I always thought that deafness meant complete silence. Boy, was I wrong. My partial “sudden deafness” is LOUD. Beyond the new normal of a constant combination of ringing, buzzing and what I call the ever-present “seashell effect” is a variety of distortion, feedback and annoying-to-the-point-of-painful noises. The current variety (because it changes all the time) sounds like a high-pitched version of tuning in an old transistor radio. That squealing sound that happens when you get close to a station and then keep going past it into static again.
I’ve been to the doctor four times in six weeks. I get a hearing test and an injection IN MY EAR each time. Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds. Part of the hearing test involves word recognition. The audiologist sits in another room, like the x-ray people do, even though I’m pretty sure there’s no danger of picking up hearing loss by being near me.
She’s very kind and has a soothing voice. At least that’s what my “good ear” tells me. Because now I’m the person who leans in and says in my best old lady voice, “Talk into my good ear, sonny!” Keep in mind that I’m sitting in a sound-proof room, wearing headphones, closing my eyes and holding my breath so that I can shut out all distractions and focus completely on what I’m hearing. Or not hearing. Not exactly a real-world scenario for everyday hearing, but I’m trying to pass a test here, I’ll rig the system as much as I can. (By the way, I’m still at a 70% failure rate.)
On the other side of the glass, the audiologist speaks into my earbuds, one word after another. Say the word book. And my brain quickly chooses which word to throw back at her. Was it shook? Took? Look? Say the word take. Crud, my ear tried to squeal/dial a top-40 station right when she spoke. Was it lake? Bake? Rake? Back and forth we go, as I try to either keep up with her or fake it ‘til I make it. Sometimes I just hear Charlie Brown’s teacher and I can’t even come up with a guess for Wah wahh wah wahhh and so I have to say Dunno.
I don’t necessarily need people to talk any louder to me, I just need to pay more attention than I used to. But if you’re with me, help a girl out and include some charades if you can. Ask me if I’m cold and throw in a little shivering motion. It’ll save me from telling you, Yes. Yes, I feel old.