Hearing Loss Terminology

There are lot of different terms used to describe a person with a hearing loss, and a lot of acceptable and not acceptable terms are widely misunderstood. As a writer of books regarding hearing loss, I often have to bite my tongue when the wrong term is used. I know the terms are not being used with any negative intent. I’ve experienced the wrong terms being used my entire life (try being in the hospital and having your own preferred terms ignored and not feeling good enough to correct the nurses).

So, here’s a rundown of some of the terms:

Hearing Loss: Blanket term that covers all forms of hearing loss, from mild to profound.

Deaf: This term implies that a person’s hearing is in the profound range, meaning they have “absence of useful hearing.” Some deaf people can still hear sounds, some hear nothing at all. Some speak. Some do not.

D/deaf: In the Deaf Community there is a thing called “little d” and “big d.” Simply put, someone who identifies as Deaf (big d) is a culturally deaf person. They are a part of the Deaf Community. Someone who identifies as deaf (little d) is just that, deaf. They are probably in the hearing community and might not know ASL, prefer speaking to the best of their ability. There is no right or wrong here, but with every book I write I am explaining my usage of D/deaf. Because when discussing deafness as a disability, there is no “big d,” that term is reserved for statements involving identity.

Hard of Hearing: This is a term for someone with some hearing loss. This person is not deaf, this person is not hearing. Often times they will wear hearing aids to help boost their hearing abilities. Like the D/deaf above, a person can capitalize to denote identity and being part of the Deaf Community. As a whole, being hard of hearing is a very vast term. We range from an older person with a little late onset hearing loss, to a person who has significant loss and has worn hearing aids most of their lives, to many variations in between.

Late Deafened: This is a person who normally is born hearing and loses their hearing later on in life. Could be they started losing their hearing as a child, or a teenager, or in their forties. Regardless of when they started losing their hearing, they are now deaf.

Hearing Impaired: Uh uh. No, just no. Unless you use this term to self-identify—and rock on with your bad self if you do—please do not use this term. We are not impaired. There is nothing wrong with us. And many of us feel our ears make us part of a linguistic community. This term does not encompass all forms of hearing loss. This term is hurtful to most of us. If you pay attention to my writing, I only use this term in the negative sense. And even when I have a character who would self-identify this way, I opt not to.

Mute: Another term to avoid, especially when using a combination of deaf mute. Many deaf people opt not to use their voice. Many have also been forced to speak and go through hours upon hours of speech therapy. Like “impaired” it is often frowned upon.

Deaf-Blind: This is a person with a hearing loss and vision loss. Like the hearing spectrum, this person could still have usable vision, but often times meets the legally blind criteria.

As for me, I was born hard of hearing. My identity wavers between Hard of Hearing and Deaf, and in ASL I often use both signs simultaneously. For one main reason: my right ear is considered deaf. Now, I still wear a hearing aid in that ear. I still hear with that ear. But I also don’t listen with that ear. If someone is talking to my right ear, I have to move them to my left ear in order to comprehend. Yet that ear does okay in speech recognition tests, mainly due to my hearing loss being moderate in speech areas of sound. Another big thing about me: I grew up without the community. It wasn’t until college that I sought out an ASL class that changed my life and brought me home.

Any terms I’ve skipped over that you want an answer to? Comment on it below. I love questions and am happy to discuss. Just please don’t assume what terms I prefer.

Captions for Phone Calls

For years I’ve known of the development of a phone that would provide captions real time for people with a hearing loss while talking on a telephone. This technology was something I looked forward to, as phones scare me a bit. The nature of having a hearing loss: I miss things. Sometimes phone connections are choppy, sometimes my hearing aids have feedback, sometimes the person talks soft or in a difficult pitch, sometimes they have an accent.

Sometimes I can’t hear.

Now, I have a TTY, a teletypewriter, and a video call device. I could call someone on the TTY, or use an interpreter. Only I’m used to talking on the phone. I can voice for myself and hear some, if not most, of the time.

