Friday, April 4, 2008

Hearing-update

Thanks from some gentle prodding (read "haranguing") from my Dutch correspondent, the hearing aid is actually getting some play today. In addition, yesterday I finally called National Insurance to find out the status on my request for a new hearing aid. I should have a response in a week.

I honestly do not know why I do not wear my hearing aid. I am not embarrassed by it. Nor is it terribly uncomfortable. I just do not put it on in the morning. I wear my glasses every day; I cannot see without them. But the hearing aid I just leave to the side. Every so often I will resolve to start wearing it and will go to put it on only to discover that the little plastic connecting tube has dried out and I cannot wear the aid until the tube is replaced. This task, of course, is then put off for months or a year. (No, I am not exaggerating). The only reason that the aid is functional now is because I had to bring it with me when I went to the hearing aid shop to get the price quote for the new hearing aid. They took care of the fix for me.

The stupid thing is that I actually worked in the same building as a hearing-aid shop for a year and a half…and it still took me months to get it fixed. If my glasses broke, on the other hand, I would take care of that immediately.

I should point out that my hearing is not that bad; my situation is nothing like it was six years ago, in the months immediately after the bombing. However the loss does continue to impact my day-to-day life. Here is a sample: yesterday I…

… ate lunch with a bunch of co-workers in the company lunch room. I could not hear much because there was too much noise. So I sat quietly and did not participate in the conversation. A hearing aid would not have helped. Hearing aids, at least my current model, amplify all sounds, and not only the ones you want to hear.

…participated on a conference call where I had to guess what was being said based on the context of the 70% I did hear. The call was in Hebrew, which makes it more difficult; I can fudge it better in English. A hearing aid would have helped.

...had various encounters where someone said something to me (cab drivers, co-workers, friends, random people) and because I did not hear them, I just smiled and nodded and made a pleasant, non-committal reply.

….went to a friend's housewarming party. Ladeene is one of those super-considerate types, and purposely had no music playing. Even so, I had to focus intensely to hear, and could only participate in conversations in my immediate vicinity, and where the speaker was to my left (good ear). A hearing aid would not have helped.

…had various "I'm sorry, could you repeat that " moments. A hearing aid may or may not have helped; it depends on the level of background noise.

…spoke on a cell-phone with varying levels of success, including one conversation where my friend put me on speaker. I am not sure why, but it is harder for me to hear on a cell-phone than on a land-line. A hearing aid would not have helped; I use the cell phone on my good ear, and I still have problems.

The point of all this is that, for me, all of this is me, and this is normal. I AM now quieter. I AM the type of person who does not go to parties or large social gatherings, and who does not enjoy any sort of function in a crowded hall, be it an oneg Shabbat, a wedding, a work function, or anything else that combines large numbers of people with large quantities of sound. I AM the type of person who has to have the television or radio on high volume and cannot participate in conversations from the back seat of a car. This IS me. This IS normal.

I know this, intellectually. And even so, six years after the bombing, I have neither completely accepted nor internalized this new being. I am still embarrassed by it. I still apologize for it. I still feel like a stupid hypochondriac. I still tell myself "Nu, Gila, you are exaggerating. You are imagining things. You are just being lazy". I am still ashamed to go to any Bekol events (Israeli organization for the deaf and hard of hearing)…. I go, and I see the people with the real problems, who have serious hearing losses…and I am sure that they look down on me as a stupid, hysterical whiner. What do I know about hearing losses? Mind you, I have asked the people at Bekol, and they have expressed the exact opposite sentiment, and they are all really lovely and helpful—this is my insanity.

I still differentiate between "Gila" and "hearing loss".

I read or heard somewhere that it takes seven years to really adjust to a disability and to see it as part of who you are. I have another year to go.

Right now, my hearing aid is in. I can hear myself typing. It makes a lovely click-clack sound. I really love the sound of typing….

(To the person who inspired this post—and you know who you are—thank you. I promise I will keep your story in mind. For whatever it is worth, I will try to make some good out of it).

11 comments:

Risa said...

