Karen’s been nagging me to do something about my hearing for a while. I’ve always had difficulty hearing her. At first, I used to ask her to repeat herself. She would roll her eyes and tell me to do something about my hearing, and then obligingly repeat what she’d said, only clearer. After a few years of having to repeat almost every single sentence that she spoke, this gradually (and understandably) transformed into “(sigh) Nothing.”
In recent times, the accumulated misery has forced me to experiment with a couple of other responses. The first is to repeat back what I think she has said. This is hilarious for me. “You need me to batter the moon?” Hilarious. Sometimes, when I’m not feeling as funny, I’ll employ my second response, which is to just ignore her. This is a very dangerous arrangement, as I occasionally miss something important. So far, I don’t seem to have missed anything important enough to be life-threatening, but it has earned me a few nags.
Also, when driving around in the car, I find myself having to frequently turn the car stereo down to understand her. Here’s a little story that even she doesn’t know: the first time that this happened, I found it incredibly frustrating. Every time I turned the stereo down, it felt like she would talk a little quieter, so I got more and more agitated until it was practically turned off. Though, to be fair, she may just have been trying to subtly hint to me that my music was too loud. Tangent ends, and I hope that it doesn’t result in me sleeping on the sofa tonight, which would be a shame, because last night we had the sex and it was ace. Ditto for THAT aside.
So I finally succumbed, and while I was at the doctor a few months ago having my toe looked at, I asked my GP if I could have my hearing investigated. I’ve always had difficulty understanding speech in noisy surroundings, and I’ve listened to a lot of loud music in my time, so I felt that it was worth investigating the possibility that all this is related.
This morning I went to the hospital for an appointed hearing test. The doctor asked me a few questions, which I tried to answer honestly. I was asked if I hear any noises in my head, and I said that yes, I have this moderately high-pitched whistling that I hear when there’s no other sound. I was asked if I’d had any exposure to loud noises, and I said yes I’d probably played more loud music than I should have, but it’s hard to avoid when you’re the one on the stage. She asked if I ever wore earplugs on these occasions, to which I replied, completely honestly, “sometimes”.
I was placed into a soundproof box and given a pair of headphones and a button on a wire like what the weathermen have. I was told to press the button when I hear a noise, and keep it held until the noise stops. The test, it began.
The noises were of varying pitch and duration, and both ears were tested separately. As the noises got quieter and I strained to hear them, my headwhistling was joined by a kind of mechanical clanking that I had forgotten to mention to the doctor earlier. “Must remember to mention that to the doctor when I get out of this box,” I thought to myself. Of course, I didn’t want to forget this, which meant that my test results for the left ear were inaccurate as my attention was diverted.
I got out of the box and mentioned the clanking to the doctor. “Does it give you any difficulty, at all?” she asked and I said only when taking hearing tests. “Thank goodness you don’t have to take them too often then,” she said with a smile.
The results indicated that both ears were showing frequency response within normal ranges between 250 and 8000 Hz. “So,” said the doctor, “your hearing is fine. Your problems with hearing speech in busy environments could be due to Obscure Auditory Dysfunction.”
“Ah right,” I said, slightly ashamed that I was swelling the population of People With Wishy Washy Problems That Don’t Deserve A Clinical Name Yet Inexplicably Have One.
“There’s no treatment for it, but I can give you this leaflet with some useful tips on it.”
I looked at the leaflet and guffawed.
“*Make sure there is enough light falling on the face of the speaker and there is nothing obscuring their face.* That’s brilliant. Sheer genius.”
“Yes, it’s possibly not much use to you in a nightclub…”
“No, on the contrary. I can go up to the bar and say *Excuse me, can you turn the lights up a bit? I’m having difficulty understanding what my friends are saying…*”
The doctor’s blonde hair fell delicately over her shoulder as she tossed her head back and laughed at my hilarious joke.
“Any questions?” she asked. I opened my mouth.
“…about the hearing test?”
“Ah, about the hearing test. Uh, no.”
She offered me a referral to another department, where they could offer me further guidance on coping with my serious and depilating illness, but I said that for now, it wouldn’t be necessary. I’m content to go home and bask in the fact that I was right all along.