My audiologist has a caption phone in her office. A bit of a large phone with a digital display. I saw it one trip and we discussed getting it for me. It wasn’t until the next trip that I brought it up and set the ball in motion.

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I was getting a caption phone.

But this isn’t a simple, pick up a phone and plug it in. I had a technician come out to the house, to install this phone. A phone that needs my landline, a power outlet, and my WiFi. A phone that when the receiver is picked up, an operator is automatically available.

The installation was quick, as I’m familiar with technology. I’ve got a touch screen to access the features of the phone. Something difficult for many users. This makes perfect sense for me, but won’t for many of my readers: the average person with a hearing loss is someone with late onset loss. The ideal person who wants this phone, the ability to speak for oneself and have words to follow, is an older person. Someone who might not be familiar with smartphone technology.

I’m not this person. In fact, my technician commented on how well I heard compared to his other clients.

The phone itself is simple. When the phone rings, I pick it up, and an operator is ready to type out whatever the person on the other end says to me. My words are not involved.

There is a delay, as it takes time to type up words. And this will be the most difficult part for me. I’m very much aware of social norms in communication. And not hearing, asking for repetition, or having a delayed response are not them. So with this phone, I’m more likely to respond, then see the words and ensure I’ve responded correctly.

I’ve used it a few times, once to order Chinese food, where the operator struggled but heard much more than I did! It’s a wonderful tool. And it reduces my phone anxiety. There’s nothing worse than having someone repeat themselves over and over and not being able to hear an important date, word, or number.

If this sounds like something you or a loved one might want, I’d suggest talking to your audiologist. If that doesn’t work out, check out http://captioncall.com.

As for me? I’m not going to be quite as worried the next time I need to make an important phone call. And there’s nothing worse than taking a nerve wracking phone call, and upping the nerve factor!

Captions at the Movie Theater

I’ve blogged in the past about captions for movies, and how disappointing it is when the captions are not available, or not covering the entire movie (i.e. when music is ignored). But what about movies shown in the theater?

Some theaters use open captions, and it’s usually a specific, limited showing where the captions are offered, often in off peak hours that can be difficult for those of us with regular 9-5 jobs. These captions are shown on the screen, just like watching captions at home.

But there’s another option—at least in my area—a personal captioning device. Simply put, this is a device that displays the captions on a small box only the person requesting it can see. When I first started using these devices they reflected a scrolling marque in the back of the theater. Now it’s an internal device, with the captions pre-programmed.

I’ve only used them a handful of times, because I don’t go to the theater often. And that’s due to these devices having a pretty bad track record: I tend to get free tickets when my captioning doesn’t work—because what’s more disappointing than not being able to see a movie once you’re already watching the start of the film, only there’s no captioning—and I’ve had about a 50-50 success rate.

The above picture is from this weekend’s attempt to watch a movie. First time I was able to bring my son to the theater and had captioning for myself. My husband and I had free tickets since, surprise surprise, the last movie we saw (Deadpool) had a captioning issue and I missed half the film. And if you think Deadpool is an easy character to lipread, as nice as Ryan Reynolds’ voice is…

So, there I am, in the theater, wayyy up close, with my captions set up and my fingers crossed.

And the best thing happened: even though previews are usually not captioned, three of ours were! Not only was it awesome to get the full impact of the previews, but this also told me ahead of time that everything was going to be okay. I was not going to have to leave my son and husband behind to get my captions fixed as the movie began (as I’ve done far too often). I was not going to have to sit outside while they watched, or watch something I couldn’t fully understand. This was going to work!

Then, the movie started. I held my breath. And you know what the very first thing I saw was? Music being captioned!

So this is how I watch movies in the theater. Now, my hearing means that sometimes I can hear enough. But it’s really a hit or miss: I have no way of knowing ahead of time how the acoustics will work. It does take some adjusting, since the captions are right up close, and the screen is far away. When it works, it’s a great experience.

