Monday 29 February 2016

Deaf Girly and the hearing aid batteries

It's been 25 years since I first got a pair of hearing aids. I've worn them on and off since then and finally every day (except when I've had enough of noise) for the last three and a bit years. 

During that time, I have changed the batteries more times than I can remember. Sometimes I change them using free batteries I pick up from my audiology clinic, but mostly (because I forget to pick up batteries) I end up buying them – at great expense – from chemists in a mad panic when I'm out somewhere and get the ominous 'Beeeeeeeep' followed by the death knell 'Beeeeeeeeep' 10 minutes later and a muted silence.

This happened this morning. I was at work. I searched my desk drawer frantically. It revealed several pens, a pencil, a lipstick, sticky notes and no hearing aid batteries. 

I then searched my handbag and found TicTacs, lip balm, tissues, a hairbrush, several hundred hairbands (that's where they all are) and a dusty Fisherman's Friend. And then, sitting at the bottom of the side pocket, was a pack of hearing aid batteries with one remaining new battery. The sight of that little orange tab made my day and prevented a mad panicked dash to Boots for a new packet of batteries.

But then I remembered something I had read and forgotten on the back of a pack of batteries about six months ago. The instructions clearly state that you should remove the tab and leave the battery for at least 1 minute before using it. 

I have NEVER done this. It has never occurred to me to do this. I didn't know why I should do this. And there was no more information about it on the packet either.

So I asked Twitter and several people came up with suggestions and also noted that they too don't leave their hearing aid batteries for 1 minute before putting them in their hearing aids.

And then I decided to drop the lovely Twitter peeps @HearwithRayovac a line and guess what, they came straight back to me and explained the reason for leaving hearing aid batteries out in the air. They also gave me a link to their online FAQ, which gives more information and is pretty interesting reading. I've also included their explanation below:

'A zinc air battery uses air outside the battery as a source of power. The factory applied tab seals the air holes in the battery and ensures freshness until you are ready to use the battery. Do not remove the tab until you are ready to use the battery. To activate the battery, you simply remove the tab. After removing the tab, wait about one minute prior to inserting the battery into your hearing aid. This allows sufficient time for the air to enter and activate the ingredients. Replacing the tab when the battery is not in use will not extend the battery life.'

'The reason to let it sit is because the air needs time to get into the battery. If you take the tab off and immediately put the battery in the hearing aid, you limit the amount of air it is exposed to. This could cause the battery to seem “dead” because the voltage could not reach the necessary level to power the device. If this happens when you first put the battery in the device, take it out and let it sit. This allows air to enter the cell and increase the voltage. After 1 minute, put the battery back into the device.'


So there you go! I've learnt something new on this sunny Monday that means next time I am juggling hat, gloves, scarf and several bags on a busy bus and my hearing aid battery goes flat, I will also be the girl balancing a hearing aid battery on her knee while counting to 60!

Look out for me yeah?

Happy Monday peeps


Wednesday 24 February 2016

Deaf Girly and Jeremy Paxman

The other day London Aunt asked me if I wanted to go to a talk with her. It was a talk by Jeremy Paxman and it was almost sold out.

Usually, I shy away from going to talks as I find them so difficult to hear, but after considering it for a moment, I decided that if anyone was going to be easy (ish) to hear it would be Jeremy Paxman – indeed, I often find myself not really reading the subtitles on University Challenge, so clear is his delivery of questions.

For some reason though, I completely forgot to ask London Aunt to request that we have seats reserved near the front to enable me to lipread, too and so, when we got there and found a massive queue and first-come-first-served seating arrangement, I realised that I lipreading from 20 rows back would not be an option.

And it wasn't. But I was able to understand maybe 50% of what Jeremy said. Although, after discussing it with London Aunt afterwards, I realised I had missed far more than I erm... realised. Partly because, if you don't hear something, how can you possibly know that you haven't heard it?

So anyway, sitting there in the hall, I had a sudden flashback to my school years. Of struggling to hear on subjects I was fascinated in. I was a super geek at school... I loved information and facts and when I had better hearing, used to absorb them all like a sponge. But as I got deafer, I remember that the effort of hearing the information seemed to prevent the absorption of it.

