Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce to you …
… my left ear!
… and my right ear!
These pretty graphs illustrate my hearing (or lack of it). The vertical axis charts loudness (or level of sounds) in decibels. Loud sounds are at the bottom, quiet sounds are at the top. Conversation is 65 db, a jet taking off 25 metres away is 120 db.
The horizontal axis charts sound frequencies (or different pitches of sounds) in hertz. The higher the number, the higher the pitch of the sound. Low-pitched sounds are towards the left (e.g. bass drum, tuba, ‘m’ ‘i’ ‘o’), high-pitched sounds are towards the right (e.g. birds, triangle playing, ‘th’ ‘f’ ‘s’). A piano’s middle C notes is 250 Hz, a telephone ringing is 3000 Hz.
A person with perfect hearing will obtain a test result of a line up to 20 db.
Spot my grey ski slope lines. I cannot hear anything above those lines, all I can hear are sounds like lawnmowers, chainsaws and firecrackers. All the letters in the grey area (known as the ‘speech banana’) are the sounds you hear in speech, so I am completely missing out on conversations.
With hearing aids jammed in, I can hear a little more – they don’t give you back perfect hearing like glasses do!
Going hand in hand with a sensorineural hearing loss is recruitment, explained very well here by Dr Bauman. My recruitment lines plot along the bottom of my graphs (so they are not shown here). This means I perceive some sounds to be louder than they actually are. When I first had my current digital hearing aids, I couldn’t BEAR the sound of someone putting a plate on the table or ripping the sellotape off the roll.
It also means I find it hard to discriminate between sounds, so I find it hard to understand what people say. This is why I can hear, but not understand. And there’s nothing the audiologist can do to correct this. I used to get very annoyed when my family would say ‘You can hear perfectly well when you want to!’ when I had correctly guessed the snippet that had been said! To me, speech always sounds like ‘baby talk’ – it sounds like gibberish and means nothing. This is why the lipreading comes in so handy!
The thing that has helped me most of all hasn’t been a great audiologist, accurate hearing test, or quality hearing aids. It’s been a positive attitude and two fingers to anyone who has said ‘You can’t do it’ just because of a hearing loss.