I grew up in a family with hearing problems. I didn’t know *I* had a hearing problem until I was in third grade and I went to spend the night with a friend. She started singing and when I got up to go to the bathroom, I passed by the radio and I heard the song. I realized that she wasn’t just singing the song, she was singing along with the radio … and that I didn’t hear the radio playing the song until I was right next to it.
From that moment on, I have always suspected that there is more sound in the world than I realized or would ever hear.
I suspect this is why some Deaf / deaf / hard-of-hearing people are paranoid. Sometimes I feel a little paranoid about it myself.
My broken hearing aid from a few weeks ago spurred me to find an audiologist here in Chicago that I liked. As suspected, my hearing loss had almost surpassed the capabilities of my hearing aids, and I needed newer and more powerful ones. $7,000 later, I had purchased new hearing aids.
Being “disabled” isn’t cheap.
I went this past week to pick up my hearing aids and get them calibrated. My new ears Bluetooth directly into my phone. Phone calls send the sound directly to my hearing aids. I can control the volume of my hearing aids with my phone. I can also turn my phone into a microphone to pick up sounds that are sent directly to my hearing aids. For an additional $300, I bought a box that hooks up to my TV and sends the sound directly to my hearing aids. Best thing: even if the TV itself has the volume muted or on zero, I still hear it at my normal volume settings. There are dozens of other settings I haven’t had a chance to play with yet.
With the new hearing aids, I also get to play the game: what is that sound? Hearing people have been cataloging sounds all their lives to determine what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Their brain automatically files away sounds deemed ignorable and they don’t even “hear” it unless someone draws their attention to it. When I hear a sound, I have to spend time and brain power to identify it before I can decide what to do with it. Often, this means tracking the sound down to it’s origin. I spent ten minutes in my kitchen yesterday trying to identify the terrible grinding sound I heard. Through a lot of trial and error, I discovered it was the garbage disposal. I nicknamed it Jaws.
I also now know that my dog’s tags make a “chinking” sound when they clink together as we walk, the AC makes three clicking sounds before it turns on, and my shoes squeak when going across a wet floor. Some sounds I absolutely cannot figure out, and I force my spouse to join me in the game. They are usually amused or amazed that I can hear a particular sound. Sometimes they are as frustrated as I am trying to figure out what the sound is. Welcome to my world. They are just visiting, but I have to live here.
Old hearing aids on top, new hearing aids on bottom.