Breaking Down Generalized Assumptions About Hearing Loss

With a week until SIGNS OF ATTRACTION releases (insert me dancing around and breathing into a paper bag) I’ve begun to notice a few interesting things about writing about hearing loss, namely something I’ve known my whole life.

Hearing loss is one of those things that people think they know about, but in reality they know the generalized incorrect information that floats around. Part of the reason why I write what I write, beyond utilizing my own ears and life experiences.

So, let me break some of it down for you:

  • I do not use hearing impaired in my novel, except in reference to negativity. Because hearing impaired, for those of us in the Deaf Community, is a negative term. It is not a term that encompasses all types of hearing loss. It’s negative. I am not impaired, I am not less then, I am different.
  • On the flip, some people (and some other countries) with a hearing loss do consider themselves hearing impaired. That’s their term and they are free to use whatever they want to self-identify. If you do not have a hearing loss, please refrain from using this term unless someone with a hearing loss uses it first.
  • Hard of hearing vs deaf: A person who is hard of hearing has some usable hearing and usually benefits from hearing aids and is able to communicate to some extent with the hearing world. A person who is deaf has no usable hearing, and while they may get some environmental sounds, are not able to communicate easily.
  • Deaf vs deaf (as well as Hard of Hearing vs hard of hearing): Capitalization is a cultural indicator. I am Hard of Hearing, because it is a part of my identity, but I was born hard of hearing, because this is my disability. You’ll notice in my book that Carli and Reed use these terms differently because of where they each are with their own identities.
  • Hearing aids, as I’ve mentioned in my vlog, are not corrective tools. They amplify sounds, make things louder. They don’t make me hearing, and they don’t make Carli hearing. The worse a hearing loss is, the more distorted the sound and less voice recognition is received. I don’t listen for comprehension with my deaf ear, there are certain sounds I can’t hear, even with hearing aids.
  • ASL is a full language. While some people can write in ASL, most ASL users use English for writing and reading. ASL does have a different grammar structure than English, it’s not Signed English (which is another debate I could go into, but it has nothing to do with my novel).

And that’s it for now! I may make another post later on, but until then, pre-order my book, there’s lots of goodies in there about hearing loss, and some amazing characters to meet!

The Story of My Hearing Loss: Part Six: ASL

In college, I needed to complete a foreign language requirement. I had taken Spanish in middle school and high school, a language I struggled to hear clearly. I somehow came up with the idea of taking ASL for the requirement.

My college didn’t have an ASL class, but they did allow me to take my course over the summer at a local community college. My mother decided to take the class with me, so I had someone to practice with. I remember the first day of class, sitting with a group varying from college aged to adult. I met up with another girl with a hearing loss and we started chatting.

At this point I knew a handful of signs. I had some alphabet knowledge, knew “I-Love-You,” and thanks to a live performance I saw as a child, “Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!” I honestly thought this would be a fun, carefree class to take.

I was wrong.

The teacher arrived, along with an interpreter. He stood up front and signed to us, the interpreter spoke his words, and my world shifted off its access. From that first moment, when I truly paid attention to ASL for the first time, I felt the language. It hit somewhere deep inside. It made sense, even when I couldn’t tell you the words.

I picked up the signs really quickly. My mom would take notes about how to form the shapes, I’d just write down the word. Many signs simply appeared obvious to me. After the first few classes, the interpreter no longer showed up. We communicated with our Deaf teacher through our limited signs and writing. And I want to take a moment to stress: if you want to learn ASL, you need a Deaf teacher.

Why? The answer is simple: if a hearing person is teaching ASL, that hearing person can teach another subject. A Deaf person doesn’t have other options as readily available. And if a hearing person is taking a job from a Deaf person, is this person really going to teach you accurate information about our world?

Along with ASL, I also learned about Deaf culture. About hearing loss, what it meant to be Deaf. My world opened up thanks to this one class. I found a home, I found a connection to the community. Yes, I was in a class, learning with my mostly hearing peers. But I was learning about MY world, My culture. My identity.

