When I saw an audiologist about my BPPV last week, she also did a hearing test. While this was not the original reason for the test, it did reveal that I had a significant loss of hearing on both ears. Unfortunately, I left the copy of my previous hearing test results in Germany, but from what I remember, my hearing has gotten quite a bit worse in the past five years.
The audiologist spoke to me about the results, asking me a few additional questions and about whether I had any problems because of my hearing, so I told her about my experiences. Ater all, I had not been in denial of my problems, but I have to admit that I didn’t expect the results to be so much worse than I remember the test from five years ago being.
She said that it was quite unusual for a person my age to have such a significant loss of hearing. I asked her whether it could be hereditary because I know both my grandmother and my mother had/have problems with theirs as well. My grandmother has ahd hearing aids for as long as I remember and although my mother doesn’t , I have noticed in her many of the “symptoms” I have experienced myself, so I imagine she may have a similar loss of hearing as I do. I think she struggles with coming to terms with it, though, and may be “in denial” a little about it.
Finally, the audiologist asked me whether I would consider doing something about my hearing loss and whether I would like to give hearing aids a try.
Now, while my absolute honest answer to this is, no I really don’t, I want to hear well without any help, I knew deep down that the time had come for me to consider hearing aids. I have been having problems for a while, but over the past year or two, it went from some problems to a lot of problems.
I feel quite conflicted about my hearing loss and about wearing hearing aids and I have been feeling like I am on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster lately.
Rationally, I know that wearing hearing aids should not be much different than wearing glasses. But it isn’t. (I have been wearing glasses / contact lenses since I was about 11 or 12 years old.) Having a hearing loss may be fairly normal for old people, but for someone aged 30, it isn’t. It isn’t as normal as poor eyesight.
I mean, just look at the infographic I posted in my last post. It does mention that hearing loss does not only affect old people, but then it refers to grandparents missing out on being engaged with their grandchildren. Look at any website for hearing aids and I guarantee, you will see a 50+ year old on the front page. Yes, every website probably also mentions that hearing loss also affects young people, but very little of the actual content will be targeted at them. In general, there does not seem to be that much information for younger people affected by hearing loss out there.
It’s just not fair. I did nothing to cause this hearing loss. I had no ear infections, I did not spend my early 20s clubbing every weekend and I didn’t turn up my music too loud on my Walkman/ MiniDisc Player/ MP3 Player/ iPhone. And actually, the curve on the hearing test would look different for that kind of hearing loss anyway. The kind of hearing loss I have is the same that most people develop at an old age, only I developed it in my 20s.
And if my hearing is this bad now, how bad will it be in 10 years? In 20? How about in 30 years? Is there a chance I might lose my hearing completely? Those are questions I have that I don’t know the answers to, and I am afraid I might not like the answers.
Especially for the past months, my hearing has been really affecting me emotionally. It scares me to think about what will happen with my hearing in the future. It sucks when you don’t hear as well as other people. It’s not a nice feeling when you end up feeling excluded in larger groups because you struggle to include yourself in the conversation. My self-confidence has really taken a hit, it makes me feel insecure and a bit like an idiot. I feel like the odd one out, and simply embarrassed about my bad hearing. While I have no problems admitting to myself that my hearing is poor, I don’t like telling (random) people about it, as it is quite personal and I do feel sensitive about it.
You may think, “why don’t you go for those hearing aids then? Sounds like they would solve all those problems!” Well, while I know that hearing aids would be very helpful and indeed improve, maybe even solve, a lot of those problems, I am also absolutely dreading the thought of them. I really wish there was an invisible hearing aid. One that would allow me to hear better without everyone I am speaking to knowing I was wearing it. One that would not inconvenience me in any way. And while I do know that there are some teeny tiny ones out there, they are likely to be way too expensive for me. I doubt that the NHS will offer me that type.
I am really dreading the reactions of people at work, in shops, even my friends’ and family’s. That is probably why I haven’t really told anyone about this so far. Obviously, N. knows, but I haven’t even told my parents yet. Somehow, writing on my blog seems easier, allowing me to put my thoughts and feelings into words, being able to take my time with it and revise them if necessary.
I am worried people might treat me differently, make me feel like a weirdo, when they find out. I wish people could just … keep calm and carry on, so to speak, just treat me the same they always did, but I have made the experience that this is not usually what happens. And when just mentioning that my hearing isn’t quite “as good as it should be” makes such big waves (as it did at my last job), imagine how people would react to my wearing hearing aids. I am worried that instead of feeling self-conscious and insecure because of my poor hearing, I will start feeling self-conscious and insecure because of my hearing aids.
There are also some practical problems I have with wearing hearing aids or rather, questions. Will they affect my use of phones? Can I continue using my iPhone or my phone at work without any problems? I mean, I don’t really need hearing aids for that (yet), but I imagine you wouldn’t just remove it every time your phone rings. What about using earphones or headphones? From googling this, most headphones seem to cause feedback when using them over hearing aids and earphones are obviously not compatble for use with hearing aids. You may think I’m silly for worrying about this, but I would really not be very happy if I could no longer listen to music during my (4 hours per day) commute or while travelling.
So I will see an audiologist about trying out some hearing aids at some point. The audiologist I saw last week said she would also give me a referral to an ENT specialist to see if there was anything they could do about my hearing loss because it was so unusual at my age. I hope to get some answers to my questions then but I imagine some things will be different once I start wearing hearing aids. The good news is that hearing aids through the NHS would be absolutely free for me so, while it will probably be an emotional burden, at least it would not be a financial one. I will just have to be patient and wait for my referrals to come through (again), it might be a few weeks before I have my appointment regarding hearing aids. I am sure I will be writing about this again then. Hearing loss at a young age doesn’t seem to be something a lot of people talk about, and maybe I can change that, at least a little bit.
If you guys have anything at all to share, any experience, advice, encouraging comments, I would love to hear them. Thanks for reading these two (very long) posts. I appreciate it.