Ink and watercolor sketch of my hearing aids

Ink and watercolor sketch of my hearing aids

My Further Adventures in Hearing: Adjusting to Wearing Hearing Aids

 My 30-day trial period has ended, and I will be keeping my hearing aids.  My adjustment hasn’t been too rough.  I still keep the volume at 2 rather than 3 most times, but the startling crisp background sounds (which sound like crackling cellophane) have started to fade to a more bearable level.  I still laugh when I hear radio frequencies recalibrated to lower levels because the “s” still sounds like “sh,” and you would be surprised how often the “s” is included in words. This compression distortion is most noticeable when I listen to the radio – less so in face-to-face conversations.   My audiologist says that eventually my brain will hear a more normal “s” sound.

I wanted to give this update because so many of you commented on my December 12th post about getting hearing aids.  I was helped immensely by your support, well wishes, and by your helpful tips and insights about the adjustment period I was experiencing.  According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, “Nearly 17% of all Americans report a hearing loss, including a third of all individuals over the age of 65.”  Some of you wear hearing aids or have close friends and family members who wear them.  Others know first hand the impact of communicating with hearing-impaired people, some of whom are reluctant to take the plunge and get hearing aids.  So all of your comments were appreciated.

It’s too bad that hearing aids are imperfect instruments.  If the clarity I wanted was immediately apparent, then I would need no extra incentive to keep wearing the hearing aids.  But the improvement to my hearing people and conversations is not that noticeable to me, perhaps because my hearing loss is at high frequencies and most people have nicely modulated voices in the lower registers.  So I had to think seriously about the cost vs. benefits for me.  And in the end, I decided that I wanted to do everything that was in my control to hear better because not hearing can be isolating.  In the long term, as I expect my hearing loss to become more pronounced, I will have already adjusted to wearing hearing aids.  So I remain committed to wearing these devices.

Here are some of my thoughts and impressions after 30+ days wearing hearing aids:

The world is an incredibly noisy place.  When my audiologist reviewed the software that tracked how hard my hearing aids had been working, she saw that I was in quiet environments only 10- or 15-percent of the time.  Most of my life is lived in moderately noisy places.  It is true that we can hear freeway traffic from our home and that our old appliances hum along at an unquiet decibel level, so even when I am at home alone I am subjected to noise.  You might think that a library workplace would be quiet, but it is filled with the sounds of babies crying, toddlers throwing tantrums, kids sliding chairs and stools to the checkout stations, date due slips chugging out of the receipt printers, sirens and street traffic, etc.

One of the advantages of hearing loss is the serenity of living in a world of subdued and muted background noise.  I lost this quieter existence when I started wearing hearing aids. While the improvements to hearing conversations is not immediately apparent, I have experienced improvements in hearing background noises.  My hearing aids can and do decrease general background input and hone in on a single voice.  This happens automatically and my audiologist tells me that this feature has been working.  I do feel more confident listening to patrons at the Circulation Desk at my library.

The brain is as much a hearing organ as the ear. Much of the adjustment to hearing aids is the brain adapting to hearing certain sounds again.  At times I felt like I had sore inner ears, which my audiologist called “hearing fatigue.”  It makes me wonder how often my old brain simply tuned out because it was struggling too hard to hear.  Initially, I felt like my brain was over stimulated.  Over time, I expect that my brain will once again filter out some of the inessential background sounds.

I quickly adapted to hearing the sound of my own voice through the hearing aid microphones, and it no longer sounds odd.

It’s not just about me.  One of my readers sent an email reminding me that people don’t just get hearing aids for themselves, but also to make it easier for family and friends to communicate without so much of a struggle.  It can be frustrating to have to continually repeat oneself.

Unfortunately my husband sometimes gets short shrift because after wearing my hearing aids all day at work, I usually take them off when I get home.  I expect that over time I will feel more comfortable wearing them for longer and longer periods and take them out only when I get ready for bed.

