All the signs were there. Television dialogue was fuzzy and unclear. My family seemed to be mumbling more than usual so conversation took more work. My tinnitus had revved back up. I reached the end of each day tired and mentally spent.
I should have been prepared. But when the audiologist told me that my hearing had worsened, I was still surprised.
A drop in hearing is never easy to accept.
Take Time to Mourn Your Hearing Loss…
I usually get my hearing tested annually, but due to the pandemic, it had been about two years. Often my audiologist will describe any dip in my audiogram as the testing margin of error, but with two years of declines under my belt, this could not explain the difference.
A new flatter pattern was now evident. My high pitch hearing, which had always been mild, showed the sharpest dip. Noise exposure or more likely, age-related hearing loss was layering on top of my genetic hearing loss.
I inherited my hearing loss from my father so I knew what was to come. Later in life, his audiogram showed a marked deterioration in his high-pitched hearing. Was my recent dip the beginning of this new pattern? Since many important speech sounds — f, s, and th — are in these higher frequencies, I worried my word discrimination might dip too.
…But We Can’t Mourn Forever
No hearing loss journey is a straight line forward — onward and upward to better communication. It’s often a series of plateaus, between which adjustments and change are needed. Just like when the pandemic threw a curveball into my hearing loss life, this new dip required making some refinements.
My audiologist tweaked my hearing aid settings and the work to train my brain for the onslaught of new sounds began — tuning out extra background noise and tuning into the speech sounds I wanted to hear. This process can be incredibly frustrating — it may even feel like learning to hear all over again — but it is a necessary and important part of creating better communication.
Adjusting to a Hearing Drop Takes Time
No matter how many times my hearing shifts, the feelings of loss are just as raw. Rationally I know I will get through this dip, as I have other ones, but part of me always wonders if this will be the time I cannot recover. I not only feel sad and betrayed — why don’t my ears work the way I want them to? — but fearful. What if the next drop is even worse?
These feelings are natural. We must give ourselves time to rant and cry and despair before picking ourselves up and beginning to heal. The journey continues.
Readers, how do you mourn a new dip in your hearing?