Until now, I had considered myself “hearing impaired.” This was the term given to me, although I never really accepted being impaired. I felt different, even when my ears held me back. I learned about the term “Hard of Hearing” and it became my term. My label.

I changed a lot through this class, quickly and swiftly. To the point where I didn’t even see myself change. I made my first friend with a hearing loss and she’s still my friend to this day. I became comfortable with my ears, no longer wishing to be hearing.

I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for this class. I transferred to Boston University to attend the Deaf Studies program. Most of my post college jobs have been related to hearing loss. My book coming out in June is about hearing loss. This one requirement, this one decision, has made me who I am. I shudder to think about what would have been.

I can tell you one thing for certain: you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

Part Five

The Story of My Hearing Loss: Part Five

I’ve been meaning to continue this story for a while now, but each time I open a document to type, I blanked. Mainly because the next few years aren’t very interesting.

After the accident, my hearing stabilized. I continued on my way as a child with a hearing loss alone in a hearing school. I had no support services, sans my mother’s advocacy. I was teased and picked on for my hearing loss, my hearing aids, my need for preferential treatment. I had my friends and yet I often felt left out and lost when I misheard or couldn’t hear.

I realize this is all very personal, another child with a hearing loss might not have the social struggles I had. I know my ears played a part, as did my personality, the other kids’ personalities, and the whole mess of complicated childhood issues.

In middle school I was finally connected with an advocate. Now, at that point I didn’t notice what I was missing. I studied with my friends, who happened to be in the top 10% of our class. I learned from them what I missed from the teachers. Therefore I felt less smart than them, when in reality I could handle my own.

With the assistance of the advocate a few things happened. One, I matched my schedule with that of my best friend (future valedictorian and Harvard Law graduate) so I could always get help from her notes. The school also provided me with an FM System.

Simply put, an FM System consists of a chunky hearing aid that has multiple controls, including hooking up to a microphone a teacher wore. Even though my peers knew I had a hearing loss, this was more cumbersome. The hearing aids weren’t comfortable and I had to get each teacher to place a microphone on them. Sometimes shirts brushed against the microphones creating an uncomfortable sound.

It also had its perks. During tests I heard all the hints the teacher whispered to my peers. If the teacher stepped outside, sometimes I heard what was being said. An FM System can be fun, but it required I be comfortable with the attention, and the teachers be willing to work with me and my device.

I’ve struggled with some pretty unusual situations as well: my school installed a motion sensor to save on electricity. Said motion sensor interacted with my hearing aids, giving me nothing but static. I had to go into the school after hours, with my mom and a stethoscope tool so she could hear through my aids, in order to prove I was telling the truth. Once Mom got on board they turned off the motion sensors for me.

Advocacy. It’s not something I was aware of as a child. But my ears require me to be my own advocate. They required my mother to be my advocate. At times, that’s also called social suicide. Because we all know: it’s not easy being different.

Part 4

Blogging Side Effect: Documented Changes

Interesting side effect of blogging: watching oneself change. Not so interesting side effect of blogging: everyone can dissect said changes!

I started this blog in February of 2013, three years ago. I’ve changed and grown as a writer since then. As a person. Three such changes stick out at me when I glance through past posts.

The first involves sex scenes. When I started blogging I had never written a sex scene before. Kissy scenes? Yes, please! But everything else was closed door. And three years ago I couldn’t wrap my head around writing sex scenes.

Now I’ve written…a lot of them. Seven novels with sex scenes in them. My former self would be staring at these words, mouth open, cheeks flushed. It wasn’t something I thought I’d do. But people change. I changed as a person, I changed as a writer. And I love those sex scenes. Not only are they fun, but they often involve personal, emotional growth for the characters. Love and attraction can go hand in hand and it’s fun to watch characters grow closer together as they, ahem, are closer together.

Three years ago I was growing tired of the leading male hero being tall, dark haired, totally ripped, and handsome. Real life involves variety and not everyone has those four traits. I married a blond and love redheads, why do they all have to have dark hair?

