The hearing aids come out. I startle from the shock of the ringing. My tinnitus is no longer masked by the real sounds around me. The door to the testing booth shuts with a thud that I feel more than hear. Since I wear my hearing aids 24/7, I rarely experience how quiet everything is without them. In some ways the cessation of sound is a relief, but only until the tinnitus arrives. Silence, yet for me, it is not silent. I sit alone with my ringing, waiting for the hearing test to start.
It begins. The loud sounds are a breeze. I can hear those over the tinnitus, but as the tones become softer, I strain to make sense of them. Is that a beep or just the ringing?
My thoughts are racing. Am I failing the test? Does this mean my hearing is worse or will it just look that way on the audiogram? Was that a tone? I should have pressed the button. Should I press it now? I am lost in my own mind and am missing the beeps.
“Stop!” I finally say to myself. I need to pay attention.
Maybe the audiologist noticed my uneasiness, because she switched to a whirling sort of beep. This was very helpful since the sound was easier to distinguish from the ring of my tinnitus. I calmed down and focused more clearly.
The rest of the test passed without incident and the results showed only a slight worsening in the higher frequencies where my ringing is the worst. Was it from the tinnitus or an actual change in my hearing? There is no way to know, but I considered this a good result, all things considered.
After the test, I was eager to reinsert my hearing aids. I know they will bring the relief of quiet. And the joy of better hearing. At least until the next hearing test.
Readers, does your tinnitus interfere with your hearing tests?