Hi Gila,
I work with a woman who is called 'kvad shmia' from a very young age. She has two hearing aids and a special 'diburit' like earphone for the cell phone. It works better on some phones than on others but she does find it helps. There is a company that sells them here. If you're interested I could get the contact information for you.
Shabbat shalom!

Gila said...

Hi Risa!

Knee-jerk reaction (literally--first thing that popped into my head)

"Oh-but I am not K'ved shmiyah (hard of hearing). I only have one bad ear."

I am now sitting here and asking myself--am I k'ved shmiyah? How is that defined? Seriously--I do not know. To me it seems to apply to those who have real hearing problems.

Gila said...

As for the diburit--ask her if there is a webpage. I need to get some Palm Pilot paraphanalia--can have everything shipped to a friend or family member and have them ship it off to me.

Thanks! And hope you are enjoying Rabbi-hood. :)

Baila said...

Gila,

I will try to say this as gently as possible. All of the situations that you have difficulty with suggest that do have real hearing problems. No you are not deaf, you don't need to use sign language or have a cochlear implant, but certain situations are HARD for you. You described a moderate to severe hearing loss in your bad ear. Aided, that likely brings you up to close to normal limits, but as you know the hearing aid can only do so much filtering of background noise. I don't have my old audiology books, but anything more than a 25 dB level (and the standards have quite possibly changed since those days) is considered a hearing loss, which makes it "hard to hear".

In time, you will come to accept it, will continue to find ways to compensate for difficult situations, and will use your hearing aid in situations you know they will be helpful.

Take as long as you need to figure it all out.

Ben-Yehudah said...

B"H

Yeah, I still have to find the money to get checked out privately. I can hear a thing when there's background noise, and avoid the phone like the plague. I'm sick of reminding people all the time that I can't what they're saying sometimes.

The less than adequate audiologist claims that my right ear (the bad one which was on the side toward the bomb) is now almost as good as the left.

I suspect nerve damage, or it's psychological. I don't know.

Thanks for taking the time to write about your experiences. It helps to know I'm not the only one going through similar stuff.

tafka pp said...

I may have told you this before, but I didn't know you had hearing problems when we met. And I can't believe all the musical torture I must have put you through!

Gila said...

BY--local (J'lem) resources for you:
1) Hadassah audiology clinic. Get a hafnayah from your kupah and just make an appointment to see a doctor and get a hearing test.

2) Hadassah has a center for the hard of hearing in J'lem on Strauss-the same street as Bikur Holim. I do not have the details here with me, but if you send me an email, I have them at home.

3) B'kol, an organization for the deaf and hearing impaired offers a hotline, courses and activities. (www.bekol.org )

In general, I have found that audiologists don't always "get it" (sorry Baila). My left ear is supposed to be within normal range, but I really have trouble on the phone, and it simply cannot handle places with background noise. If I mention this to an audiologist, I always get the same response--that one of my ears is within normal range! Well, I used to have normal ears, and this ain't it.

If it were not for the people at B'kol or the random hearing aid tech who has a similar hearing loss, I would think myself stark raving mad. As it is, I second guess myself all the time.

Gila said...

Tafka, Remember how you had to review bits 50 zillion times with me in order for me to get the tone right? :)

Ben-Yehudah said...

Thanks for the resources. I liked the ENT at Bikur Holim, but the audiologist had the door open and was talking during the test etc.

Like I said, when I have then money... Yeah, I know it's only like NIS 24, but still... Like you glasses are a first priority. I have to get my first pair, and that's taken me forever.

Thanks again. I'll eventually check it out.

RivkA with a capital A said...

It's definitely difficult to accept our limitations.

I never heard the seven year thing.

I wonder if I count from now or from my first diagnosis....

Either way, I have a long way to go before I come to terms with it....

RivkA

Batya said...

Hearing "problems" is a real epidemic, even for those who have no "cause." My kids are after me to have mine checked. In some ways I'm hyper-sensitive and others, I have trouble hearing. Frequently, I find myself in humorous situations talking to people who answer different questions, since they were guessing. I wonder if I do the same.

A widowed friend said she was told to wait two years before making any major decisions. Seven years are much more, and so many other things can happen in the interum. It has taken me decades to get over other traumas.