In the event that it's been a really long time since you had to take high school anatomy & physiology class, (as it has been for me) here is a picture of what is going on inside the human ear. Wow! That is all sorts of complicated! No wonder things can go awry!
I had my semi-annual audiology appointment last week. It's twice a year, partly to just to keep an eye (or ear I suppose) on things but mostly it's for maintenance on my hearing aids. It's like a car. Now and again it needs a tune up. Hearing aides are machines, they are teensy tiny itty bitty machines. Very complex little machines.
I take super duper good care of them, but I do not have, at home, the equipment that exists in an audiology office. Of course not! I can do simple things and take proper care but the doc office is the place I go, twice every year, just to make sure everything is A-OK. It's what you do.
So my devices checked out fine. Gold Star! Woohoo! But in just a general discussion with my doctor, I mentioned something that I was wondering about.
I have noticed, for the past few months, that the quality of sound has changed for me. Hmmmm this is hard to describe. Okay, how about this. I know exactly what Tim's voice sounds like. I have been listening to his voice for 26 married years and another 3 years before that. So nearly thirty years now! (wait a minute..holy cats!) Anyway, suddenly, a few months ago, his voice began to sound a little different to me. A little...adenoidal. You know? The way a person's voice sounds when their tonsils are bothering them, or they have a really sore throat. It changed the "shape" of the sound.
When I first noticed it, Tim was getting over a bad cold. It made sense to me that his voice would have that quality so I didn't really give it much more thought. But then, the sound of his voice never changed back. And then I began to notice that same change of sound quality in other people's voices, even on television. Totally weird.
I assumed that my hearing aides needed to be cleaned so I cleaned them. It so happened that while I was cleaning them, I was in the bedroom and Tim had the TV on. And then I realized that even with my hearing aids off, even though the sound was much softer, hard to comprehend and seemed much farther away, the speech that I could understand had that same weird glottal quality to it. Dang. It's not my hearing aids, it's me. Ratz ratz ratz.
So I mentioned it to my hearing doc and she said, "hmmmm let's do another quick test". The results of which showed another deficit, this time in the lower registers. Double Dang.
Okay, a little background here. If you don't already know this stuff, it'll be new information, if you do already know it, it'll either be a refresher course, or you can just skip this next paragraph.
You see here a blank audiogram chart. If you have ever seen a completed audiogram, it's filled with a line of x's and o's. Those are not hugs and kisses. When a person has their hearing tested, the doctor makes little x's and o's (the x representing the left ear, the o representing the right) at the point on the chart that corresponds to where the tone the doctor is playing in your ear registers with you. Some tones are high, some are mid-range and some are low. The doctor starts the tones very softly and continues to increase volume until the patient can hear the sound. For a person whose hearing is in the "normal" range, all of the little x's and o's are up across the top part of the page.
Mine never ever touches the top of the page. And as time is going by the line comes further and further down the page. It's like dancing the limbo...how low can you go! My hearing loss began a VERY long time ago (age 12 after a bout with Scarlett Fever) and started with high frequency loss. So very high pitched sounds were what I didn't hear. Squeaky doors, kitten meow's and the top flute notes. But as time went by it began to include sounds like a zipper opening or closing, softly running water and eventually a lot of consonants.
Note here: Consonants are high frequency sounds, vowels are low frequency sounds. So it becomes a matter of trying to determine the difference between the words: top, pop, stop, crop and mop. If I'm not wearing my hearing aids and I'm not looking at you, those words all sounds the same to me unless I can figure it out from context. C'es t la vie.
Along came the advent of hearing aides in my life and suddenly, woohoo! I was part of the hearing once world again. Did I Celebrate that? You are damned right I did! (and so did everyone around me!) Yay!
But my hearing continues to deteriorate. Luckily for me, the doctor continues to adjust my hearing aids to make up for continued loss. Six months ago, we learned that my hearing had decreased about 10%. Now, just six months later there is an additional deficit but in the lower tones. That's new. Once again, fortunately for me, she was able to make some changes to help me out. Hurrah! I adore technology ;)
She also gave me a paper on Listening Exercises. Okay, that's interesting. Working the hearing center of my brain as if it were a muscle (even though it is most definitely not a muscle) is not a new concept for me. When I worked in audiology, we encouraged it to all of our patients. But I never thought about the concept applying to me. Back then I was almost always in noisy environments. At work, in restaurants, in shops, at gatherings, parties, even at home. Noise noise everywhere I went. Plenty of listening exercise.
But now things have changed. I'm in quiet most of the time. It's very quiet at home. Even the museum is quiet. When I am teaching it's just my student and I in a quiet tutoring room at the library which is a quiet place. I walk on the quiet beach, I walk around a quiet little town. I even hike quietly. Photography doesn't require any sounds at all. And when I'm writing the only noise is the clickity click of my fingers on the keyboard. Silence may be golden but it does not stimulate the auditory center of the brain!
So I'm making the effort. I am exercising my listening skills. Let's see if I can perk up the hearing center of my brain and slow down the disintegration of my hearing, forestall the inevitable for as long as possible! Yup that sounds like a doggone good idea.
And if any of you have some great idea to stimulate the hearing part of my brain, I'd love to HEAR about it. (Get it? Hear about it? heh) Sometimes I just crack me up ;)
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.