Its been 3 years since our son was diagnosed with sudden onset sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus. Its been 2.5 years since we acquired his hearing aid that serves as a tinnitus masker.
The tinnitus masker was a life saver for him. In the beginning he wore it all the time. He was not timid or embarrassed being seen with it. He knew it helped and he didn’t care what people thought. Very few people commented on it, in fact. Like everything else, over time, he grew accustomed to the omnipresent ringing in his ear and learned how to block the sound and prevent it from affecting him. His annual checkups have been uneventful, the hearing loss unchanged. Even the evaluation he had this past April. One time he thought he was hearing the tinnitus in his unaffected ear, but it was unfounded.
What began as an “observation” on his part, gradually, but steadily became intense concern. He merely commented that he thought the frequency in his tinnitus had changed. Every day he was more vocal about how distracting the ringing was at night and how it interfered with his sleep. By the end of the month, he was now asking me to please make an appointment to get his hearing re-tested by his audiologist. He had tried in vain to get the hearing aid to help, but the frequency was so disparate that the hearing aid was in effect, useless. It would need to be re-calibrated to match the new frequency in his head.
My son has been super-mature and super-responsible with this hearing aid since the day he got it. He had never misplaced it. At all times, he always knew where it was (even if it didn’t belong somewhere) he always knew where it was. Up until a day or two before his appointment, he was still trying to use it at night.
About one hour before his scheduled appointment, he called me at work to ask me if I had seen his hearing aid. Naturally I was upset. How could he not know where it was? He ALWAYS knew where it was! He and his dad looked for the hearing aid relentlessly. All to no avail. **POOF** **GONE**
The audiologist evaluated him without the hearing aid and confirmed his suspicion. The frequency of the ringing in his ear did change, but so did his hearing. Three short months ago, he fell squarely into the category of having moderate hearing loss. Now his hearing loss fell into the moderate-to-severe spectrum. I won’t lie. I cried. A lot.
So now we are waiting for the replacement hearing aid. My son and I have had intense conversations about what his life is like with hearing loss and tinnitus. It is hard for someone who doesn’t live with hearing loss or tinnitus to understand. Conversely, I can only imagine that it is difficult to explain if it is something that you have become so accustomed to that you hardly recognize it for what it is.
We have been sparring about his ability/inability to hear properly. Because my son has adapted to the changes in his hearing, he keeps telling me he can hear just fine. In fact, he has told me that *I* have the hearing problem, because I am not listening to him.
In an effort to understand how he hears, I took a deep dive into educating myself about sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus. I scoured the internet to gain knowledge. I think I finally learned how to decipher the hieroglyphics of the audiogram. I came across a wonderful website, http://www.hear-it.org where you can hear what it is like to have hearing deficits. Impressions of Hearing Loss
Thinking that I struck gold, I asked him to listen to the various sound files of hearing loss and tinnitus to see which matched his. He listened with interest, but in the end said that none of the samples were comparable. He asked why was I bothering to look at websites like this. I explained that I love him and I want to help him. But first I want to understand what he is experiencing. If I can better understand what, and how he hears, maybe I can be a better advocate for him.