Can You Help Me Count My Lost Decibels?

Are you like me: not deaf, but close to it?

Every year, I head to the audiologist for a hearing test. Ninety-five percent of the time, the result is the same: more hearing decibels lost. Eleven years ago when I was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss, each ear tested at 20 percent hearing loss. The left ear remained stable all these years. The right ear, however, is now at 60 percent loss. This ear hears some sound but can’t distinguish where the sounds come from or interpret the meaning of spoken words.

I’m not deaf, but close to it.

Last year, a serious ear infection wrecked havoc on my hearing ability. Sickness destroyed a decibel or two of what I can now hear in the right ear. Voices seem more mumbled, phone conversations more muffled. It’s as if someone turned the volume down a notch inside my “bad” ear.

My kids must repeat themselves more, their questions often met with my blank stares. My youngest child, who at age 4 is learning new vocabulary every day, screams his words to me. Late-night conversations are especially difficult with my husband since bedtime is when I go hearing aid-free.

Not deaf, but close to it.

Does the strained hearing ability frustrate me and my family? Absolutely. What mom doesn’t want to hear her little boy’s first words crystal clear, or have a heartfelt chat with her husband without the constant refrain of “Huh? Could you repeat that?”

I suppose it’s easier to add up all the stress-induced moments caused by hearing loss since there are so many. I could also count all the sound decibels lost over the past 11 years. Or the conversations hindered by hearing loss. Or the increasingly difficult listening situations. I could count all the times I’ve wished and prayed for better ears.

Would life be easier without hearing loss? Without a doubt. Would my life be better? Hmm…

I guess I should count the many people I’ve met who, like myself, struggle with hearing. Neighbors. Parents. Teachers. Artists. Scientists, Teenagers. Children. Babies. Friends. Every week, most notably through my affiliation with the Hearing Loss Association of America, I connect with someone living with their own lost decibels.

Would I have taken the time to get to know all these people if I could hear perfectly? Or would I have tuned them out, passing them by without any empathy or concern for their unique experiences?

I’m not deaf, but close to it. Life has handed me more hearing loss. Now I must decide whether to count my blessings… or focus on the lost decibels.

The inspiring people I’ve connected with who have hearing loss are to be counted as my major gains.


7 thoughts on “Can You Help Me Count My Lost Decibels?

  1. I can totally relate – and like you am thankful for all the people I’ve met both in person and online that are now a part of my life. For deafness itself I’m not thankful, but close to it! 🙂

  2. ‎Shanna, as your hearing declines, there is going to be a point where the outer hair cells in your cochleas will be gone, and the inner hair cells will be compromised.

    You’ll be getting more and more cochlear distortion, which means that making sound louder will only add to the distortion, sounding like blown loudspeakers, i.e. instead of hearing a pure tone, it will sound at first rough, and then eventually like no more than static.

    When you reach the point of about 70% speech discrimination in your best aided condition in quiet, it’s time to get ready for CI’s. Denise took the step, and look at how much better she is doing.

    My suggestion is to come to the next HLAA Convention, in Providence June 21-24, for your “CI Shopping Trip.” When you go, you’ll meet over 200 people with CI’s, and you’ll be able to spend as much time as you want in the AB, Med-El and Cochlear booths learning about the technology that will eventually be wired into your head. More importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to go into “anthropologist mode” where you can talk to as many CI recipients as possible, observing them as they function in semi-quiet, and more importantly in the noise of the Expo hall. Go ahead and walk up to people with the coil on their head and ask them — This is an HLAA convention, after all! Ask them if they are satisfied with the performance, with the support they get, with the customer service from their CI manufacturer… But just as important, as you talk to them, try to get a handle on how well they actually understand what you are saying — The “anthropologist mode” I describe. Pay attention not only to their answers, but also how well they are hearing you in various conditions: Are they faking it? Are they relying on lip-reading? That last one is important, as it will give you an indication of telephone performance.

    As someone who had his first CI evaluation in 1992, when I was not “deaf enough,” I can tell you that even with the advancements in technology 20 years later, your hearing still has to decline well past the point where once you’re “wired” you’ll have a quantum jump in performance once you get implanted.

    Dan Schwartz,
    Editor, The Hearing Blog
    Follow The Hearing Blog on Facebook

    Send me a Friend request on Facebook

  3. There is a fantastic article in the Science Section of the New York Times (January 17, 2012) about Hearing Loss and dementia. It’s written by Jane Brody and points out studies have been done linking hearing loss with a lack of brain stimulation since frequently people with hearing loss withdraw from mental engagement. Please read!

  4. Corrected
    From the NY Times: Personal Health: Lifelines for People With Hearing Loss

    Here is another story on, Could Hearing Aids Delay Dementia?

    …And here is the underlying study from Johns Hopkins: Hearing Loss and Dementia Linked in Study

    Dan Schwartz,
    Editor, The Hearing Blog
    Follow The Hearing Blog on Facebook

    Send me a Friend request on Facebook

  5. Dan – Interesting article. It speaks volumes when The New York Times writer explicitly writes: “… the National Institute on Aging showed a direct relationship between the participants’ degree of hearing loss and their risk of later developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.” This is yet another reason for people to seek hearing loss help, and for insurance and Medicaid to help pay for this important medical device.

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