Huh? What did you say?

I’ve spent most of my life in a mild audio fog. Mind you, I was never diagnosed with a hearing loss as a child. When you stuck me in a perfectly quiet room, plopped big padded earphones on my head and told me to raise my hand when I heard the beep, I could hear just fine. However, in a crowded room, I had issues. “What? Huh? Oh sorry, I didn’t hear you” was a common refrain.

I went along assuming this was normal. It wasn’t until young adulthood, after working on an ambulance for a few years, that I started really noticing a problem and got tested again. The tests were a little more sophisticated, and my hearing was a little worse for the wear, so I was told I had mild hearing loss, probably due to unprotected noise exposure. The advice boiled down to “deal with it.”

Fast forward more than a few years and the refrain of “What? Huh? Oh sorry, I didn’t hear you” has gotten far more frequent. So have instances of answering one question and finding out that wasn’t what was asked (“What? You were asking if I had shipped that box?! Ohhhh, I thought you asked if I had washed your socks. I’m sorry.”)

After an incredibly frustrating weekend during which I am convinced that my husband was going to wring my neck if I said “huh” one more time, I called the doctor.

Fun questionnaires and tests followed and <insert dramatic drumroll here> lo and behold, I have some hearing loss. And it ain’t exactly “mild.”

I wasn’t too sure what to make of the audiologist who tested me. She seemed a little baffled, and just a tiny bit unhelpful – but not in a rude way. “Well, umm… yes, you do have, umm… mild to significant hearing loss…”

OK, so… wait, what does “mild to significant” mean? Reducing a bunch of medico speak to a short sentence, it means my hearing loss is not even across all frequencies – in some it’s mild and in others it’s more significant.

OK, so… what’s the next step? “Well, umm… I would usually say adaptive therapy or behavioral therapy, but I don’t think they’re going to do you any good…”

Ok, so… this means, what? What’s the next step? “Well, umm… if you want to talk about hearing aids, that is an option and they may help…”

And on it went. After much prompting, I got what I needed to know: that my hearing loss is significant enough to warrant correction if I want it, that correction may, or may not, be helpful to me, and that the next steps were to schedule additional follow up exams and a consult for hearing aids. I learned that the cause was likely genetic, with some physical exacerbation from noise damage.

Fortunately, we have a friend who does this shit for a living, so I sent him a note and he shed more light on the subject.

Whadya know, I’m atypical.
“Typical” hearing loss is in the higher frequencies, and the test results, when graphed on a thing called an audiogram, look like a ski slope.

A “reverse curve” or “reverse slope” loss is exactly the opposite. And it’s not common. And it’s what I’m dealing with. Big shocker.

Which, as he put it, could explain why the doc was having issues – she didn’t know what to say.

OK, so… now it’s time for follow ups and evaluations, and to decide if a hearing aid is really going to do me enough good to warrant the cost. Plus evaluating other adaptive devices.

And on, and on, and on it goes… and there is this little part of me sitting here thinking, “really? You’ve been fine all these years. Why do we need to go through all this hullabaloo and expense? Just deal with it.”

Fortunately, I have some time before my next appointment, and I’m not in a hurry – so now that I know I do have an actual hearing loss (and it’s not just that I’m not paying attention!) I can go about evaluating just how much it impacts my life.

Ain’t life just grand?