“Honey, I Can’t Hear You!”
“Get your hearing checked!”
My friend Pam and I had each heard this from our husbands for several years. But she is only 45 and I just turned 50, so we thought we were way too young to be losing our hearing. It must be them.
But when my mom chimed in, I listened. She is baffled that I can’t hear how loud I am sometimes (especially after a glass of wine or two). So Pam and I chatted about our symptoms. She has a very hard time hearing her husband when she can’t see his lips moving. “All I hear is a mumble. I know he’s talking to me, but I have no idea what he’s saying.” Blessing or curse? I asked.
Pam’s father is almost completely deaf and has been hard of hearing since she was a little girl. “I worry that I may have inherited this “deaf gene” from him, or maybe it’s just wax.” I admitted to issues hearing people speaking to me in a crowded, noisy environment. I find myself focusing on their lips to understand what they are saying (which always bugged me about my dad).
Pam’s husband is also hard of hearing and she vowed that she would never be as stubborn as he about getting his hearing checked, if and when the time came. She decided the time was now, and I thought ‘a hearing test for the big 5-0?’ Why not?
We decided to go together, both fascinated by what we would learn, and made an appointment with Dr. Kato at The Ear Institute in Palm Desert. Turns out Pam is losing the ability to hear her husband. The low frequency is starting to decline in both ears, making it harder to hear male voices, which is unusual for hearing loss due to aging, says Dr. Kato. “Most hearing loss that results from aging occurs in the high frequencies first and then can progress to other tones.” Maybe she did get that gene.
I had a similar pattern to Pam’s in my right ear, but was losing high frequencies in my left ear. Not good as your hearing should be symmetrical, but it wasn’t significant enough to garner further testing. We learned that high tone loss is standardly from noise damage (loud music, heavy machinery, etc.). “When we have a high frequency loss, it is more difficult to understand speech because high frequencies are where the consonants are heard.” This explained why I always put my earphone in my right ear to transcribe interviews.
What about my big mouth when consuming alcohol? Dr. Kato summed that up to the signal to noise ratio, and that I probably just wanted to hear myself – and everyone else – speak louder.
At Dr. Kato’s recommendation, we plan to schedule annual hearing tests and keep an eye on any changes. At least now we have an excuse for not hearing our husbands.
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