It’s not a well known fact that I have problems with my ears. When I say “Sorry, I didn’t hear that. I’m deaf”, most assume it’s a throw away comment about mishearing. But, in actual fact, I AM deaf. Not completely, but I have very limited hearing in my left ear. So much so, that next week I’ll be having Tympanoplasty to hopefully fix the problem.
Although I’ve always had problems with my ears, the real damage happened after suffering from an ear infection which weakened my ear drum. After this, I suffered from ear infections regularly.
After visiting my GP several times, I was constantly told that my deafness was due to blockage. Often being given ear drops and antibiotics. It took for a student GP to finally notice that my ear drum was in a terrible state. After this, I was referred to an ENT specialist.
The ENT Appointment
At my ENT appointment, I saw an audiologist first who conducted a hearing test using an audiometer. For those who’ve never experienced this, you are given a pair of headphones to wear and the audiologist plays various pitched beeps into each ear. Every time you hear the beep, you press a button to let them know. Sometimes a bone conduction test is completed too. For this test, one side of the headphones are removed and a bone oscillator is placed behind the ear on the mastoid bone instead. After this, the beeps are played again but this time they bypass the middle and outer ear. This test found that I had moderate hearing loss with not only damage to my eardrum but also a problem with the ossicle bones.
When speaking to the consultant, who analysed my test results, I was told that my hearing in my left ear was considerably worse than my right. I wasn’t hearing consonant sounds properly. They explained that my brain would automatically decide the most appropriate word to fit the sentence. For example, “Let’s go for a walk” – I might mishear the word ‘walk’ but my brain would automatically put the missing word in.
The Choice – Tympanoplasty or Hearing Aid?
The consultant gave me two choices:
- to have surgery to correct the hearing. However, this wasn’t guaranteed to work and has risks of complete hearing loss, face paralysis, tinnitus and a loss of taste
- to wear a hearing aid
At first, I opted for the surgery. But, after being called a “Brave lady” by the consultant, I started having doubts. Eventually, I cancelled the tympanoplasty surgery and tried a hearing aid instead.
For some, a hearing aid is definitely the better option but for me, it just wasn’t fit for purpose. Working in a classroom means that there is a lot of noise. A hearing aid often picks up the closest noise so if you have a child making a noise in front of you, it’s harder to hear the child further back. This drove me BONKERS. Not to mention that PE lessons were noise overload with the hearing aid picking up every child’s squeal and footstep. I found myself turning the hearing aid off more times than it went on. Couple this with the fact that the hearing aid didn’t prevent ear infections so after my fourth ear infection last year, I went back to my GP and asked to be referred again.
It’s taken 6 months of waiting lists to finally get back to this point. In the meantime, I’ve managed without my hearing aid – just. Luckily, I’ve become quite adept at lip reading! I can’t say it’s been easy though. I’m socially awkward at the best of times, but not being able to hear properly has made social situations even more uncomfortable. I hate group situations as I can’t always follow the conversation and scenarios such as the hairdressers, with the hairdryers blasting, is an auditory nightmare.
Fingers crossed that the Tympanoplasty works!
Read Tympanoplasty: Before, During and One Week Later to find out what happened next