I had my hearing tested a few months ago because my wife felt that I was saying “What?” more often, and I myself felt that I wasn’t hearing as well. I knew I had some hearing loss in my right ear — this was officially diagnosed as part of the vestibular testing I had three years ago when all this started. I am pretty sure the hearing loss extends back to my teen years. I remember a school-sponsored hearing test in high school where the technician seemed puzzled and asked me if I had allergies. When I said yes, she relaxed. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but in retrospect, I believed she was explaining away the hearing loss shown on the test.

In college I was aware of having a “better” ear. This is the one I used for the phone. But instead of viewing my right ear as damaged and my left ear as normal, I thought of my right ear as normal and my left ear as superior! I told myself that I used the phone on my left ear because I wanted my right hand available to write. I was a musician at the time, and I think I was in denial about having hearing loss. Additionally I’ve had phonophobia for most of my life, and I assumed that being sensitive to sound meant my hearing was perfect.

Anyway, back to my recent hearing test. According to the test, my hearing improved slightly. I’m awfully close to the normal range. While I’m happy that my hearing is not worse (I’m guessing that my perception that it is is simply due to my increased awareness–and acceptance–that there is a minor problem), I realize now that I interfered with the test to some extent. During the test, I focused with all my might on the sounds. I closed my eyes to “help.” Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I heard the sound or if my musical training was allowing me to imagine the next pitch, which are played in octaves. Basically, I created an unnatural situation that didn’t mimic real life. I don’t typically close my eyes and focus on sound to the exclusion of all other input. I’m sure we all would hear better if we did! So if I ever have my hearing tested again, I’ll try to strike a balance between “doing my best” and interacting realistically with the sounds.

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