That exact thing proved to be true at this talk. I know that I heard full sentences that Jeremy Paxman said. I know that I laughed when he made a joke. But I cannot tell you a single thing that he said. Not in an informed, learned way anyway. I can tell you what he was wearing, and that his hair is longer in real life than in the current series of University Challenge. I can tell you that he does speak exceptionally clearly and eloquently, but that's not enough any more. It's not enough for me to simply hear someone. When 'listening' (lipreading) for long periods of time, I need the written words for support. Otherwise, my brain quite simply goes into overload.

As the talk neared the 80 minute mark, I started to feel that same desperation feeling that used to creep up on me in school and university lectures. The desperation that said, 'I'm done trying to listen. Please stop the noise. I need to sleep.'

Indeed, I had permission to nod off in my A-level and post-grad lessons. I was allowed to put my head on my desk and sleep. But truthfully, even if I hadn't had permission, I would have done it anyway.

Listening exhaustion is like no other exhaustion I know. It's not like jet lag, or a bad day at work. It's not like a hangover or being woken for an early journey somewhere. It's totally consuming. It takes your eyes, your ears, your entire face and your brain. It makes me want to cry with the realisation that useful information is still whizzing past my ears but that I quite simply cannot access it.

And as the talk drew to a close, all I could think about was going home, taking out my hearing aids, getting into bed and turning off the light. I was craving complete silence.

And that's what I did. At 8.45pm.

And looking back, that's what I did for much of my A-level years and post-grad (my degree was basically self taught with 2 hours of lectures a week so I didn't really ever get listening exhaustion).

It made me thankful that I rarely have to do that anymore. But slightly sad too that if I want to access the interesting opinions of people like Jeremy Paxman, this is what I have to do. Unless it's one of the marvellous talks that have live subtitles done by Stagetext.

One thing I wish I'd done is somehow requested the copy of the talk that Paxman gave. So that I could have read it at my leisure after my nap – a captioned afterthought on the evening.

Next time I might just request it in advance.

If my ears (and addled brain) allow there to be a next time.

Happy Wednesday peeps


Friday 12 February 2016

Deaf Girly and the sirens

A few weeks ago I wrote about blog about the fire alarm at work and how, when it went off, I couldn't hear it but that everything around me sounded muffled and quieter.

It was a new thing I've noticed, and I found it kinda fascinating.

Anyway, last night FJM and I were walking back from the gym. It was quite late and the roads were fairly quiet. There were no loud, low buses thundering by for me to hear. As far as I was concerned, there was no noise.

So imagine my surprise when FJM, who was mid-sentence, started yelling at me. Not yelling in a mad way, but yelling the rest of the sentence that five seconds previously, he'd be saying at a normal level.

'Why are you shouting,' I asked him, a small part of me secretly hoping that by some miracle I'd got my hearing back and he wasn't shouting at all. 'What?' he yelled. So I repeated myself, but shouted this time, and he gestured to a police car hurtling by. The lights were flashing but to me it made no sound.

'I was yelling,' FJM explained after it had vanished into the distance, 'because that thing was making such a noise.'

'Not to me it wasn't,' I replied, laughing at the absurdity of the situation. I mean, it's kind of brilliant and weird all at the same time when you think about it. I can hear better in high-frequency noisy situations, because I don't hear those high frequency noises. So on Saturdays in busy caf├ęs filled with screaming children, people don't have to raise their voice to speak to me at all. In my ears, the children are not there.

And the same with sirens. They don't alter what I hear at all. Amazing huh?

A small part of me loves that there are situations when I can hear better than hearing people. I love that my ears, while not working brilliantly most of the time, are able to block out the most antisocial of noises. Sirens, alarms, kids. That even if all hell breaks loose on the road outside our flat at 2am and there are police everywhere (it has happened before) I will be a regular sleeping beauty(?) blissfully unaware.

And on that lovely and thankful note, happy weekend peeps.


Wednesday 10 February 2016

Deaf Girly and the hearing test

Back in June I went to get my hearing aids spring cleaned. While there, the audiologist suggested that I should have a hearing test booked as it's been a while. But instead of being able to book one directly with the clinic, he needed to send a letter to my GP who would then refer me back. Or something bizarre like that.

