Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hearing and its Discontents

Sometimes I wonder if I hear things the way everyone else does, even with my hearing aids. Once, I made someone wear one of my hearing aids and asked if it sounded different than normal hearing, and of course the answer was yes. Granted, this is probably because I hear worst at high frequencies and thus the aids turn up the sounds on those more than low ones, hence to a normal hearing person, they would sound pretty atrocious. I have enough “real” hearing to be able to listen to my radio in my car at a medium high volume (sans hearing aids) and actually hear it. And headphones (for which I remove the aids) sound basically the same as music from a radio with the hearing aids in. But I still wonder if I process the sound in the same way, if it sounds different to hearing people, and if I'm missing some wonderful sounds, or if other people are missing wonderful sounds--maybe the things that sound like pure heaven to me are just sounds to others...I will never know. The only time it really irritates me is when I am not wearing my hearing aids and desperately want to hear what someone is saying (swimming and immediately upon waking or showering).

There are, however, numerous advantages.

Anytime I don't want to hear something, I simply press a button and the hearing aids "go dark" while also acting as earplugs. This is very beneficial when it comes to sirens, squealing brakes, unruly children, etc. It also greatly reduces the urge to smack said children, which is good considering they aren't mine and I’m usually in public and don’t even know the kids.

When I press the button once, it goes to "telephone" mode, during which I can talk on a (land) line without having to remove them. I don't usually use it for phone conversations (I can hear well on phones and usually just take one out); HOWEVER, I recently discovered that with them on this setting, they pick up various electromagnetic (I'm assuming it's EM, anyway) noise, and I can hear motors and equipment--even if they are fairly far away. It's neat. Random thought: I wonder if, because of their electrical nature, they'd be wiped out in the event of large EM radiation or nuclear radiation? Maybe I should avoid the power plants....

I sleep REALLY WELL. I don't hear the bus going by every ten minutes or the loud cars or the rumblings of my elephant-like cats. I love sleep, so this is also a very good thing, unless I'm home alone and afraid of robbers (which, of course, is even worse now with the second break-in). Then I'm faced with the choice of leaving them in and sleeping like crap or taking them out and not hearing the potential thieves breaking in. I choose sleep and potential thieves most of the time, though I keep various weaponry and my handy alarm key fob with panic button basically under me while I sleep if the hubby isn’t there. Just in case.

My ears are never cold. In fact, I didn't realize how cold one's ears could get until I (for whatever unknown reason) was outside in the winter without the aids. I hightailed it back inside and put them in and was warmed. Whew.

Nothing is ever too loud. Most new digital hearing aids have compression built in, which is a fancy term for not transmitting loud noises beyond a certain loudness (i.e. they don't just magnify noise linearly. Yes I'm a dork). At first, this was bad, because the "loudness tolerance" for this particular brand was set extremely low, and anytime there was anything even resembling noise I would hear them actually masking it. It drove me nuts. So we adjusted some stuff and now they're great! *Note: this feature comes in extreme handy at concerts--my mom and sister's ears rang for three days after the last one and mine didn't at all.

The drawbacks, though...they are plentiful as well. 22 years with them has produced some doozies.

Somehow I always run out of batteries when on a trip somewhere when I'm not driving. This means I have to ask our hostess or whoever is driving to hightail it to a drugstore or Wal Mart ASAP, politely. But desperately. Because otherwise I WON'T BE ABLE TO HEAR ANYTHING.

Once, I flushed BOTH of them down the toilet accidentally. Don't ask. I dropped one into the (clean, empty) toilet once, too, prompting my mother to disallow them from the bathroom forevermore. Probably a smart policy given my...well...let’s just euphemistically say, “tendency toward blonde moments.”

Another time, I forgot them at home when going to school and my mom had to bring them to me. I was in kindergarten and had been wearing them for two years at that point. I'm still not sure how one manages to leave the house without being able to hear...

