What an odd collection of photographs! But they all have something in common. What could that be? Hmmmmm. Well, yes, I am the one who took the pictures. But something else. Oh! That's right. All of these things make sounds!
May is Better Hearing Month! By way of tribute, I did my annual hearing test. And for the very first time ever, (1st Time!) my hearing had not changed from the previous test! Hurrah! And by changed, I mean that it had not gotten worse. Like most things, it never gets better. At least not on it's own. With my hearing aids on, I have nearly normal hearing.
I was late to the party on taking care of my hearing health. Shame on me. Very late. But in the beginning I can be excused because I was just a kid. I had no idea that after a terrible bout of Scarlett Fever, I had lost some of my hearing. Nobody knew. And as I got older, the hearing loss slowly worsened, but I, very cleverly, had made concessions to my weakness. Without even realizing it, I adapted. And made excuses. Lots of excuses. And I started avoiding social situations because they were so difficult for me. Everyone, including me, just thought that I was shy and socially awkward (well that awkward part is true).
I was in my early 50's by the time that I became aware that I was struggling with my hearing. It took a really unfortunate social situation for me to finally get my hearing tested. After which came the realization that my hearing was , well it was not good. Like most people I started out with a high frequency loss. That's consonants. And the English language being what it is, we have lots of rhyming words. Face, place, trace, ace, mace, lace for example. If you remove the consonants, those words sound exactly the same.
So, also like most people with unaddressed hearing loss, without even realizing it, I was making up for the missing parts of the words by reading lips, reading body language and using context. Very clever, eh? But what happens when it's a word that is not apparent by lip reading or context? For instance, what if I close friend or family member came up to you and asked, "Hey if you aren't busy on Friday could you watch/wash my dog?" Watch or wash? Did you just ask me to puppy sit? Or did you ask me to bathe the dog? Watch and wash look exactly the same if I'm reading lips. Tricky.
Or what if the person speaking has an elegant fancy mustache. Hard to read through a mustache. Or the speaker has an accent. Or the speaker is also enjoying a meal. Or turned away from you. Or, currently, is wearing a mask. What happens is that the lip reader is out. of. luck.
When the audiologist first put hearing aids on me, I was shocked. What was all that sound? It was, frankly, kind of shocking. The world is a noisy place. And I had, very slowly over a long time, adjusted to quiet. But on the upside, once I adapted to hearing again, once the auditory portion of my brain learned how to properly translate noise into sound that made sense again, I was overjoyed. I began to hear things that I had forgotten made noise.
One of the first, funniest things, was me at work walking down the hall at a brisk pace. I heard a zummzumm noise. I stopped and the noise stopped. "What on earth was that?" I walked again and there was the noise. I stopped and the noise stopped. It took me a few seconds to realize it was my corduroy pants! HAHAHAHHA! I laughed for a very long time over that one.
Over the years, my unaided hearing has declined more and more but the programming on my hearing aids is adjustable so the doc keeps tweaking it to accommodate my loss and life is good.
Occasionally I think about what would have happened if I had never bothered to get my hearing tested all those years ago. If I had not been brave enough and smart enough to go ahead and address the problem. What sounds would I be missing now? Bird song for sure, music, the pleasure of conversation with a loved one, those are all beautiful things. Other things may not be pretty but it could be an actual safety issue like a car horn or a siren. Background sounds that most people just automatically filter out, for me is a delight: a scolding blue jay, the whomping noise of a helicopter passing overhead, the neighbors dog barking or the ratatatat of a woodpecker. Without assistance I would miss all of those sounds.
Even if you don't believe you have hearing loss you should be tested just for a base line. In the future there is a problem, once tested you have something to compare future tests against. If you do have a hearing problem it will only get worse. Address it as early as possible so you do not miss out on the wonderful sounds of the world around us.
The test is not painful, most insurances cover it, and it doesn't take very long. The doc will check your ears for general health and tidiness, you will sit in a soundproof room with very soft things in your ears and/or headphones on them. The doctor will play tones at different pitches and volumes. You will click a little button when you hear the sound. That's it. That's all there is to it. At the end the doctor will review the "map" made of the hearing in both of your ears.
Do it. Don't wait. Don't put it off. Don't make your hearing health one of those things that one of these days you are going to "get around to doing." Like the nice people at Nike used to say, "just do it".
And PS wearing hearing aids doesn't make you look old. Saying "huh? what?" every other sentence however, does.
Happy Better Hearing Health Month!
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.