This week, I’m scheduled for a hearing checkup and I am not particularly looking forward to it.
Odd, isn’t it, that a person with lifelong hearing loss and who’s had upward of 60 annual checkups can still feel uneasy at the thought of it?
It’s not that I don’t like the audiologists who conduct the tests. Far from it, audiologists and other hearing professionals are among my favorite people on the planet – I just don’t want to see them as often as, say, Santa Claus.
And it’s not that hearing tests hurt me physically, unlike some medical test indignities that my family doctor insists are important for “long life, good health”!
No, it’s more about the dislike of failing or not doing “well” on a test, including this one that determines a person’s level of hearing and whether it has improved or deteriorated since the last time. But my hearing never goes up, at least not without the help of technology. I used to dream that, just for once, halfway through the procedure, the audie would jump up and come rushing into the sound booth screaming, “OMG, Gael, your hearing has improved!” That will only happen if a miracle serum is discovered in the next 20-30 years – but wouldn’t it be something to leave this world with better hearing than when I entered it!
Hearing tests are always a little stressful, especially as we wait for the results. Newbies want to be told after their first confinement in the sound booth, “Your hearing is fine, it’s only wax”. The best that veterans like me can hope for is “it’s no worse than it was.”
An evaluation often starts with a pure tone test, which helps hearing professionals find the quietest sound we can hear at different frequencies. For me, the only variation is in how quickly the beeps can ignite my tinnitus, or how quickly will all the sounds run together; at this point I’m not sure what’s real and what’s not, but I push the darn button anyway, because maybe I’ll press at the right time for the right beeps. And then, oh no, here comes the word recognition test which shouldn’t be too hard to ace, because I have it on good authority that they haven’t changed the words much in the last 40 years. I give it a go:
Say the word ‘sidewalk’. “Fly ball”
Say the word ‘keep’. “Sheet”
Say the word ‘maybe’. “Fading?”
Say the words ‘hot dog’. “Oh, jeez…hot sauce?”
Say the word ‘feeling’. “Beady, healing, peeling…take your pick, Ms. Audie!”
Say the word ‘much’. “I wanna go home.”
Sometimes we consider cheating. I know an elderly lady with borderline diabetes who doesn’t want a positive official diagnosis because it would affect her out-of-country travel insurance. Just before she enters the doctor’s office for a checkup, she takes a few quick jaunts around the block, which seems to do the trick. It’s like wearing a Fitbit and waving your arm around to rack up the steps while you’re watching This Is Us on television. What’s the point in trying to make your hearing do what it simply can’t? Even if you were successful in scamming your audiologist, which is highly unlikely, the result would be an inaccurate audiogram leading to inadequate technology recommendations.
Regular hearing evaluations are crucial to wellness. I know this, just as I know that poor communication due to hearing loss is far more stressful than an hour in the hearing testing booth. I also know that an accurate audiogram will help a competent hearing professional identify the necessary strategies to help smooth out some of the stress-wrinkles in our life.
And to be honest – my hearing evaluation this week is to check up on my cochlear implant progress. And that is almost always a cause for celebration as my word recognition improves slowly but steadily.
So, perhaps dread is too strong a word for my feelings about this week’s hearing test – let’s go with nervous anticipation. I’ll let you know how it goes.