Sunday, 2 September 2012

Audacious Audiology

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On Wednesday I had to go to see an Audiologist about my tinnitus. It's been there since I had my chemotherapy. I was kind of hoping that it would just go away itself - but it hasn't. Not even reduced at all. It's not too bad most of the time - but I do have a problem hearing if there is any kind of background noise too - like in the car or a busy pub or restaurant.

I had an appointment at 9am at the local Bradwell Hospital just round the corner. As we set off the heavens opened and there was an absolute deluge as we got to the car park and dashed in. We got soaked - so did lots of others people just arriving. I couldn't see a sign for Audiology - so I asked at Reception. The Receptionist took my name and then asked me to sit on a seat on the corridor just outside the toilets! On the stroke of nine a young man came out of another door and asked me to follow him.

We went down a corridor and into a room. he told me he was the Audiologist (isn't it awful?- I didn't catch his name and couldn't read his name badge) I blame the tinnitus :-)

Anyway he asked me a few questions about my hearing, such as had I ever had any hearing loss or trouble with my ears before now. I told him I hadn't. Then he asked about my recent health and I gave him a potted version of what had happened since this time last year. (Yes - it is a year since I found that not-so-innocent lump in my neck!) I mentioned the chemo and he did say it could cause nerve damage.

He then said he was going to put me in a soundproof booth and test my hearing. I sat in there with headphones on and a button to press, in my hand. he asked me to press each time I heard a sound. He did each ear separately and some of the sounds were deep and I could hear those pretty well. The higher pitched ones sounded exactly like the tinnitus and I had trouble telling when they were there.

He also did the same tests when there was a rushing sound in the background.

When he'd finished and I'd emerged from the booth he typed my results into his computer, then showed me the graphs. He explained that I had mild to moderate hearing loss in each ear - with my left one being the worst. I was shocked by this as I'd just assumed the tinnitus was getting in the way of me hearing properly. He said that everyone has the noises in their head but when they can hear properly  and their hearing is good then they don't hear them. However, once your hearing is damaged then the tinnitus is heard instead. It seems that I am not picking up on higher frequency sounds very well.

He then said that if I wanted I could try some hearing aids as they would help. he did stress that he never tells people they HAVE to have them - just if they want to. I was mildly horrified at the thought - thinking of the huge pink things I've seen people have in their ears. I asked him to show me what one would look like. He went over to his drawers and brought out a small box. I was amazed to see how small it was - with just a clear fine tube that goes onto the ear. No moulded plastic - just a tube with a tiny blob on the end that goes into the ear.

One of my new hearing aids - next to the TV remote
 So, I thought about it for a second then told him I would give them a go. He said okay do you want to make an appointment or should he just do them now? "You can do that?" I asked and he said yes - he just needed to connect each hearing aid to the computer, which would set them to the perfect setting for each ear according to my test results. It was fascinating! He set them up then he measured my ears - to see how long the clear tiny tube needed to be. Then he tried them on me and checked the volume. Everything suddenly became a lot louder! Especially my own voice :-) It was surprising how much I'd been missing.

Then he got me to put them in myself - which is a doddle, then he showed me how to work the volume button and the three different modes they can be set to, then how to switch them off and change the batteries. He then sent me off with six month's worth of batteries and a book so that I can pop in anytime and get more. This is a fantastic service! I had no idea that I would walk out of there after just one hour with two perfectly tuned, discreet hearing aids.

I was still a little worried when I came back into the corridor wearing them - did they look obvious?? Nathan is very observant so I was sure he'd tell me how they looked. I came out smiling and he saw the batteries poking out of my handbag. He said "Oh - you have batteries" (I told you he was observant!)  "are they going to make you a hearing aid?" I just stood there smiling and moving my head from side to side - but he still didn't spot them! I didn't have my hair on either!

So that made me happier about having to have them. I said "I've got them already" and he had to look really hard to see them :-) The Audiologist said that I should wear them all my waking hours for the first eight to ten weeks just so that my brain can get used to the new level of sound and adjust to it. I have a form to fill in after eight weeks to say how I am getting on with them and request another appointment if there are any problems. How awesome is that service??

So I am trying to get used to hearing every single sound around. There is a mode where I can just have them front-facing - if I want to listen to someone while in a noisy environment and there is a Loop setting for places where there is a loop fitted. The normal mode had the front and back microphones on so I hear everything!

It feels a bit weird - but they are very comfy I can hardly feel that I am wearing anything!

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