Making a positive difference in the lives of those with hearing impairment
January 23rd, 2013
I performed a hearing test on a very nice gentleman today that really reminded me of why I became a hearing practitioner. He was nervous, quite defensive, and at the start, even a little bit hostile while I was asking him questions to get to know him and his medical history. As I smiled, stayed friendly, and tried to make him feel at ease, it occurred to me that this man has likely had a hard time hearing for a long time, and that he feels he’s being blamed for his poor communication skills by the people in his life. His answers to my questions confirmed that his initial defensiveness was because he’s frustrated: he knows he can’t hear as well as his wife, but he can hear, and if she would only speak up and stop facing away from him, they wouldn’t be having the arguments that they have. In spite of his defensiveness, he warmed up to me and relaxed when he realized that he was in a safe, non-judgmental place. We laughed and joked about his difficulties, and I was able to get good consistent test results from him. I performed a full comprehensive hearing evaluation, and we discovered that he has a severe high-frequency hearing loss that has likely been damaged because of the noise of the pulp mill he’s worked at for 22 years.
I explained to him the problems that a possible noise-induced loss can create: constant noise exposure only damages certain frequency receptors, which means that only hearing clarity really changes, not a person’s hearing ability. When noise damages certain hair cells and nerve endings in a person’s ears, actual hearing ability isn’t necessarily affected, but hearing with clarity certainly is! High frequency sounds like ‘s’, ‘t’, ‘sh’, ‘th’, ‘k’, are no longer heard; those sounds are too high pitched and soft to be detected by an ear with a high-frequency loss. This leads to hearing some of the sounds of a word spoken, but not all. Noise-induced losses are really frustrating and mystifying, as the person can hear, they just can’t make out the words being said. People speaking to a person with a high-frequency loss often blame the person for not paying attention, as that person can obviously hear plenty, they just don’t understand the words. Once I explained how a high-frequency loss can translate to multiple problems, this nice man was so relieved! He was so afraid that I would verify his wife’s diagnosis: that he was losing his hearing because he was getting old, and needed to pay more attention to what people are saying. Because of this gentleman’s long history of noise exposure on the jobsite, I sent him home with an application to WCB to see if they would consider helping him pay for the devices he required to cope with his high-frequency loss.
At The Hearing Loss Clinic, we work with and understand all sorts of hearing losses, and are passionate about helping people understand as much as they can about how their hearing works, and how hearing losses can be helped. Hearing is such an important part of our humanity; it helps us connect through others, hearing their ideas, their thoughts, and sharing our thoughts and ideas back. If you have any concerns about how your hearing is working, don’t hesitate to have your hearing tested: no one fails a hearing test; it’s very empowering to have things explained and understood!
Have a great day, and happy healthy hearing to you all!