Not Firing on all Frequencies



One of the very first things that I did when my left ear suddenly stopped working was to hold the landline receiver to my ear to see if I could hear the dial tone. I couldn’t. Early on, this was my rudimentary way of isolating each ear to try to work out what on Earth had just happened and over time became the way in which I would test whether there had been any improvement. Cue the day, some 6-8 weeks later, when suddenly I could hear the tone at an almost normal level. I was elated and thought that my hearing problems were perhaps at an end.

Not The Recovery I Hoped For

Sadly, although even a small improvement is certainly something to be celebrated, it turned out that being able to hear a dial tone was not the recovery that I’d hoped for and here lies the big misunderstanding that I had about hearing loss that I think many others have too - particularly those who do not have difficulty hearing themselves.

Just Turn it Up Right?

Before I had hearing problems I’d presumed that the world just seemed either a little or a lot quieter for those with hearing loss and that a sound boost from a hearing aid would largely sort that out. As it turns out instead of the sound being turned down, as if on a TV, what actually happens is that you lose frequencies and each frequency can be lost or retained to a rather different degree to the next and some may even stay intact altogether.

This causes confusion because instead of everything being quieter, only some sounds are (much) quieter, so if you shout at someone with a hearing loss similar to mine where I’ve lost much of my high and mid-frequencies, I’m still going to wince at the volume because the booming bass frequencies are still intact and yet I still might not understand exactly what has been said. 

Guilty as Charged

What makes this newly-found understanding of hearing loss worse is that I’ve been guilty of rolling my eyes at elderly relatives who, I felt, clearly hadn’t grasped that full cinematic surround sound was just a click of a hearing aid button away if only they’d learned how to use it properly. Equally, and perhaps by way of retribution, I’ve been on the receiving end of an 8-year-old challenge my assertion that I hadn’t heard her with, “You’re fine! You’re wearing your hearing aid!!” at a volume which I got the general gist regardless of which frequencies I’d lost.

What is of course difficult to understand for an 8-year old, and adults too, is that with the right wind (or preferably without any wind!), with perfect acoustics, no traffic noise and a relatively low-pitch conversational level I can hear you just fine, but when all those enemies of the hard-of-hearing come together, when you’re not on my right side and when you’re animated and speaking at me in a much higher pitch, then sadly at times, I really have no clue at all. 

Walking a mile in the shoes of those with hearing loss has hopefully made me a more understanding and knowledgeable individual. I try to explain to anyone who will listen how hearing loss works in the vague hope that some understanding trickles through, though I suspect like most things until it happens to you, it’s very difficult to imagine.

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