I struggled with this, and talked with others about this topic. One Internet friend wrote something that has stuck with me all these years: if I wanted to fantasize about a guy with love handles, I’d go for my husband.

Romance novels are about fantasy. And the tall, ripped, guy is that fantasy. I still feel some sense of normal can come into play in the right settings, but I’m embracing what I’m writing: a fantasy. And present me is okay with that concept. Sure, I often give my males a reason for their physique, like being a rock climber or a runner. Because if he sits around playing video games all day and has a six pack but doesn’t work out…well, that’s a bit much to swallow!

The last area is much more personal: the use of the term “differently-abled” vs “disabled.” I’m Hard of Hearing. I grew up with the label “hearing impaired.” I don’t like this label, never have, and have avoided using it in my novels. Why? The answer is simple: I don’t see myself as impaired. Never have. Never will.

The thing about hearing loss, it creates a linguistic minority. I am part of a community, of a culture. And we view ourselves as such. We don’t automatically view ourselves as disabled. I don’t view myself as disabled.

I read a blog where a disabled author mentioned the term “differently-abled” in a negative light. I asked about it. The answer I respected: I could use that term to describe myself, but for others it creates the stigma about the term “disabled” and needs to stop.

This gave me pause. Because my avoidance of the term “disabled” is due to the stigma. My ears are not hearing, therefore I am disabled, even if I view myself as part of a linguistic and cultural minority. It makes sense. Furthermore, I am not setting out to separate myself from anyone else with a disability. We share many frustrations and can be wonderful allies and partners.

I’m now referring to myself as disabled. It’s not easy, very much a work in process. But even as I change my terminology with respect for my peers, my former words, my former usage of “differently-abled” continues to exist on my blog. I could go back and delete those posts, or edit those words. I won’t. Not because the Internet will never let me truly erase those former words, but because I want to own my journey. Just like I started off calling myself hearing impaired before adopting Hard of Hearing. Because that journey is so important to me and is a huge part of my upcoming novel.

We can’t truly know where we are until we see where we came from. The downside of blogging means that it’s public for all to see. With any luck my journey will touch someone else, and help them to make their own journey, whatever that may be.

And I will do my best not to cringe at those old posts. They were once a part of me. They are part of my journey. They are me.

Let’s Talk About Hearing Loss

I write a lot about hearing loss on my blog, in many cases speaking from an established position. Meaning I’ve had a hearing loss all my life. I’ve connected with others with a hearing loss. I’ve taken classes and been able to shift my identity to match my ears.

Others are not this way. I didn’t start out this way.

So let’s boil it back to basics, shall we? I started off with the label “hearing impaired.” I used this label for nearly two decades. I never felt impaired. I never felt handicapped. I felt different. My hearing loss only accentuated those awkward teenage years. I didn’t have peers that were like me, but I did have some peers who accepted me.

Like and accept are two different things. Spend any time in diversity discussions and you’ll learn this quickly.

I’m told that as a young child I refused to meet with another little girl with hearing loss and hearing aids. I never hid my ears but I did get teased and picked on for them. Granted, I’m the type of person who would have gotten teased and picked on regardless, so we can call that a gray area.

As a freshman in high school, I wrote myself a letter. In this letter I asked my future self if there were any advances in hearing loss and went on about how wonderful it would be not to have a hearing loss anymore.

By the time I read this letter, I was in college, learning ASL, and had adopted the label “hard of hearing.” I didn’t recognize the words as my own. I was completely knocked off my chair. I hadn’t seen myself change, hadn’t remembered I used to feel that way. The transition into being comfortable with my ears happened quickly and naturally. Yet I am grateful for that letter and for the chance to acknowledge the change I went through.