My hearing aids

My hearing aids

Self portrait with hearing aids

Self portrait with hearing aids

When should I wear my hearing aids?  I started out committed to wearing my hearing aids all day every day.  But then for the past week, I neglected to wear them on my days off when I was home alone.  I’m not sure this is a good idea.  On Sunday when I started work at 8:30 a.m. I realized suddenly that I had forgotten to put my hearing aids in.  That hadn’t happened before.  If I get in the habit of putting them in every day after my morning shower, then I will lower the risk of not having them when I need them.

And I just had my first dream (nightmare) about losing my hearing aids!?!  Maybe this comes with the territory, like dreams about not finding your locker when you were a student. Aargh!

Why are hearing aids so expensive?  In this day and age, when you can get smart phones, iPads, tablets, and notebooks with miraculous computer capabilites for $1000 or less, why does it cost $5700 for two hearing aids that are imperfect technologies at best?  This is a mystery to me.  Perhaps Apple or Microsoft should get in the hearing aid business and drive the prices down.

Why aren’t hearing exams and hearing aids covered by insurance or Medicare? I believe that progressive, age-related hearing loss is as much of a medical issue as arthritis or diabetes, and therefore should be covered by insurance and Medicare.  The Hearing Loss Association of America says that “Hearing loss is not a benign condition:  recent studies reveal a linkage between untreated hearing loss and dementia, a greater incidence of balance problems and falls, and a greater incidence of stress-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease.” The high cost of hearing aids make them unaffordable for many Americans, and that is deplorable.

Please write to your Congress person

Please write to your Congress person

The Help Extend Auditory Relief Act of 2013 (HR 3150) would help change the law so that Social Security’s Medicare coverage would cover hearing tests and hearing aids.  As far as I can tell, the bill is still in committee.  I decided to express my support for this bill to my Congressman in a letter.  (You can find a sample letter at the above link to the Hearing Loss Association of America.) Change will not happen unless people advocate for it.

Other Adventures in Hearing.  When I went to a movie theatre over the holidays, I asked to use one of the devices they had for hearing-impaired people.  It was like an oversized pair of eyeglasses that showed subtitles running across the bottom of the lenses.  I thought it worked great, even if my ears were weighted down by my hearing aids, my eye glasses, and then the movie theatre’s special glasses!

In a few weeks I will be attending a seminar at work, and I asked to try out the library’s portable telecoil equipment.  My hearing aids (and most newer models) include a telecoil feature.  When I turn it on, I will hear the speaker’s voice streamed directly from his/her microphone to my ear buds instead of trying to pick up his/her voice from an echoey, large room filled with ambient sounds.  For this technology to work, the room must be looped, or the listener must wear a portable loop around the neck.  Here in Seattle, there is an organization called Let’s Loop Seattle that advocates for the installation of loops in public buildings, churches, theatres, auditoriums, even public transit.

I’m encouraged by the technologies available to me to help me hear better.  I do believe that hearing loss is a social issue, and that it is appropriate for communities and government to help hearing-impaired people.  And it is up to me to take advantage of the help that is available.  I’m grateful.

Branching Out

November 15, 2013

Row of sweet gum trees reflected in Green Lake

Row of sweet gum trees reflected in Green Lake

Ink and watercolor sketch of sweet gum trees at Green Lake

Ink and watercolor sketch of sweet gum trees at Green Lake

Hey look!  I’m branching out.  This is a departure from my leaf paintings.  My attempt at painting a whole tree!!

 

 

Squash Wonton Ravioli

September 27, 2013

Carnival suqash and golden acron squash

Carnival squash and golden acorn squash

I had LOTS of wonton wrappers left after making dessert, so I decided to use the rest in an autumn-inspired ravioli.  For the filling, I used half of a golden acorn squash and half of a carnival squash, baked until soft and then mashed.  I added salt, some leftover sage pesto (from my Three Sisters recipe), sautéed baby bella mushrooms, and sautéed onion and garlic.  I baked the ravioli rather than boil them, as I liked the slightly crispy texture with the soft filling.  Served with tomato sauce garnished with feta cheese.  Delicious!

