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!

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