Any hearing loss is experienced differently and have very different consequences

In my last post I presented a lot of the thoughts I have at the moment. In that post I also inserted an image that illustrates the result of my last hearing assessment. But no hearing loss is identical and possible just to compare only by looking at this diagram. I will therefore use this post to explain how good or bad my ability to hear is experienced. I guess that is the only true way to compare a hearing loss.

At an overall perspective my hearing loss means that I am almost deaf when I dont wear my hearing aids. My ability to hear is different depending on what sound I hear – I for instance hear much more Bass than Treble sounds. This means that I can hear some loud noises like doors that slams, some loud machines and very loud music on festivals etc.

Min hørekurve (2009) - grøn streg er højre øre mens rød streg er venstre øre

My hearing test (2009) – green line means right ear and red line is left ear

But the interesting part is not how well I can hear when not wearing my hearing aids – it is much more interesting what I can hear in the awake hours where I wear them 🙂

Loss of speech discrimination

In general I feel that I can hear most sounds provided that they have enough volume. But I do feel that it is much more easy for me to hear low pitch sounds. Apart from this I have a large loss of speech discrimination at about 80%. A loss of speech discrimination means that it is difficult to hear the difference between sounds (sounds become mixed up)

How easy do you think it is to get the message from the text in this image? The correct text is:

How loss of speech discrimination affects the ability to understand a message.

This combination means that I find it very difficult to hear and discriminate between consonants in the spoken language. I oftenly need to consume a lot energy on concentrating and guessing what people have said by compairing the things I heard with the context and the pressure people put on the vocals. It is for instance very easy to guess based on the pronounciation of “O – ay” that the correct word was “Okay”, But oftenly it is much more difficult to guess the words that I cannot hear. In some situations it could for instance be very hard to hear the difference between words like: fact, cat, mat, fat, hat and lad. This might not be the words that I find most difficult to hear, but they are good at exemplifying my problem together with the above image.

The consequence is that I need to pay full attention to people when they are talking if I want to hear what was said. It also means that I get tired of maintaining a high level of concentration in a conversation. In social situations where multiple people are talking the result oftenly is that I only follow the conversations for periods. When I get tired I often disconnect from listening and instead continue thinking about the last thing that was said when I was paying attention to the conversations. You could say that my hearing loss result in a social isolation that I cannot solve. This would require a vast amount of energy from me – otherwise I would just end up being too stressed.

I have started to think that I want to investigate if I can find a solution that would make it easier to hear in the many different situations I meet every day. I am also starting to worry about if I can continue guessing the words people say, as this is it is very hard to use so much energy on listening. This is one of the reasons why I have started to consider if Cochlear Implants (CI) could be a solution for me.

When is it difficult to hear?

As already said there are many situations where it is difficult to hear when you have a big loss of speech discrimination like me. But in the following list I will try to summarize the situations where I experience problems at hearing what people say:

  • One of my biggest issues when it comes to my hearing loss is casual conversations where multiple people are talking together. I need people to talk clearly and directly to me. If we are multiple people in a conversation it is natural for people to look at random people while talking and not just on me. This also means that I experience that people are not talking as clearly as if they were talking directly to me.
    • This is naturally a very big problem in social situations where you would usually be more than 2 people in most conversations. In these situations I often “disconnect” mentally as I run out of energy. I also experience that I loose too many words to actually understand the conversations. I therefore oftenly experience that I become passive in these kinds of conversations – it is very hard for me to break in to a conversation with my point of views as I need to consider and guess whether or not they are relevant at the given point in a conversation.
    • This phenomenon also means that there are many situations at my job where it can be very hard to follow a conversation between two coleagues and thereby determine if their conversation could be relevant for me to follow. It does however happen that I can follow passages. I have recently started to be aware that if a colleague or my boss talks to me from their table I need to stand up and eventually walk to their table so that I can lipread and be sure that I get their messages while spending much less energy on listening from my own table.
  • I am very happy with music but it is almost impossible for me to hear the text in a song. I can hear when the words are sung but I cannot hear what they sing. I can hear a few words but it is far from enough to determine what a song is all about. I therefore oftenly use solutions like “Tunewiki” in Spotify which make it possible to see the lyrics.
  • For a little more than a year ago I was at a camp for young people with hearing loss. At this camp we were suggested to use guided no-stress CDs. On these CDs you are usually guided in how to relax while you are told some things to think about in order to relax. At this camp there were played such a no-stress CD. I find it a bit controversial to say that people with hearing loss should use these kind of CDs when they might not be able to hear what is said on them.
  • I oftenly experience that my normal hearing friends and colleagues have found some genious sound recording that are typically from a netradio channel or a youtube video. But unfortunately I find it absolutely impossible to hear these kind of audio recordings when they are played through bad computer speakers or even a proper stereo set. If I should have just a little chance at hearing these clips I need to use special assistive technologies like an audio streamer that send the sound directly into my hearing aids. But even if I do that I do find it very difficult to hear these clips.
  • If I watch TV or a movie in my native language danish they should have subtitles – If I am very concentrated I might watch the news without subtitles, but the sound have to be very loud and I will still miss some words especially if there is background noise like we oftenly see when they are talking to a reporter which is at the “events”. I have therefore started to use the combination of high volume and live-texting of the news. But the fact that I can hear the news doesnt mean that I can watch all other tv-shows without subtitles. The important thing is that the audio should be very clear – I for instance cannot watch the many reality shows like Big Brother and so on – but I guess do not want to see those reality shows even if I could 😉
  • Foreign languages may be a big challenge because I am not so used to them as I am in Danish. But nevertheless most parts of my study at the university have been in English both in regards to report writing, lectures and supervisors. I am therefore able to communicate on English. But the language is not my native tongue, and it is therefore extremely important for me to use lipreading and to have the ability to ask people to repeat some words. It is therefore impossible for me to have an english phone conversation or listen to english in the TV without subtitles. Furthermore I experience that there are some accents and dialects on English that I find very difficult to understand. I for instance had a supervisor on one of the early semesters at the university who I could not understand at all – she came from Lithuania.
  • If am out getting beers at bars and so on, I am able to have conversations between 1-2 people provided that they talk directly to me. If we are at very noisy places like a disco I give up at listening and have to rely on the small amount I can understand by lipreading.
    • In these situations I have experienced that even other people with hearing loss try to talk to me by yelling directly in my ears – but in my case that does not help as that means that I cannot lipread.
  • You could in general say that I rely a lot on lipreading. It is therefore also a big challenge for me to listen to audiobooks or other sound recordings. If the spoken words are very clear it is possible – but I want to avoid it as I would spend too much energy on it.

But what am I then able to hear?

  • That it is very difficult for me to listen to audiobooks stands in huge contrast to the fact that I am able to have phone conversations in my danish. But when you look at the difference between listening to audiobooks and having a phone conversation there is a very crucial difference. The important difference is that in a phone conversation I can always ask people to repeat or explain their point using other words I can also ask people to speak louder or more clearly. This is not possible with an audiobook
  • In general I experience that I can hear the presence of most sounds. I do not feel that the volume is my biggest issue (even though it looks like that on the paper) – I believe my main problem is to discriminate between sounds as I experience that sounds get mixed up.
  • I usually find it very easy have conversations with one person provided that the background noise does not get too loud.

That I have started to have this huge focus on my own ability to hear means that I have also started to focus on how I can improve the listening situations that I find most difficult. I have therefore also started to focus on telling people what they can do in order to make it more easy for me to hear.