Baked squash

Baked squash

Baby bella mushrooms, cut small and then sauteed

Baby bella mushrooms, cut small and then sautéed

Squash-mushroom filling with sage pesto

Squash-mushroom filling with sage pesto

Preparing the ravioli with wonton wrappers

Preparing the ravioli with wonton wrappers

Stuffed wonton

Stuffed wonton

I had enough filling for two trays of ravioli

I had enough filling for two trays of ravioli

Squash-mushroom-sage pesto ravioli

Squash-mushroom-sage pesto ravioli

Ink and watercolor sketch of squashes

Ink and watercolor sketch of squashes

 

 

Laundry strung above Post Alley, Seattle

Laundry strung above Post Alley, Seattle

IMG_3968IMG_3970

What a surprise to stumble upon this scene in Post Alley, just one “street” up from the Pike Place Market in Seattle.  It immediately brought to mind the narrow streets of Europe’s old towns and the tenements of New York City, olden days when it would have been completely normal to see the family’s laundry strung on clotheslines that criss-crossed the street, out the apartment windows, high over the dank ground below.

The laundry was the background for Jacob Riis's famous photo, "Bandits' Roost, Lower East Side, NYC, 1888" (collection Museum of the City of New York)

The laundry was the background for Jacob Riis’s famous photo, “Bandits’ Roost, Lower East Side, NYC, 1888” (collection Museum of the City of New York)

I loved seeing the pegged clothes, all white for some reason, on high above one of the most heavily touristed Seattle areas.  I think this idea should spread.

Ink and watercolor sketch of hanging laundry

Ink and watercolor sketch of hanging laundry

Yin-Yang symbol

Yin-Yang symbol

My shell resembles the yin-yang symbol.

My shell resembles the yin-yang symbol.

My moon snail shell reminds me of the yin-yang symbol and its associations with the paradoxes of opposites and inter-dependencies.  I do find that few things are strictly black and white.  So often a good thing contains the seed of decay.  For example, one of my husband’s best virtues is his generosity, but that means he finds it hard to save money.  He gives so much of himself to others that his family sometimes gets short shrift. Or think of someone who is loyal.  She might stay too long in failed relationships.  Or someone who is good at planning who might be too rigid and closed to the joys of spontaneity.  Turn the virtue you most love about a person on its side, and what is revealed is the thing you hate and drives you to the edge.

The Identity of Relative and Absolute
by Shih-tou

Within light there is darkness,
but do not try to understand that darkness.
Within darkness there is light,
but do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair,
like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.
Each thing has its own intrinsic value
and is related to everything else in function and position.
Ordinary life fits the absolute as a box and its lid.
The absolute works together with the relative,
like two arrows meeting in mid-air.

Moon Snail Shell # 86, watercolor sketch

Moon Snail Shell # 86, watercolor sketch

Moon Snail Shell # 87, ink and watercolor sketch

Moon Snail Shell # 87, ink and watercolor sketch

Moon Snail Shell # 89, ink and watercolor sketch

Moon Snail Shell # 88, ink and watercolor sketch

I’m still absorbed by the challenge of representing unfolding.  Not quite ready to leave this idea.

Moon Snail Shells # 50, 51, and 52; pen and pencil sketches

Moon Snail Shells # 50, 51, and 52; pen and pencil sketches

“All our progress is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud, you have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud and fruit.  Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Yellow daffodil

I arrived home from Minnesota last week to see the daffodils in bloom.  Spring is much farther along here than in the Midwest.  But March is fickle, and yesterday we had some snow flurries, which whisked away again in the general cold and rainy weather.  The daffodils do bring a nice touch of yellow radiance to the grayness of the day.

“The sweetest and fairest of spring’s yellow blossoms has been for many weeks sending up its slender water-green spears and opening a radiant blossom here and there — until they are assembled army strong . . . Daffodil time is again upon the land.”
— Louise Beebe Wilder, Colour in My Garden

Daffodils assembled "army strong"

Daffodils on "slender water-green spears"

White and yellow daffodils

Ink sketch of daffodils