In college I met others with hearing loss. I took an ASL class with another student who is hard of hearing. We’re still friends and I had a conversation with her before typing this. I also spent my first college party sitting in the corner talking with someone who was hard of hearing. I will never forget this experience, even if I have lost touch with this friend. It was the first time I could talk to someone who understood what it was like to have a hearing loss, to wear hearing aids. There was a connection there and will always be a connection there that others simply cannot have.

Respect and acceptance are important. But they do not come with shared experiences.

I went on to work with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people (capitalized to denote cultural). My wedding party consisted of a Late Deafened and Deaf attendants. Women I would not have known without my ears and my journey.

I’m glad I’m no longer uncomfortable with my ears. Because of my journey, because of who I am, I am an open book as far as my ears are concerned. I’ll talk about anything and have done presentations on hearing loss, oftentimes removing my own hearing aids for demonstration. It’s one of the things I miss about my former job.

I write about hearing loss to educate, to share these parts of myself. I write about hearing loss to reach out to others who may not have had a chance to interact with peers. I write about hearing loss because it’s my identity.

Use the comments section below to ask questions, to interact. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so there, click on the contact tab to reach out to me. Time permitting, I’m happy to talk about hearing loss from a peer’s point of view.

Adjusting to New Hearing Aids: Part III

Click here for Part I and Part II

About a week after getting my new hearing aids I scheduled my first checkup. The blocked sensation in my left aid had increased, to the point where I struggled to hear a customer at work.

I made my mental list of changes, and realized I had only three: the blocked sensation, the tinny sound, and the feedback (whistling) from using the phone. When I met with my audiologist I explained all of these. My right ear remained happy, the left picky.

My audiologist hooked me back up to her computer system and we answered a series of questions to adjust the blocked sensation. We called it a muffling, which I’m still not 100% sure it was, however it fixed the problem. She adjusted a level, clicking it up three notches. Immediately I noticed a change. Sounds were crisp, but there was now a stronger background noise. I had the level dropped down one.

The tinny sound was settled by fixing the cap on how much sound my hearing aids allow.

The feedback we didn’t go into the system for. I was given a little foam cut out to place over the phone, thereby keeping my hearing aid away from the phone and reducing the feedback. I was hesitant, but figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

When I got to my car the blocked sensation returned. It comes and goes but is better than before. And I think I figured it out: my hearing aids are designed to communicate. My hearing aids decide whether I’m listening with my right or my left ear. It’s made to reduce unwanted sounds and help simulate a more natural listening experience. Great in theory. In reality? A device doesn’t know what my needs are.

My theory is this: I’m getting the blocked feeling when my hearing aids decide to quiet my left ear and listen with my right. I have no idea if I am right or wrong. This is a theory. And as the days go by, I’m thinking of the blocked sensation less and less. So either I’m finally getting used to my new hearing aids, or the adjustment took a little bit of time. (Or my hearing aids are reading my mind and altering accordingly.)

The feedback while on the phone? That’s not getting better. The foam device does help some, but I still have to hold the phone away from my ear. All phones. It’s not comfortable talking on any and I’m not about to get foam for every phone I need. So that’s still on my list.

I had my first battery change with my left ear, one week after I got my new hearing aids. Normal range for battery changes are one to two weeks. My old left hearing aid was running about a week, because it was old. I’m surprised this one needed to be changed so quickly. Typically, my right aid should go through more batteries, because it’s a stronger aid. That’s not the case. I’m getting about a week and half with my right. I plan to bring this up with my audiologist, just to verify it’s normal, rather than let any potential problems grow into bigger ones.

In the meanwhile, I’m continuing as I am. I’ll wait another week or so to schedule a checkup, especially as I know my audiologist is on vacation. Overall at this point I am happy with my aids.

Another person may take longer or shorter to adjust. Each experience is not the same, and should not be an exact copy of mine. I hope those reading are willing to give their hearing aids a chance. It takes time, and patience, and some back and forth. It won’t be perfect but it can help.

I’ve got at least one more trip until I get the tweaking stage settled. And if that doesn’t handle all my concerns I’ll schedule another visit. Adjusting to new hearing aids is a process. Without going through this process the maximum benefit of the aids cannot be achieved.

