I dread getting my hearing tested. First of all, it is never fun to be shut in a quiet room knowing you are about to fail a test. And it’s not because I didn’t study hard enough! It can also be frightening to see if my hearing loss has progressed since the last test. Knowing my family history, there is a high risk that my hearing loss will continue to worsen over time. But the hardest part is often the tinnitus. How am I supposed to take the test when I already hear so many sounds of my own making? I find myself wondering, “Is that tone I hear part of the test or is it my tinnitus?”
My tinnitus usually sounds like a fluorescent light bulb, but can also manifest as a sustained high pitch tone. It would be easier to edit out the tinnitus from the hearing test if it always sounded the same, but many times it has a unique sound quality which is hard to identify. Plus, my anxiety level is always a little elevated, which probably kicks my tinnitus into overdrive.
I am typically an eager test-taker — I always loved tests in school (don’t laugh) — so it is just in my DNA to try to do well on the hearing test. Perhaps that makes me a bit overzealous since I tend to have many false positives, which makes my hearing test reliability fairly low. When I review the results, I always wonder if any stability in my hearing test is real or if I just got lucky this time with the false positives. I guess I will never really know.
Despite these challenges, I have gotten my hearing tested every couple of years for the past 20 years. In this way, I have been able to watch as my high pitch hearing went from perfect to a mild loss, and my mid-range frequency hearing dropped further into moderate loss territory. My low pitch hearing has remained in the mild loss range for much of this time.
When I really want to scare myself, I look at my father’s old hearing test. I have one from when he was in his 60s. Since my loss is genetic, I wonder if this will be my fate. His mid-range and high pitch hearing were deep in the severe loss range while his lower frequencies were in the moderate loss area. I only have the one test so I don’t know how severe his loss was at my age, but it is hard for me to imagine what my hearing would be like with such a steep drop off in my higher pitches, even 20 years from now.
Despite my trepidation about the tests, I think knowledge is power and so I continue to get my hearing tested regularly. I also try to keep abreast of new developments in hearing aid technology and stay current on the leading scientific research being done in this space. The good news is that advancements are being made consistently, and as my hearing continues to worsen, there will likely be even better technological and/or biological products available. Let’s hope so.
Readers, do you dread getting your hearing tested?