Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Crunch Saga, Continued

What? You don’t remember Part I of The Crunch Saga? When my hearing aid went crunch beneath my shoe, right in the midst of crunch time at the bookstore back in 2006?

The bookstore? How many jobs ago was that?

Here’s where I left off after telling the sad tale of how my hearing aid was fatally injured:

I suppose I would have heard the crunch if I'd been wearing my hearing aid, but I didn't hear a thing. But I did finally notice my hearing aid on the floor beneath the cash register. Oh, joy! My hearing aid! Panic was replaced by euphoria!

I bent down to pick [the hearing aid] up, and ... the plastic was broken. All the tiny, wiry innards of the device were hanging out of it. It wasn't completely crushed, but ... I was.

I'm hoping I can get it repaired before Christmas. I don't want to spend the holidays cupping my ear and asking people to repeat and/or write down things. I'm hoping it can be repaired, period. I'm really sad about this.

So, crunch time at the bookstore was great, but the ensuing crunch (which I didn't hear) wasn't so great. I'll let y'all know the conclusion of this gripping saga tomorrow.


That was December 17, 2006.

~~~And now, for Part II.~~~

Early in 2007, I still had no hearing aid. My bookstore boss pleadingly asked if I would get a new one; apparently, I was getting lost in books and not hearing customers when they came in, and even appearing to “ignore” them when they asked me questions.

“I’d love to get a new one,” I said. “But we’re talking $2,000 at the very least.”

It took her a few seconds to pick her jaw up off the floor. Two grand is a lot of money for a little piece of plastic.

Needless to say, much as I loved working in books, I was never going to afford a hearing aid on my part-time bookstore salary. So when I got the tech writing job, my loved ones sighed with relief: “Good. Now she can get her hearing aid and I can talk to her without repeating myself twelve times every time I say something.”)

I put in long hours at work. Work Village is an hour away from the audiologist I wanted to use, and it’s not exactly practical to take a three-hour lunch hour to go to an appointment. Also, even though I was making more money than at the bookstore, I didn’t relish the idea of forking over a couple thou for anything, much less a hearing aid.

And … I probably shouldn’t admit this … I kind of liked not having a hearing aid.

Think about it: Imagine having an small, extremely costly piece of plastic that you have to remove from your ear every time you (1) answer the phone; (2) play the piano; (3) put on your iPod headphones; and (4) are in the presence of an infant. Add to that my tendency to misplace things that are smaller and/or lighter than a bowling ball, and you’re looking at quite a bit of unwanted daily stress.

I liked not having the stress. There’s also a part of me that likes not being able to hear. An introvert at heart, I appreciate that the curse of deafness is also a blessing that allows me to tune everything out and apply razor-sharp focus to whatever I happen to be reading or writing.

But then there’s the stress of never being able to look people in the eye when they’re talking to you since you’re busy trying to read their lips, hoping you can decipher what they’re saying. It’s inconvenient, I guess, to be a couple of seconds “behind,” constantly playing catch-up in conversation. (Here’s an example: my friend Carla might say something that sounds like, “Quantum offbeat?” Being the ingenious soul that I am, I know that she probably didn’t really say “quantum offbeat,” so my brain plays with the sounds, and with what I know about my friend Carla. A second or two later, I realize she’s probably saying “Want some coffee?”)

Oh, if only people came equipped with their own closed-captioning devices … of course, if that were the case, I would never be able to ignore anyone again. So I’ll be careful what I ask for.

Yesterday, well over a year after my old hearing aid crunched and died, and after many schedulings and reschedulings due to work, illness, and unexpected travel, I went to the audiologist.

Here is an ugly picture of me getting a hearing test:



The headphones were too big for my petite head, so they had to use a sponge so the headphones would stay on.

As you might guess, if hearing tests were a pass/fail operation, I failed most miserably. I knew the audiologist was going to tell me that I was deaf as a post and can’t stand loud noises, but she worded it in a much more clinical way:

