I drove a little purple Honda Civic hatchback when I was in my 30s. It was a great car, but it was low to the road and I could hear the tires on the road and every noisy bump. When all four boys were in the car with me, it was super noisy. I’d hear them chatter in the back seat. (Okay, sometimes fuss at each other in the back seat.)
Then I got hearing aids.
And I realized for the first time that they weren’t just being noisy in the back seat — but they were also trying to talk to me.
Hearing aids changed my life in a way that makes me both sad and happy. They made me a much better mom, because I realized that my kids in the back seat actually wanted to talk to me — and weren’t just making noise! Sad, because I realized that for so many years I was tuning them out because I couldn’t really hear and understand them.
My hearing loss is in the speech banana. Part of the reason why it took so long to have my hearing loss diagnosed was because I could hear — just there were sounds that I couldn’t pick up.
Our brains are so amazingly adaptive. The actual phonemes that my ears couldn’t hear were “filled in” by my brain.
Li_e when you _ead th_s _ente__e — you ca_ u_dersta_d wha_ I’m writi_ by the lette_s and patte_ns you ca_ _ead, an_ you_ b_ain fi__s in the b_a_ks.
That’s how I hear conversations without my hearing aids. My brain is working overtime, not only filling in the missing sounds but also taking cues from the patterns of speech. It is easier for me to understand people with whom I spend a lot of time, because I’m familiar with their speech rhythms. (That’s one of the reasons I understand Hubby’s Russian more easily than the average Ivan on the street.)
Because my hearing loss requires so much extra decoding of language, it is no wonder that now that I have hearing aids my brain is less tired at the end of the day!
Many people don’t realize they have hearing loss because they can still hear quite a bit, and their brain is working hard to help them understand what others are saying. Often hearing loss comes on gradually, and we adapt. Or the loss begins outside of the speech banana, at higher pitches, and so the loss of hearing isn’t initially impacting conversation.
In addition to not realizing the onset of hearing loss, many people are resistant because it is associate with getting older and many have a resistance to acknowledging that. I was in my mid-30s when I was diagnosed with moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. I felt validated — it wasn’t all in my head! But also I was young enough that I didn’t feel like it was a sign of getting older.
Have you wondered whether you may have the beginning of hearing loss?
Is it harder to understand the speech of little girls than other people? Do you prefer to talk in person rather than over the phone? Do you avoid noisy restaurants because it’s hard to have a conversation with people? Can other people hear the music playing at a store, but you can’t? These may be hints that your hearing needs to be evaluated.
I had no clue what the first step was when I wanted to get my hearing checked. There are three primary paths you can take to have your hearing evaluated.
I was referred to an ENT who had an audiologist on staff, and scheduled an evaluation with an audiologist. This is often covered by insurance, billed through the ENT.
An audiologist may also have an independent office, not affiliated with an ENT. After my first hearing test, my follow up appointments have been with the audiologist in her office.
You may also be able to get a screening, but not full audiology exam, through a local hearing aid business. My local hearing aid specialist at Lifestyle Hearing is a great guy and provides screenings. This is often a good low cost option. (Ye, some hearing aid businesses do try to oversell higher end hearing aids, and so I recommend this with caution.)
I’ve been wearing hearing aids over a decade. I’m so thankful for the impact they have had on my mothering and the ability I have to really listen to my children.