Adjusting to New Hearing Aids: Part II

Click Here For Part I

While talking with my audiologist, I learned new hearing aids have levels on them up to four. I’m not clear on what these levels are, just that they are there. And the hearing aid industry pushes for level four. My audiologist—and I love her so—doesn’t believe in the four and set mine at level two.

Level two is loud. As in I turned down my car radio to the point where my son had to tell me to turn it up. I don’t even want to consider what level four would be! For some reason everyone thinks we need it to be loud, loud, loud!

No, no, no! When I put in a hearing aid my aid decides what I hear. Not me. It will pick up something dropping to the ground over the person I’m talking to. It will pick up the music in the background more than what I’m trying to focus on. It will pick up person B when I’m listening to person A. I’m using hearing aids to function. Yes, I love music. But I’ll listen to music with my hearing aids off. When I have my aids on I want to understand my son, listen to the television, and be alerted to important environmental sounds. I don’t need to hear a mechanical clanking from my keyboard.

And yes, I’m hearing my keyboard. And as a writer, I type a lot. I’m used to typing being this quiet thing. But now all I hear is “click, click, clack” in a high pitch. It was cool for the first ten minutes, now it’s annoying and I’ve removed my hearing aids specifically for quiet writing time.

There’s another point: people with hearing loss know quiet. We enjoy quiet. It’s nice and cozy to us. I have never been hearing. I don’t know what sounds are truly like. All I know is the mechanical sounds filtered through my hearing aids. Make no mistake: hearing aids don’t correct hearing. They amplify with mechanical sounds. I don’t hear what you do. I will never hear what you do. And frankly, I’m okay with that.

So the thought that the hearing aid industry is pushing loudness makes me shudder. So many people who are needing hearing aids the first time struggle. Making the sound uncomfortable will just make it worse. No one wants to spend thousands of dollars on a device(s) they don’t use. But it happens all the time.

Back to me, Ms. Experienced getting her latest aids. From the time I sat in the audiologist’s office, I knew my left ear felt blocked. We tweaked a few levels but at this point I knew it might be me adjust to the hearing aid. The tinny sound remained. These are not things I fixed while with my audiologist.

Adjusting to hearing aids take time. I always tell people to give it two weeks. Wear the hearing aids. Study the sounds. Figure out what works and what doesn’t. With my previous set of aids I had trouble listening to Bon Jovi, my favorite band. When his voice got high and shrill, I closed my eyes from pain. But John doesn’t have a high voice, so I had to continue listening to make sure I knew what wasn’t working.

Therefore I left my audiologist with plans to call her once I figured out what needed tweaking. I got to work and discovered that my left hearing aid was reacting to one of the phones. This phone is portable with a flat surface, so the flat surface is pressed up against my ear. This phone is also quiet for me, so I have to hold it close. Only holding it close had my hearing aid whistling. I have to hold the phone away from my ear.

Mental note: I need that fixed.

When I went to take off my hearing aids that night I had to adjust my routine. My old right hearing aid had the ability to turn the hearing aid off before removing it from the ear, thus saving me the whistling the process demands. My new ones don’t. I tried popping the battery door open, but the position is different and is not easily accessible.

My left hearing aid, I discovered, is smaller than my old ones. I have young hands, no arthritis. I almost dropped it. Hearing aids are wet and messy and coated with wax when they are removed. My tiny little aid slipped in my hands as I tried to clean it off before setting it in a dehumidifying container for the night.

I’m getting used to the slippery hearing aid. But the blocked sensation in my left ear lingers. And some sounds are not right, but I’m not sure exactly what, beyond “tinny.” I know things that crinkle, like paper or foil, are not comfortable to listen to.

On the plus, I’m having a much easier transition than some of my friends. And I think the level two has a lot to do with that. I can’t imagine a higher level. I’m understanding my young son better. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s what I need out of a hearing aid.

Click here for Part III