Saturday, August 17, 2013

Who's Amanda?

Learning to cope with my hearing loss has been grueling and depressing, I admit. But on occasion, it has provided moments that remind me not to take myself so seriously. Case in point:

My kitchen and family room are one great room, divided by a breakfast bar. My husband was chopping vegetables recently at the breakfast bar behind me -- I was in the family room where I sat watching television. (Now, he knows I'm not so good at understanding speech when there's a lot of background noise, like TV -- and knives -- especially when the speaker is behind me, but he persists on talking to me in that context quite a lot. It's hard to break a 30-year habit.)

"Is Amanda still mad at you?" he asked.
"Who's Amanda?" I asked back.
"What're you talking about?" he replied. "Amanda who?"
"That's what I asked. Who's Amanda and why would she be mad at me?"
"Amanda?! I wanted to know if you wanted a banana and a salad!" he laughed.


Usually, I'm pretty good at filling in meaning even when I don't hear or understand every spoken word.  But I must say, sometimes even I'm amused at my interpretation.

"He let his PANTS down?! What did you say?" I ask. *erupting laughter from my husband* He's laughing so hard he can't even remember what he was talking about, so I never find out what he really said.

Those of us with moderate to profound hearing loss have not only lost our hearing, we have also lost speech understanding. Our hearing aids amplify sounds, but they amplify all sounds equally. In the presence of background noise, determining words and understanding them becomes an exhausting and tedious undertaking. We can HEAR voices. It's the words that escape us.

This chart shows degrees of hearing loss, and the "speech banana" I have come to know so well. At 55 - 70 dB loss in my better ear, you can clearly see that nearly all speech evades me. 

My audie (this is what we call our audiologists) is wonderfully sympathetic and has adjusted my hearing aids a lot to try to compensate for background noise, bringing forward voice frequencies, and fine tuning my hearing aids for my needs. It helps some, but she reminds me that hearing aids can only do so much, and that speech recognition will always be difficult for me. On the up side, I'm getting much better at speech reading. That's why I prefer face-to-face conversations. I can look at your mouth. It's a little awkward, and I even had someone ask if she had spinach stuck in her teeth! When I explained that I use speech reading to help me hear better, she laughed off her embarrassment. But in the real world, face-to-face doesn't occur as often as I'd like, so I continue to err and ask people to repeat themselves. And sometimes I laugh, because what I think I hear can be really, really funny.

My husband recognizes my struggle, and we giggle about the times "I'm not part of this conversation anymore, am I?", but the frustration is real and often embarrassing.

I still don't know who Amanda is. But whatever I did to make her mad -- I'm sorry. ;)

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