Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I'm Stronger Than That, Right?

If it's not depressing enough to miss a third of casual conversation, my evaluations for cochlear implant approval were not "bad enough". Last week I scored 66% in speech recognition with both aided ears -- too high for the criteria set forth by Cochlear for cochlear implant candidacy. They asked to reevaluate me with two more tests. One was a test of my "deaf" ear with a hearing aid that amplifies. My BiCROS hearing aid only transmits sounds to my better ear's hearing aid. The second evaluation was to be performed at the end of the day to determine if aural fatigue played a role in how well I hear and comprehend speech.

I was a doubter, I must admit. I couldn't see how taking the test a mere 4 hours later than before could make much difference. I'm stronger than that, right? So I plunged into it head-long.

"Don't sit at home quietly waiting for the test," my audiologist instructed me. "Get out into some noisy places."

If it were not summer vacation, my classroom would've been the perfect place, especially if I spent a few minutes in the cafeteria during lunch. But I had to come up with some creative alternatives to my work routine. I enlisted the help of a friend, who took it as her challenge to help me fail my tests.

It felt a little like being taken hostage. She didn't warn me about any part of her agenda. She just told me to remember that everything she'd planned was for my own good. During the car ride, I was inundated with an open sun roof, a blaring radio, and quiet conversation. I had to strain to hear. We arrived for lunch in a noisy restaurant just before peak lunch time. Since this has always been one of my listening challenges, it was the perfect starting point.

Our second stop was a movie and pet companionship at her house. Added to the extra loud, action movie was romping time with three large dogs in a room with tiled floors and high ceilings. (No closed captioning on the movie!) She turned on her clothes dryer for added ambiance. We talked through the movie, which was really only on for background noise. The dogs were perfectly behaved, though -- better than normal, she said, and didn't bark much at all, dang-it. I tried not to use lip reading to help me. I'm not sure, but I think the windows were rattling!

The coup de grace was our final trip to a place called Bounce U, an indoor play place for children that features all manner of inflatables for kids to play in. It was deafening, for sure. (We had to borrow her friend's kids to get in!) I could tell my comprehension during conversation was suffering.

Arriving at the doctor's office with an almost-migraine headache and feeling aptly overstimulated, I scored an expected 0% in my deaf ear, even with amplification, and a mere 48% using both ears.

"This is good, even if it seems bad," my audi said. "They like it when it's below 50."

I was pretty amazed. During the school year, I came home exhausted every day - flopping onto the couch where I often fell asleep for two or more hours and then regularly slept another 7 -8 hours each night, only to wake the next morning to the same repeating and grueling routine.  I plugged on day-in-day-out, though,  not wanting to be a wimp, and not wanting to admit to my stubborn self that my hearing loss was kicking my butt. I'm stronger than that, right?


Listening is seriously hard work when you must listen through one ear that only has about a third of its capacity intact. Aural fatigue is real and affecting. And today I learned how much it is impacting me. And I decided I should give myself a break. It's okay to give in to the fatigue and admit that I am not as strong as I wish I were --and to retreat into quiet solitude to rest. But it does help to keep a bottle of Tylenol close, and to take a couple...or three.

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