Just a regular guy; with hearing loss

4th August 2016, early morning.

I’m, just a regular guy with hearing loss.

I work in the heart of the business district in Brisbane, here in Australia. I live with my fiancee in the northern suburbs, have two kids from a previous marriage who live with their mum, I go to work and go back home again. Do stuff. Live.

Like I said I’m just a regular guy. Thing is I’ve had something that has followed me my whole life and it’s something that gets very little coverage in my world. In fact if most people are honest they don’t get it. My particular albatross is hearing loss.

“I’m sorry, can you say that again please?”

“Huh?”

“I didn’t hear you. I don’t hear so well.”

“Oh your hard of hearing” they say.

“Yes that’s right.”

“Oh.” They repeat. Often as not, I only get part of it. And then they leave. They don’t get it. Not a clue.

The reality is that I’ve had issues with hearing since birth. No one knew of course. Not until I was four. People started to wonder why the lonely boy in the corner spent time by himself and didn’t really talk to others much. In fact didn’t really interact much at all. Mum and Dad started to notice I wouldn’t respond when they spoke to me unless I was facing them. I’d got pretty good at making sure I was always facing people when interacting. It was all subconscious and although I didn’t realise it there was a problem and it was going to get found out.

Over forty years have passed since I was diagnosed with otitis media. Colloquially known as ‘glue ear’. I’ll go into the symptoms and the clinical stuff in another blog. Many of you have probably known a child have an op. for grommets; the little ‘washer-like’ things they put into an ear drum, usually once in a child’s life and all is sorted. The key piece here is that I’m now in my late forties, and by late I mean I can almost reach out and practically touch ‘fifty’, suffice to say I’ve had more grommets inserted than I care to remember. Well over thirty operations….

Things are coming to a head, as it were, and following a very comprehensive hearing test two days ago I was suddenly faced with a very stark reality. The years of middle ear infections, operations under general anaesthetic, grommets, had it seemed all caught up with me. Now I faced, what I always knew was a very likely outcome after all these years. My Goodes-tubes (fancy grommets) were working fine. No middle ear infection, no fluid. All good. Except.

Except my hearing was lousy. I knew it had gotten worse over the last six weeks which is what drove me back to see my ENT Consultant only five months after my last operation. The audiologist confirmed what I’d been dreading. My wasn’t great hearing-wise, but it was around where I’d expected it to be. Mild loss. A pretty good result all things considered. My left, which in recent times had become the problem child and the weaker of the two, was not great. In fact in the speech part of the test for that guy was frankly terrible.

The audiologist was great. She went through and explain what the results of each of the test meant in detail, showing me all the graphs and data. Always a worrying sign when someone medical takes the time to explain details in minutiae. Come on, we’ve all seen the hospital dramas on the TV. There was a climax to all the explanations. A big conclusion coming up.

“Have you ever considered wearing a hearing aid?”

BANG. There it was. The inevitability I’d been avoiding for over four decades. Eight words that came across with such clarity I almost forgot the issue. I stumbled out some sort of response, the construct of which was something of a lurch between “yes” and “I guess it’s been in the back of my mind as being inevitable at some point.”

She proceeded to reach into a drawer and pull out three items and went on to say that there were probably three options. Seemed reasonable. Aren’t there almost always three? The first was a very discrete ear-canal-dwelling beast that was a funky colour and had some merit. Hardly visible. Second up was a more traditional behind-the-ear-number and the tube connecting the gun metal grey box to the ear piece was hardly visible. You’d see nothing from the front and have to look real hard side-on too. Perhaps things weren’t looking too bad as far as the aids were concerned after all. I’d get used to it in time. Plus I’d have significantly better hearing.

We say we leave the best to last. I guess that all depends on your definition of ‘best’. The third option had, until now, been hiding in its box. The other two being loose. “Now,” she said. “You clearly need your middle ears well ventilated.” Where the heck was this going? The box was now open and she was picking out a device that was somewhat larger than the other two. Seem the day was getting worse again!

“This is a bone anchored device.” She said with something of a flourish. And she kept going. Trouble was I was still stuck on ‘bone anchored’. the next thing I really recall hearing was, “which means that you’ll be able to keep the left ear ventilated as this device does not obstruct the ear canal.” We spent a few more minutes talking which allowed me to catch up on the ground I’d lost whilst I’d been stuck in a reverberating audio loop, and agreed nothing was going to be decided until we’d both spoken to my Consultant.

So now I sit here, 45 hours 38 minutes on from the moment I left the audiologist’s rooms waiting to have a conversation with my consultant. That’s 48 hours and 38 minutes worth of questions to get through. I think we’ll have to discuss this face-to-face. He’ll only have received the results today. Come on ‘phone. Ring. For goodness sake, ring!

So the seemingly inevitable is here. The one thing, well one of them at any rate, to do with my condition that I’ve been dreading since the age of four. It’s here. It’s arrived. I was going to have a hearing aid. It’s official. If that wasn’t a big enough discovery event in itself, I was now faced with deciding if the hearing aid should be attached to my skull.

Now that’s what I call a psychological shift of seismic proportions. Bloody well ring damn you!!