At a friend's house after a sleepover in fourth grade, we were playing with water guns. You guessed it, friend scored a direct hit to the ear and it wouldn't work anymore! I freaked, my mom arrived later to pick me up and instructed me to hold it in front of the A/C vent for a while and it was good as new. I think I thought that my friend did it on purpose (even though most of my friends didn't even know I had hearing aids, and if they did, probably wouldn’t have realized that water + hearing aids = very bad. And that was the very first time I had spent any time at that person’s house…she probably forgot they were even there). Apparently I was a little conspiracy theorist or something.

Still another time, my mom's cat decided that earwax was her absolute most favorite thing in the entire world, and I woke up and found that one of my “ears” was missing. It took my parents and me an hour of frantic we’re-gonna-be-late-for-school! searching to find it (on the floor, in the back of the closet)...and when I picked it up I realized it had been licked clean. GROSS. To this day I cannot leave them out at my parents' house or the cat will take them.

So there. Everything you never wanted to ask your friends who have hearing aids, in one (rather lengthy) post!


The new year came in with a vengeance--I had a week and a half off work, and then class and work both started up again on the fifth. I'm still trying to recover.


So I'm sitting in class last week (maybe the third day of class?) and all of a sudden, I'm sneezing. And I'm afraid I can't stop. During a lull, I am conscious enough to realize that I think it's the girl's perfume who is sitting beside me. Yikes. I inch to the left in my chair, hoping to escape the nostril-tingling fumes. No dice. I sneeze. My nose runs. My eyes water. Everyone else in the room is doing an EXCELLENT job of not noticing, including the professor, who is very carefully not looking at me. Or anyone, actually. Finally, I just turn my head. Ahhhhhhh, sweet relief. Eventually I inch far enough away to stop sneezing. I hope she didn't think she smelled bad...I have no idea how it actually smelled, only that it invaded my nose like an explosion of those little things you blow off dandelions in the summer. Fired into the nostrils via jet stream. That's never happened to me before. I hope it doesn't become a common occurence-- "Oh, hi, Mrs. X, it's nice to meet you!" (lean in for handshake, perfume causes nostril tingling, and Mrs. X now has snot all over her.....hmmm...this could be problematic).

So I resolve that I can't sit beside this girl anymore. Which in and of itself is problematic because she is the girlfriend of a friend of mine, and I don't want her to think I don't like her. But there are plenty of other seats, right?

Fast forward five days, same class. I get there late and have to take the remaining seat near the front. It's next to a guy I don't know. As soon as I sit down, I almost gag. My brain is going, "BODY ODOR BODY ODOR BODY ODOR BODY ODOR YOU HAVE TO MOVE. NOW, WOMAN!" I (stealthily, and without expressing the panic I feel, I hope) glance around and realize unless I want to cause a semi-major disruption, I can't change seats. So I practice the inching away technique some more and breathe through my mouth. (Seriously, people, it was the sour sweaty BO that you only get from BOTH exercising rigorously AND not showering for a few days). Then I sort of do this weird head tilt thing to aim my nostrils to my left while pretending I'm just trying to understand the professor (same one as before) better. I resolve not to sit next to this guy anymore either.

Then today, I get to class (late, again--well, late enough to not have much seat choice) and have to sit beside him again. I instinctively hold my breath. But then I (reluctantly, while breathing through my mouth) sit down and take a tentative whiff. Apparently, he has showered, though not recently, recently enough to not reek. I breathe a (small) sigh of relief and resolve to be very, very early to that class from now on.

Is there a "Supersmellers Anonymous?" Because I totally need that. This is just a small sample of what my poor poor nose goes through on a fairly regular basis. Based on this, I have decided when I get pregnant (in five or maybe ten years), I'm going to just have to hole up at home, not cook bacon, not wear perfume, not poop or have to smell it, and have something that still smells good to my pregnant, odor-revulsed selfnext to me at all times so that if I catch a whiff of something untoward, I can just smother my face with the smelly-good thing and NOT PUKE.

However, I would venture to guess that because I smell what most people don't (or smell it long before they do) I'm a supertaster and therefore food tastes better to me than most people. Which is good if you are my taste buds, but bad if you are my weight. Bad with the good, though, right?