Cleft Lip and Palate · facial difference · hearing

I Got A Hearing Aid

I’m the proud owner of a hearing aid. I finally bit the bullet and bought one. I like it very much. My hearing continued to decrease, while my tinnitus decided to increase. I was left with no other choice. I had more than enough close calls walking across the street, or with people coming up on my “bad” side and scaring the crap out of me. Life just didn’t feel safe.

All of this started with what I thought was an ear infection to what has now graduated into hearing loss, pain on the right side of the face and ear, tingling, numbness, weird, uncontrollable facial spasming on one side of my face, and difficulty chewing because of the pain. The worst thing, and the thing that continues to be my undoing, is the tinnitus.

If you don’t know what tinnitus is consider yourself blessed. When I tell people I have tinnitus they often ask what it is. Then like a schmuck at an auto repair shop performing that “sound his car makes” for the mechanic, I try to squeal as high as the frequency in my ear, or I play the high-pitched tone from a tuning app on my phone. Almost always people say in shock, “It’s like that all the time,” to which I reply “Yes.”

In the last three weeks the tinnitus has worsened. It is much louder and sometimes even throws out another frequency, attempting to harmonize with itself, albeit very, very poorly. Other symptoms from the last three weeks include facial spasms and sharp pain at the jaw joint. The facial spasms are really wacky. Most of the day I expend an enormous amount of energy to prevent the spasming from happening. Then I get in the car to go home from work and let my face get its groove on to whatever music I am listening to that day. We do agree on one thing, my facial spasms and I, “Hotel California” by the Eagles is a terrible song.

The tinnitus, hearing loss, and bouncing face are all a bit too much to handle so I thought I would take it easy (sarcasm) and start using a highly technical hearing aid. It is composed of a two pieces, a receiver shaped like a pen, and corresponding in-ear device.

It took some doing to get used to it. The pen receiver has a carrying case made of leather. Someone asked me if it was a knife because of the little leather jacket it wears.  No. Thanks for playing, though. Shelly, show them what they didn’t win. Or others have taken the more direct approach of asking “what is that?” I answer honestly, saying it is a receiver for the hearing aid you cannot see in my right ear.

The receiver picks up the sound and directs it to the ear piece.  The receiver, or pen, is best used if placed out on a table aimed at someone speaking.  There is no discreet way of doing this, but I have devised a few. I leave it on my desk in my office, I hold it like a pen in my hand, and I put it in my purse or pocket if I am on the go. It helps tremendously in overriding the high pitched squeal in my right ear.

It has also improved my ability to watch TV. I love to eat and watch tv. The tinnitus and hearing loss have made this hobby difficult to indulge in.  I can munch and watch now without the volume on 20-24 on the TV volume meter. I am sure my neighbors are thrilled, but I will never know because I do not like talking to people. Now, I can watch whatever I want, including the super quiet Netflix dramas on five or seven with the receiver sitting at the base of the tv speaker system.

In a setting with lots of people around, the hearing aid allows me to feel more balanced out, as if there is sound entering both ears. Unfortunately, in these group situations, I have to point the pen in the direction of whomever may be so lucky to speak to me. Not wanting to look like the fledgling television news reporter getting the “man on the street perspective,” I keep the pen in my pocket or my purse. This is more discreet. The only downside is that I pick up the noise of my shirt moving around, or the receiver rubbing up against the items in my bag. More sound is created, defeating the purpose of wearing hearing aid in the first place. During these moments, I end up blindly agreeing to things that I hope do not get me, or someone else, in trouble.  Often I worry that I have said “Yes” to questions like “Would you kill someone for me?” Or “Do you like the Eagles’ “Hotel California?” More than anything, I hope the latter has not happened

The other cool thing about the receiver and hearing aid set up I can hear through walls.  I can leave the room and still hear what’s happening in the room I just left. If the receiver happens to have been left behind, I’m hoping at some point to hear some juicy gossip or some stuff talked about me “behind my back.” It has not happened yet. I will keep you posted.

The sound transmitted is tinny and hollow sounding. However, this was the best of the three or four hearing aids I tried. The garden variety version your grandmother has that just goes in your ear amplifies everything. With the pen, I have some control over how loud the sound is, or whom I get to choose to listen. It is automated selective hearing.

As you can see there are many pros and cons that come with hearing loss and hearing aids. One would think that in 2017 with the advent of $1,000+ headphones and Beats by Dre that the world could come up with a better hearing aid. Unfortunately, this is not a reality yet. However, if there were ever a person to get the mix, tone, and warmth of sound right, I strongly believe it would be Dr. Dre. I say this after listening to some of his music over the years, but mostly because I watched HBO’s The Defiant Ones. So get on it Dre, please. Don’t leave money on the table! You could revolutionize the hearing aid market.

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