And then I completely forgot that this had happened. Until yesterday, when I thought I'd drop my audiology department an email to check whether there was just a bit of a long waiting list for hearing tests. They got straight back to me to let me know this wasn't the case, it was simply that my GP hadn't done anything about the letter the hospital sent out. So eight months later, I still haven't had a hearing test.

On reflection this could be partly my fault. You see I moved house and, with the only way of getting in touch with my surgery being by phone or going in person, I haven't got around to telling them I've got a new address, which means they were probably baffled by the conflicting addresses for me and put the letter to one side.

So deciding to finally sort it. I googled my GP to see if I could get the phone number for someone else to call up and change my address and it would seem they now have a website, where you can fill in change of details forms and book appointments online. I know!!!! My GP has finally joined the 21st century. It's very exciting.

Disbelievingly, I filled in the change of address section and downloaded the form I need for registering for online appointments and hopefully it'll all be sorted soon.

Being able to book GP appointments online will quite frankly be life changing. I don't think it'll make me go any more than I do right now, but it will mean that I can finally take charge of this aspect of my life.

There's still one thing I am worried about though. You see, I have a suspicion that I am now out of my GP's catchment area – so when they get around to seeing my change of address request, I will probably be told to register somewhere else closer to where I live now.

And this will mean going through the whole palaver of a new GP needing to see me to check that my deafness isn't caused by wax in my ears – IF ONLY IT WAS – in order to get a referral to the hospital for a hearing test.

In the meantime however, I am going back to my audiology clinic to sort out my hearing aid moulds. The ones I have are now three years old. I have had two new sets since but the first ones were those tiny in-ear ones, which I hate, and the second ones were made by a particularly enthusiastic person who shoved the sponge so far down my ear canal I yelped and as a result the moulds are so insanely uncomfortable I refuse to wear them.

Time for a hearing overhaul I think.

Happy Wednesday peeps


Monday 8 February 2016

Deaf Girly and hearing the weather

Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, Gertrude, Henry, Imogen...

It might sounds like an alternative version to the Beautiful South song or a poor attempt at NATO phonetic alphabet but it's the UK storm names – makes you sit up and notice the weather a bit more when it's personified I think.

Hearing weather has always been a bit hit and miss for me. I've always heard the low, loud rumble of thunder, but when it comes to rain – the first time I heard that was when I got my current Phonak hearing aids, which you can read about here.

Without my hearing aids, I don't hear rain – so last night as Storm Imogen arrived on British shores, I lay in bed blissfully unaware until FJM told me about it and I took a peek out the window at the amazing volume of rain bouncing off the road outside our place.

Last week it was Storm Henry – and we had the pleasure of encountering him on holiday in Cornwall. The wind was fierce and on one of our walks, FJM asked me if I could hear the noise it made as it whistled through the wires between the telegraph poles. I couldn't. I could only hear the sound it made as it rushed past my hearing aid microphones. It sounded like a jet engine at take off.

Tucked away in our little cottage, FJM also told me about the wind whistling around the walls at night. And of the amazing rainstorm that occurred one evening when we were sat on the sofa watching TV with a G&T – all of them ignored by my ears.

But then on the last day, as we packed the car and got ready for the long journey back to London, I opened the front door to the most spectacular noise of torrential rain. With my hearing aids in, I loved it. Rain bouncing off FJM's car roof, gushing down the street, smashing into the pavement. Loud and clear.

I always find it thrilling when I hear that kind of thing. It reminds me how lucky I am to have what hearing I do have. Although I was less thrilled about being soaked to the skin after just the five-second dash to the car.

And then let's not talk about the unclassified road I directed FJM down – through flooding, breached rivers and fallen trees – en route to a donkey sanctuary that wasn't actually open when we arrived.

Once Imogen has done her thing, we'll be sitting tight for Storm Jake – and when he arrives, I'll be keeping my hearing aids on my bedside table, ready and waiting for the noise he brings.

Happy Monday peeps


DeafGirly: How I feel about being deaf at work

It's been a whole year since I posted a blog on here. Life's been happening. And I guess I am no longer 'deaf in the city and ha...