I have always had hearing loss. I typically describe the level of my hearing loss as about 75% deaf in my left ear and about 50% deaf in my right ear. I’ve never actually asked a doctor how accurate this description is, but it is how it has felt for me. I had hearing aids for most of my childhood and early adulthood, but I got to a point where they were lost or broken or both and I simply didn’t have the money or insurance to cover replacing them.
I finally got a new hearing aid during my first or second year of teaching here at Wiley but it was an old model that didn’t do much more than amplify all of the noise around me, which didn’t really help. Also, it was a model that fit behind the ear and that caused several problems for me, too. And on top of all that, it was for my left ear, which has, for reasons unknown to me or my team of medical professionals, never been able to keep a hearing aid working for long.
Then last year someone suggested I get in touch with an agency in town that might be able to help with hearing aids. I met with a representative in May and started the process. It took a long time. In fact, the entire summer passed and I still hadn’t even had a mold for my ears made or been able to select a model of hearing aid, although I knew exactly what kind I wanted. But I persevered.
In the meantime, my hearing got worse. I got a really bad case of tinnitus, so I have had a constant buzzing sound similar to cicadas in the background. This has made it really difficult to hear quiet conversations and sometimes to even hear clearly what people were saying to me in a normal conversational tone. But I persevered.
I met with my audiologist again a few months ago, got a new set of hearing tests done, got molds taken of both of my ears, and selected the model of hearing aid that would most help me in my work environment. Then it seemed like another forever-long wait. But I persevered.
Then I got a call from my audiologist last week, asking if I could come in for a fitting. I was elated! I scheduled the appointment, went in, and saw my new hearing aids. They were everything I had hoped for. She and her intern explained some of the features, and put them in.
At first, nothing happened. And then, just as I was getting ready to ask, I had an experience that came directly out of a book. She turned them on:
How can I describe what I heard when the doctor turn on my hearing aids? Or what I didn’t hear? It’s too hard to think of words. The ocean just wasn’t living inside my head anymore. It was gone. I could hear sounds like shiny lights in my brain It was like when you’re in a room where one of the lightbulbs on the ceiling isn’t working, but you don’t realize how dark it is until someone changes the lightbulb and the you’re like, whoa, it’s so bright in here! I don’t know if there’s a word that means the same thing as “bright” in terms of hearing, but I wish I knew one, because my ears were hearing brightly now.
I don’t know if R.J. Palacio has experienced hearing loss herself or know someone who has, but this description from Wonder has perfectly captured my experience with hearing aids for the past several days. I love the wording: hearing brightly. That really is what it sounds like.
And while it is going to take me some time to get used to all of the ambient noises around me and even longer to get used to the sound of my voice, I am so thrilled to be able to hear again!