by Karen Williams (Audiologist at Aston Hearing)
Two of my clients have generously shared their personal stories – told in their own words – both embody the Albert Einstein quote. With hearing loss it is all about managing change and finding a new kind of norm. This may sound dramatic but hearing loss – particularly that of a sudden nature – requires a grieving process and how this is managed makes all the difference to finding a successful outcome.
Problems with my hearing started over 25 years ago when, after a nasty bout of flu, I discovered that I had lost hearing and gained tinnitus in my right ear. What I had lost were the lower notes, not the higher ones so much, quite the opposite from the norm. Nothing could be done about it as it was a virus attack on the auditory nerve and it did gradually mend itself a bit and left me with a 30% reduction in hearing on the right side. I managed with my good left ear for many years and learned to compensate for my reduced hearing and very manageable tinnitus on the right.
It was about 2 years ago that I noticed quite an alarming and quick deterioration in my ability to hear with my ‘good’ left side. Hearing tests showed a marked reduction in hearing on the left with a slight further reduction on the right. Again the loss was over the lower frequencies predominantly. This was my first experience with Aston Hearing, who supplied me with my first hearing aids and all was going quite well until one day I found myself in a situation surrounded by very loud noise indeed on a building site which triggered very loud and constant tinnitus, think two motor bikes!
I was then sent through the NHS ENT and then audiology department and tinnitus clinic which basically wasted a year. I had agreed to do this but became very frustrated and angry with all of it as clearly what was on offer was completely useless for me and there was no flexibility, or apparently even a desire, to look further or try anything different. I was being told to reduce stress when everything about it was guaranteed to increase stress! There is nothing worse that standing in front of someone whom you know can’t do anything and would prefer for you not to be there.
I felt very let down and knew that my hearing had deteriorated even further. The tinnitus was overwhelming and often stopped me sleeping. I could no longer hear the radio. I could hear the sound, but had no detail, no idea of what was being said. I could not recognise music and even music I knew well was very distorted and unrecognisable. That was a huge loss. Television was hopeless without subtitles. Even the chimes of Big Ben sounded all wrong with missing notes! The house telephone and my mobile phone were extremely difficult to use and I avoided them. I couldn’t hear either ring or hear any messages that had been left. My friends had to text or email me. I found social interaction very difficult, even just buying a ticket, or shopping. Social events were hard as I didn’t know what was going on. It was like living in a bucket and I began to feel very isolated.
I returned to Aston Hearing in what I now realise was a very depressed state. I had bought a fit-bit, as I was able to bluetooth my mobile phone through that and it alerted me by vibrating on my wrist. We had also bought new house telephones with adjustable volume. Aston Hearing retested my hearing and fitted me with some much more appropriate hearing aids with the latest technology, all extremely quickly, which made an enormous difference immediately.
My audiological journey has been a tricky one. Because my hearing loss is not the normal high frequency loss, I have lost all the lower notes which include speech and that has been very difficult to correct. Over the last 6 months I have trialled behind the ear aids, intra canal aids and 3 different makes of aids. The results with each type have been different. Some have given me enhanced but still very gentle assistance, some much too much of all sounds, near and far, but I have settled on a happy medium which gives me much improved hearing and the ability to tweak the assistance in different situations via my iPhone. I still have trouble hearing peripheral sound and really need people to look at me when they are talking. Any accent makes it hard for me to make out words. However, I am much more inclined to tell people I have a problem now ! I find that it is possible to disregard my tinnitus, which although still there, is much more in the background because I can hear better and take part in what is going on.
By being patient enough over the last year, positive and open to any new plans and very tenacious, I now have, with a lot of excellent and sympathetic help, not perfect but much improved hearing and with that a much better quality of life.