I need to do something radical about my hearing

My hearing has deteriorated to a point that I need to do something radical about it. Hearing aids amplify what I can hear, they do not replace what I have lost. I have high frequency sensorineural hearing loss in the severe/profound range. So – with two hearing aids, I can hear coughs, sneezes, traffic noise, engine noise, clacky shoes, but not speech which is a very complex sound. I hear vowels but not consonants so depend on lip reading to supply the missing consonants. But even with very well developed coping strategies, various loop systems and very tolerant patients, I realise I must do something or retire!

I can usually hear patients but struggle with staff or in meetings. I am becoming a social recluse because it’s such an effort to hear what is going on. It’s also a pain for people who try to help me out. My middle daughter says she has to really pay attention to what is being said so she can let me know later. More than one conversation going on and I give up. I often focus on just one person and that excludes everyone else and if the conversation is batting back and forth I am usually looking at the wrong person when the speaker changes. Of course, it can make life interesting – I probably have a completely different idea of what is going on! A room without soft furnishings makes sound bounce and thats horrible.

I have new high powered hearing aids called Naidas by Phonak and I have to turn them down as the volume is just too much. The gap between being able to hear and the noise being painful is narrow (called recruitment). Often I can hear the noise of someone speaking but I simply cannot work out what is being said. It is just noise. I can no longer listen to music – its just a nasty noise. I hear the bass beat but have lost the bulk of the orchestra!

I was not keen on the idea of a cochlear implant because I balked at the thought of holes being drilled in my head! But a niece had one and has gone from 20% to 80% hearing. Another contact says not only can she hear speech she can interpret it. She says that overall its quieter than hearing aids. And she can hear someone speaking behind her. There is a huge amount of learning after the implant but as I used to hear and have normal speech I am considered a good candidate for an implant.

So I have taken the first steps. Its a tertiary referral – local ENT consultant first and then a referral to a specialist centre. I have chosen to go to the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital (personal recommendation) and I await assessment there. The local consultant said they do the worst ear rather than risking the better one. That was a relief because I was terrified all would go wrong and I would lose what hearing I do have. Yes, that is a risk, but I am at a point where I have to do something.

I want to be able to hear the grandchildren and to listen to music. I do not want to use telephones. I want to be able to hear the nonsense my kids talk when they get together – I miss out. They repeat anything they think I should know but don’t bother with the trivia. I miss out on the jokes because most punchlines are delivered smiling and lips don’t move when you smile. People at work are worried because I will hear them talking about me and at the moment they can stand behind me and slag me off.

I am reading up on cochlear implants and trying to get answers to my questions and reassurance for my fears. There is such a lot I don’t know – so I share it with you as I make this journey. It might be useful to know more about deafness and about implants.

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