Yesterday was my first day with my new hearing aid. As with most physical therapy treatments you have to press through a lot of challenges in order to get your body to respond in the way it is supposed to.
So it’s been a rough 24 hours (minus when I slept). I knew there was skill involved in learning to listen with a hearing device because of having a daughter with a cochlear implant, but I assumed since I can hear and was born hearing that I would be exempt from such a difficult transition stage. I was wrong.
It is way more challenging than I ever imagined. When I put the device on yesterday it sounded like the world was on “speaker phone” mode and I don’t know if you have ever had your voice echo when someone else has you on their speaker phone, but it’s annoying and that’s how it was at first. Luckily, the initial reverb didn’t last too long. However everything still sounds like I am in a cave or something. It’s not natural. Have you ever talked while plugging your ears? If not, go ahead and try it. Do you hear your voice muffled inside your head? That’s what my voice sounds like all the time to me right now. I feel like I should be whispering because the sound of my voice is so loud. Some things sound close to normal, but there are thousands of small sounds that appear to be amplified. This is what happens when you go without typical hearing for a while (or have never had it). Your ears interpret all sound the same. It’s all coming at you equally and your brain gradually decides what is needed and what to filter out.
One example I can think of experiencing this phenomenon was when we moved into our first home which was a few miles from a railroad track. I will never forget that first night while our mattress was still laying on the floor of a room full of unpacked boxes. I thought the train sounded like it was running through our house and rattling my brains. It was SO loud. Oh no. What have we done? I thought. I wasn’t sure how we would ever sleep with the train and it’s notorious whistle so close by. However, the sensation didn’t last. I am not sure how long it took, I just know that despite the trains schedule and location remaining the same I no longer heard it. My brain filtered it out. That’s what is supposed to happen with hearing aids. I even asked my daughter’s audiologist for second opinion. Are you sure it’s not being amplified louder than it should be? I shouldn’t be able to hear the toilet paper slide off the roll. She assured me that my case was no different than the others and I just had to push through and allow my brain to file away that distracting background noise.
It can be debilitating though. This is what it is like running a simple errand.
When you walk to the car you hear footsteps on the pavement and the grass. You hear wind (the way it sounds on a phone or home movie, very loud and distorted). You can hear your keys jingling and cars driving by.
As you get in the car you hear the door unlock, unlatch, and the seatbelt slides and clicks into place. You hear the engine start, the AC starts, there is lots of beeping and clicking with putting the car into gear or using the turning signal. And if you are thinking that you already hear all of those things, you are right. But do you always notice them? Do they distract you? Would you consider them loud and intrusive?
As you drive you have some coins in your console that keep sliding back and forth with every turn and slope. You grab a bottle of water and the plastic crumples and sounds ear piercing. You hear the cap unscrew, you hear the water go down your throat, then you hear yourself put the cap back on and return the water to the cup holder.
When you arrive at the store you hear the music which sounds normal, but the hangers on the rack sound extremely loud, a child is playing with a toy in the distance and you hear that. You feel like everyone that is talking is close by, but they are not. When you pay you hear yourself get out your wallet and all the items inside your purse starts banging up against each other like some kind of violent mosh pit. You hear yourself open the wallet, and I kid you not, you hear the debit card slide out of the wallet. You hear the beeping of the cash register as you normally would, but the magnitude of the stapler that the employee uses sounds like she must have used an industrial strength nail gun to combine two receipts. You flinch and hear yourself clasp your purse and grab the plastic bag which never stops crumpling loudly up against your leg.
Are you tired yet? I am. It sounds like I must be exaggerating, but everything I have read and all the professionals I have spoken with tell me this is just how it goes at first. This article form Starkey.com was really helpful and explains everything so realistically. They say “the learning curve can take anywhere from six weeks to six months. Success comes from practice and commitment.” So I am going to keep at it. Many of the articles I have read describe the adjustment time as tiring and disorenting which are the exact words I have used.
I go back in 2 weeks to see my audiologist and see how I am coming along. It may not be perfect by then, but it should be much easier. I hope. Feel free to ask me any questions. I have said so much, and yet there is so much I haven’t covered. Thanks for the prayers and encouragement.