Profound hearing loss in both ears; unable to complete test due to hyperacusis.

(I looked up hyperacusis on the Internet and it looks like my condition is something more like recruitment, but whatever … it’s six of one, half-dozen of the other, as far as I’m concerned. For this reason, I prefer my terminology: Can’t stand loud noises.)

Here’s a definition of hyperacusis from the UCSF Medical Center Web site:

"The hallmark symptom of hyperacusis is having a reduced tolerance and increased sensitivity to everyday sounds in your normal environment. People who suffer from the disease often complain of living in a world in which the volume seems to be turned up too high ...

"For people with hyperacusis, the everyday, normal sounds that most people hardly notice suddenly become irritating and painful. Often the most disturbing sounds are sudden, high-pitched noises, such as alarms, bus brakes, the clanging of silverware and dishes, children's screams and clapping.

"Because people with the condition are so sensitive to noise, they may develop a fear of noise, known as phonophobia. As a result, this may cause them to avoid social and public situations in fear of exposing their ears to harmful sounds."

Phonophobia? Hmm … next time the Hubster cranks up Neil Young or Dwight Yoakam on the CD player, I’ll tell him that I have phonophobia and that he must, must turn that crap sorry alternative to classical music vintage classic rock off immediately.

Here’s what I found on recruitment from sinuswars.com. Recruitment sounds (no pun intended) more like what I have:

"Recruitment is a condition … experienced by people who have hyper-sensitive ears and are unable to tolerate ordinary levels of noise.

"Recruitment patients often find normal loudness of sounds extremely painful and too loud for their tolerance. Often with an older person, having difficulty in hearing they would say 'Speak up a bit... I can't hear you' and then after you speak up they say, 'Don't shout! I'm not deaf'.

[…]

"A person with recruitment may not be able to hear high frequency sounds, below 50dB (decibels), but may find any sounds above 80dB uncomfortable and liable to produce distortion.

"Recruitment is usually due to a reduction in neural elements in the inner ear (the hair cells), a small change in the stimulus intensity produces a bigger change in response of the inner ear. More of the nerve fibres are switched or 'recruited' for a corresponding sound stimulus."


Yep, that sounds like my hearing. Only my right ear doesn’t hear medium- to high-frequency sounds at all; instead, it just feels a sharp pain, kind of like a dentist’s drill going into a tooth (which is why it can't tolerate a hearing aid). And my “good” ear doesn’t hear sounds above a frequency of 1500 Hz very well. The loudness or softness of the sound doesn’t really make a difference; it’s pretty much all about frequency with me.

I just did a search of sample sounds at sample frequencies. The highest frequency heard by average women is 18,500 Hz. The highest note on a piano is 4096 Hz. Since my “ceiling” is at 1500 Hz, this explains why the top few notes of the piano sound like fingernails tapping on wood to me.

Now don’t go thinking “Oh, poor, deaf Waterfall.” I thought that for many years, and it didn’t do me any good. George told me I was silly for being depressed over such a thing, since most “hearing” folks can’t tickle him and make him sing the way I can.

Dear old George. He sure knows how to make a girl smile.

My, but I've strayed from my main topic. So, without further ado, here's the conclusion of The Crunch Saga:

I get a new hearing aid in three weeks! Yippee!

Life is good.

3 comments:

  1. Since you work, you probably qualify for a FREE hearing aid through Vocational Rehabilitation! Check out this link on my blog:

    http://beethovensears.com/free-hearing-aids/

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've given up on wearing my expensive piece of jewelry (a.k.a. hearing aid). The surgery left my ear canal slightly deformed and the hearing aid just doesn't fit well.

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  3. Yay, Waterfall! But I know what you mean about sometimes not WANTING to hear. Last time I cut the lawn, a job I HATE, I put on some headphones to block out the sound of the lawnmower. I couldn't hear a thing. Suddenly I realized I felt calm and free of stress. I loved not being able to hear. It was heavenly mowing the lawn.

    ReplyDelete