I'm writing this blog today wearing hearing aids...
I'm pretty surprised if I'm honest that I'm wearing hearing aids, because the whole of my deaf adult life has been about coming to terms with the hearing I don't have, learning to use what I do have and enjoying every little thing as my ears choose to hear it.
And regular readers of Twitter and my blog will know that actually, I've done that very successfully.
However, recently I became frustrated with myself, wondering if I could be doing more when it came to my day job.
I think the reason I got to this point is the same reason I don't blog so much any more – I have an incredibly supportive company.
They do everything possible when it comes to my deafness, while at the same time not making a big deal about it, and I guess they inspired me.
So recently, I went for my first hearing test in more than five years. It showed a death slide shape of an audiogram. One good cross in the lower frequency at about 30 and then a plummet into the land of severe and profound.
My audiologist was amazing. He confidently told me about these new Phonak Nathos hearing aids that move the sounds you don't hear into a frequency you do (called Sound Recover). He confidently told me that he thought it wouldn't affect my recruitment too much -– that sound wouldn't be too unpleasantly loud and make me fall over, which I have always had in the past when trying hearing aids.
He also told me it could be three months' wait, but he would see what he could do.
Gold star to him! I am now in hearing aids in what seems like no time at all.
'Well, you are very deaf and I thought these would help,' he replied graciously when I thanked him yesterday for fast tracking me, and so we set to work.
Now they're not miniature these hearing aids, but they are light. There's no dragging on the ear and they also are barely visible in my blonde hair. Not that I really cared about that yesterday – I was just eager to know about the sound.
When my audiologist switched them on, in the tiny silent room of the audiology clinic, everything became sharper. The shhh, chh, fffff sounds were there in a way they weren't before. I was aware of women chatting outside the closed door, and I could hear the rustle of my jeans when I moved.
'Nothing new here,' I thought, remembering my last foray into the world of hearing aids but I kept schtum and kept smiling, knowing that this was only the beginning, and we continued.
We tuned and tweaked my fancy hearing aids until claps not longer made me wince and my audiologist's voice sounded less tinny. I watched the computer screen as he clicked away and the graph showed the high frequencies migrating into the middle ones and it was hard not to feel excited and intrigued.
And then I left and bought a LOT of sugar from the hospital shop.
On the way to work, I tweeted about how everything sounded so erm... so soundy. The tube rattled and rolled with more clarity than before, I could make out other people chatting across the aisle from me and there was the constant white noise buzz, which will apparently fade over time but is there right now because my brain doesn't know what to do with some of the sound.
I began to feel overwhelmed.
On arrival at work I was greeted by such excitement, joy and enthusiasm from my colleagues that it bolstered me to keep going and remain positive while I marvelled at just how lucky I was to work with such fabulous people.
I was holding it together, and then my boss's phone rang.
I HEARD MY BOSS'S PHONE RING.
I HAVE NEVER HEARD MY BOSS'S PHONE RING... EVER!!
I froze, fingers suspended above the keyboard, eyes fixed straight ahead, before catching the eye of my colleague opposite.
'I just heard that phone ring' I whispered to her, as my eyes filled with tears, and we sat there and grinned at each other like loons for a good few minutes.
After work I went climbing with Art Man. As we left the office and went out into the noisy world, I started to feel a bit claustrophobic in my own head and while waiting for the tube, I cracked and took my hearing aids out. But they went back in for climbing and I had so much fun, I forgot I was wearing them. Better still, their light, neat fitting design meant I didn't catch them once with the rope or when reaching for a hold... Something i had don't with my previous aids years ago.
'I can totally do this,' I thought to myself.
On arrival home, I took them out. I waited for the freak out at the difference in sound, but it didn't come. My genius audiologist appeared to have succeeded in giving me clarity without too much extra volume so the world didn't sound that much quieter.
I ate Ryvita for tea (I don't think I will ever get used to doing this with hearing aids in) and then popped them back in and decided to experiment a bit.
I went through the ringtones of my iPhone – without hearing aids I can only hear the 'Strum' ringtone. I played each one, my phone not on full volume or pressed up against my ear, and I could hear them.
It was so strange. It was like the sound was right there. In my ear. And yet my phone was in my hand, which was resting on my lap.
I wanted to dance, shout, scream or hug someone.
There was sound I'd never heard before... in my ears!!!!!
I didn't stop there, I went through my iTunes library. I tried classical, which sounded more full bodied than before, I tried pop, which sounded good and then I went back to my favourite thing – listening to the iPhone ringtones and I finally allowed myself to get excited.
Maybe, for the first time ever, I'd found some hearing aids that helped me. And if I was noticing stuff after one day, what was it going to be like in 12 weeks when my brain had got used to picking up stuff it hadn't heard in years and the white noise had faded?
Would I be able to hear my flute again? My violin? Would this give me clarity of speech?
In all honesty, it's the last one that I think I'll have to wait for. I think that's the one that is going take the practice... and the 12 weeks.
But for the first time ever in my deaf life, I feel like actually there is something out there that can enhance what I hear. That can help. And because this has made me quite happy – like a child at Christmas listening to iPhone ringtones – I don't seem to be having so much of a crisis about leaving the old deaf me behind.
Because really, she's not being left behind, she's being given a new lease of life. A new, absolutely free, chance to hear the things she's pretended that she doesn't mind not hearing for the last 30 years. Better still, I know that she's still there underneath and at any time, I can go back. Take off the aids. Get used to my old world again, which I do really really not mind at all.
In some ways, I now have two liveable worlds to choose from.
Most importantly however, Deafinitely Girly's not going anywhere. I'm just on a bit of a new journey. In hearing aids. With all my amazing Twitter followers cheering me on, cheering me up, making me laugh and just being generally wonderful. And for that I thank them and my friends in the real world who Facebook-liked every single little thing about my journey yesterday.
But now for the most deal-breaking question of all...
Do my new hearing aids come in pink?!
I had to read this in three parts as my eyes kept watering. :)
Very happy that they have managed to come up with something to help!
Amazing amazing amazing :-)
I am just so very, very happy for you. As a fellow severe/profound deaf person I have walked in your shoes and can feel in my core the joy you are experiencing. Much love and patience being sent your way!
Phonak nathos SP ARE amazing as you discovered. I am a recent wearer of them too, and its opened the doors to sounds i have not heard for some time. Happy hearing.
Check out Auditory Therapy: The Missing Ingredient in The Hearing Blog for free resources to help you make the most of your new hearing aids.
Great blog. Love the story.
Not so scared about going deaf now! It seems there will be help out there!
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