New hearing device helps those with single-side deafness

218 of 365/2- Ask anyone who knows me, I love to talk.
Behind The Ear Hearing Aid
Image by Pahz
I will talk to anyone, anywhere, any time. When I went to Bristol Ren Faire the first time, I knew I’d found where I belong. Not only do you get to talk to anyone, anywhere, any time, they like it. You can talk to cast members, patrons, playtrons, children, adults, anyone. It really is the best place on earth for me.

Except for what I said in this photo. I was born deaf in one ear. It was discovered in Kindergarten, during one of those "raise your hand when you hear the beep" hearing tests in the nurse’s office. The diagnosis, if my Army medical records are to be believed is that I was born without the auditory nerve that connects the eardrum to the brain. I have no idea how they tested me for that, I was four, then five years old. All I can remember from those tests is being locked in a soundproof room, unable to see my mother, a strange man’s voice speaking to me over the giant headphones they made me wear and him playing various sounds- including thunderstorms and waves crashing. To a child who would still go to her parents’ bedroom in the middle of the night for a thunderstorm.

I did okay with it, growing up only hearing out of one ear. Sometime in elementary school- I remember it mostly in fourth and fifth grade- they assigned me a special ed teacher. Except I wasn’t special ed- which back then wasn’t what it is now. Back then, it was for kids who were developmentally disabled. She used to come to my class a couple times a week (I recall her name as Miss Thadys [thay-deez]) and I’d go out in the hall with her and we’d work on sign language and she’d assess my involvement in class. I was an excellent student back then. I was above the norm in everything but math and science (where I was normal). By the time I entered the sixth grade, I was assessed as reading at a college level.

So that whole deaf-ear thing wasn’t so much of an issue.

We tried a hearing aid in the ninth grade. It was new- a behind the ear type, with a mic on the deaf side and the receiver on the hearing side. It was the 80s, I had long, feathered hair (don’t judge, if you were a fourteen year old in high school, you did too- guys as well, you know it), so it wouldn’t show. I was so excited about it, I told everyone. (see the aforementioned "talk to anyone, any time").

I didn’t keep it long. Turns out that high school kids can be jerks and people had taken to coming up behind me and clapping their hands on the mic side, which was loud, painful and would sometimes make the whole unit shut off (a safety measure for loud noises, apparently). I stopped wearing it for a while, then started again, without telling anyone. That’s when I heard some people talking about me in the hallway. Just typical high school bullshit- it doesn’t bother me now, but you know, back then, it kind of did.

I wasn’t bullied, in fact, I was fairly well-liked. But ninth grade could have been more fun- if not for that hearing aid. There was a 90-day return policy, so it didn’t cost my parents the 0 that I seem to remember them telling me it cost.

I have a hearing aid now, but it doesn’t work anymore. It hasn’t worked in probably ten years. It was that hearing test that I discovered I’m losing the hearing in my good ear. The hearing aid I have now (I don’t even know where it is at the moment, seriously) is a something-or-other bi-cross. There’s a mic on one side, receiver on the other, but that’s also an amplifier for the loss in the left ear. It stopped working about two years after I got it. For a while, the amplifier part worked as long as I didn’t have the mic attached to it (it had a wire that ran under my hair to the other side). But then, that quit working.

I dealt with it- the kids talk louder to me or repeat things. I used to tell everyone that spoke to me that I couldn’t hear well. But I stopped. It didn’t seem to matter because I became unwell and didn’t do all that much out of the house.

Well, now I’m better. I’m going out more and doing more things. And this summer at Bristol Ren Faire was one of the best summers I’ve had in my adult life. It ranks right up there- equal to it, in fact- with the year I went to Australia for three weeks (2005).

Today, I was looking through my ren faire photos on Facebook, so I could tag "The Fight Cast" in the few photos I had of them (that would be the group called "By the Sword" for you Bristol folks- the Robin Hood scenarios). And I found the photos a friend took of me with two of the knights. They were acting silly and goofy and one of them (Sir Maxx, actually) was on my deaf side. I couldn’t hear anything he said or did while he played it up for the camera. I wouldn’t have even thought of it today, except I said that in the caption on the photo. "I wish I knew was he was saying that was so funny" because the other knight and everyone standing by the photographer were all laughing.

I know they didn’t know I can’t hear. My kids know, of course, and my daughter spent too much of her time repeating things that the jousters were saying during the joust. The last two weekends, I said "to hell with politeness" and I stood at the fence to take photos (in front of a pole, so I wasn’t obscuring anyone’s view, I did stay that much of a polite person). I could hear what they were saying to each other. I knew they were speaking, but I had no idea what they were saying. It actually renewed my love for the joust- if you can imagine that. Not that I ever lost any love for the joust- no way, not ever. The joust and the jousters are definitely my favorite part of the faire.

But there you have it. My biggest fear is losing my hearing. Losing what little I have. Not being able to talk to people, anywhere, any time. Not hearing the people I love laughing. Not hearing Sir Mauldron telling me he loves me for all the work I do. Not hearing Sir Maxx’s ridiculous gasps and statements. Not hearing my dogs bark when I get home. Not hearing Queen or Say Anything… or The Grates (to name just a few).

Right now, my son is getting ready for work and telling me a completely ridiculous story in a completely ridiculous voice. And even though he tends to do it when I’m busy or can’t pay attention, I’m pretty sure I’d miss that in the silence.

I don’t remember much of the sign language I learned when I was ten years old. I remember basics like "thank you" (which I swear I saw Amadeo do at Bristol), "I’m deaf", "please", "help", some others and of course, the alphabet. I’d like to take a class to learn sign language, but to me, that feels a little too much like I’m giving in. And I don’t want to give in to this.

I just noticed, after posting this to a couple groups and on FB, I didn’t even mention the tinnitus in my good ear. Yeah, that’s a barrel of laughs as well.

New hearing device helps those with single-side deafness
The hearing aid has two parts. A behind-the-ear device has a mini microphone that rests in the ear canal of the deaf ear. The second part is a custom-made mouthpiece, similar to a dental retainer. The two parts sync up wirelessly, then the in-the-mouth …

Cochlear implant requires learning to hear all over again
Cochlear implants are used only when a person has severe hearing loss in both ears, so extreme that even the best hearing aid doesn't help. If you are a good candidate for an implant, here is what happens: An ear surgeon places a wire inside your cochlea.
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