It caught me by surprise too, but first, let’s rewind. I got diagnosed with ME/CFS & hEDS at the start of 2014. Bummer, but I’ve talked about that before on here. What I haven’t told many people is that they may or may not impact an individuals hearing. It’s another great mystery that comes with having being subjected to medical neglect. Anyway, I could write a whole dissertation on that, so moving on. Getting diagnosed prompted me to go along to my local Boots Hearing Centre, and go for a hearing test. It’s free, I might as well right? Unfortunately, they found that I did have mild loss. Too be honest, I had already suspected that so it didn’t come as shock. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a bit of trouble. But, I was tested as a baby so I thought nothing of it.
Three annual trips down, and we come to 2017. Three months overdue, and I finally got around to booking an appointment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good news. My once stable hearing loss had deteriorated significantly. I would say that it was a shock, but I think deep down I had realised something was wrong. Procrastinating at it’s best, I guess. To my real-life friends reading this, that’s the reason I’ve been off-grid recently. I didn’t see any of you because I knew I wouldn’t be able understand what you were saying.
So, I have mild mixed hearing loss. That means I have both types – Conductive and Sensorineural. Option A means loss due to sounds not being able to pass freely to the inner ear. This is where me and my wonderful Audiologist think EDS plays a part. Our working theory is that my Ossicles (inner ear bones) are hypermobile, and that’s why sound isn’t reaching where it should be. It means that all sound is quieter to me. I seem to have draw yet another medical short straw, so let me tell you about the other type too. Option B means loss due to damaged hair cells within the Cochlear or hearing nerve. This type is the one which people tend to get as they age. This means that sound becomes distorted.
Both lovely options mean that I struggle predominately with speech. I may or may not include my hearing graph, but until then… I miss out on most consonant sounds, basically anything that isn’t a vowel. In speech, that doesn’t really give me any options to understand what’s being said, but I can normally just about figure it out. That or I smile, say yes or not inappropriately – whoops! If you’re not facing me, I pretty much miss out on everything. Wait, that’s not right. I know you’re speaking, I can hear you, I just don’t understand.
And that brings me to my latest medical news (well, expect another post soon about a different topic but shhhh). A couple of days ago I went for a full hearing test, and to test drive a pair of hearing aids. A special thank you to Boots for letting me go about my errands around the Arndale on a Saturday with some very expensive equipment! I planned to go into the shops I particularly struggle in due to background noise – mainly Lush due to their fondness for chatting. Did they make a difference? Oh boy, that’s a big yes. A yes that’s hard to explain to the average folk who have no hearing issues. It felt like… I was hearing in HD. I could pick sounds out from the crowd, hear snippets of conversations that used to just be a long load murmur. I wheeled into a lift, and I could continue having a polite chit chat with the family that got in too, even though I had my back to all of the people. The whole experience was… breath-taking, and really quite emotional.
After that, it was a done deal. I was getting own hearing aids, and I wasn’t waiting for a NHS referral. I’m very thankful that my new job pays enough for me to sign up to a 0% interest payment plan. Decent, mid-range hearing aids cost a pretty penny. I very specific, lengthy conversation and I had picked the right pair for me.
Can I have a drumroll please? Let me introduce you to the latest medical addition into my life:
Meet my Phonak Audeo Belong hearing aids – apologies for the terrible focus in the photos, my phone doesn’t like shiny objects. They look fancy, right? It’s frankly amazing technology in a ‘sand-beige’ casing. That’s a 5p next to one for some more size-context.
I mean if it wasn’t for my pixie cut you wouldn’t notice I was wearing them at all! If the tubing is in the correct position you don’t even realise it’s there until you take a closer look. And, I mean, why would you be staring intently at my ears in a normal situation anyway? Pretty weird, just saying… Also, you have no idea how hard it is to take a photo of your own ears.
I have a couple of follow appointments in the next couple of weeks to tinker with them, you would not believe the amount of settings that can be changed. With my model I have something like 20 channels, all of which change automatically when I’m in different settings. I’ve also got more than one mic in each which means the aids will be able to let me know what direction a sound is coming from, and screen out some of the background noise if it’s irrelevant. The one and only button on each is currently set up as volume control, but that could change in the coming weeks to something like a comfort setting to screen out annoying alarms, a baby crying etc.
Now, I want to make something crystal clear to people without hearing loss – my hearing loss will not be cured by wearing hearing aids. Don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing but technology is not at a stage where wearing them will automatically fix my hearing loss. I will still struggle with speech. But, but at least with hearing aids I stand a chance of understanding you. Here’s your warning then – if you’ve been whispering behind my back I might just catch you out now. Dun dun dahhhhhhhhh!
Stay tuned to see more updates on my journey with my first ever hearing aids.