other frequencies naturally un-amplified as my hearing was normal there. I would need two as I have two ears. Would I want them? Would I like to see what that would be like?
Yes and OH HELL yes. So I moved to another chair and was fitted with demo aids that were wireless controlled by her computer. The ear piece was tiny only a bit of my ear canal was used and it was open. These would allow my ears to natually hear all other frequencies. My hearing aids would be programed to only amplify the 87-150 hz range and each frequency in that range would be amplified to it’s own unique setting I found pleasing. First she put in the amplification suggested by the test to bring that frequency up to normal hearing sensation for me. For example say the 93 hz had to be at 59 decibles for me to hear it but the 91 needed only to be at 56. Each quarter frequency was programmed and then my demos were turned on.
OMG! She laughed at my face saying my eyes were as wide as pies and my grin rivaled the Cheshire cat’s. For me the world was there again. Her voice changed to be rich and full not nasally tinny. I could hear people in the lobby chatting. I could hear how LOUD I was speaking. We went through an hour to testing to tweaking my program for my hearing aids. I’d gone from feeling like I was going to cry because I had lost my human hearing to joy that life was full of color again. To hell with vanity to hell with everything YES I wanted color and full quality of life again! OMG I could hear her around a corner. I heard her bump the plant leaves and they rustled. I heard the world and it was warm rich and grand again. I had not noticed when the color left but now it was back full vivid and beautiful.
She had me go see how ‘discreet’ they were and couldn’t be seen. Hell I didn’t care but damn she was right. No you couldn’t see them and with my glasses over the tiny tiny tube to the piece behind my ear – nothing was visible unless someone got really up close and looked in my ear to see that tiny earpiece that was changing my world.
The good news financially was I didn’t need ones that modulated frequency, bone conducted, or amplified across all frequencies. I just need a small range amplifier with small open ear piece. So I could go with the lowest cost ones. Still not cheap and insurance coverage for hearing is a joke – thanks for the $20 bucks dudes. But we had my base programming done and they would be ordered. They’ll be in early this week and then I’ll be fitted with them and she’ll fine tune them just for me. She’ll help me understand when to use what setting for the best results.
As for me I’m excited to hear life again. I’ve noticed more and more how much I’ve withdrawn. I stopped watching TV when Mike wasn’t around. I tend to read or write more than enjoy music or audio books. When I do listen to my podcasts even with headphone Mike would complain that in bed he could hear them too. I’d let things slip away while I looked away. But thank goodness I went just to learn what was happening because now, fullness of life can return.
If you suspect you have hearing loss get thee to a professional. I am lucky in that mine where pricy but affordable for me. I didn’t need complicated ones. But stop and think how much hearing means to you. Have you looked the other way? Go and learn about your hearing. Your options and talk with a professional. They know insurers suck at covering this. Especially low frequency loss because it’s not caused by job related things. However maybe there is a device and a payment plan with a tweak of your life you manage. Then you get the world back – your hearing world.