My daughter Rachel has something like 45% hearing loss. We figure it’s a residual effect from her seizures as a child, but we don’t know for sure when it started. Unlike a lot of people with moderate hearing loss, she doesn’t shout. (I have a brother with much milder hearing problems who speaks much, much louder.) She’s louder than her siblings and tends to get really loud under stress, but that’s the sort of behavior that’s easily attributed to personality. Her problem is so difficult to observe that it took us a while to realize that there was a problem.
What we did notice was that she was incredibly stressed. She’s an extrovert and loves interacting with people, but unlike most extroverts she’d have this strained, almost panicked expression on her face when she was in a group. She loved meeting people and talking in groups, but at the same time it’s pretty much a worst-case scenario for her particular problem. In a one-on-one conversation she listens carefully, reads lips, and extrapolates missed words based on context. This is obviously difficult and requires a lot of brain power, which is probably why she’d be so stressed.
In a group, there’s a lot more room noise and you can’t watch everyone’s lips at once, which means she often couldn’t keep up with what everyone was saying. Before she was diagnosed, we had no way of knowing this stress stemmed from hearing loss. We just sort of assumed that she was a naturally stressed kid. We had no idea how hard she was struggling to understand in social gatherings, and as far as she knew this was how everyone conversed.
Once she was properly diagnosed, we got her a set of crappy, one-size-fits-all hearing aids. This is the equivalent of buying those off-the-rack eyeglasses instead of going to an optometrist and getting a custom set. We knew she had “45% hearing loss” but we didn’t know how serious the problem was, from her point for view. So we didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on hearing aids that she would never wear because they were uncomfortable or inconvenientI dislike wearing glasses and I only need them when I’m not using the computer, so I rarely ever put them on.. We got a cheap set as an experiment to see if they made any difference in her quality of life.
When she put them on for the first time she wrote this on her Tumblr:
I just got my first set of hearing aids today, (Being about 45% deaf) And after the roller coaster of emotions today with sensory overload and hearing good for the first time in probably about 7 years. I just tried listening to music for the first time with them in just as I was about to go to bed.
Oh my gosh guys, I'm actually crying right now. I mean today I learned that water makes noise but music oh my fuck I mean I listen to music all the time but GUYS. HOW DO HEARING PEOPLE NOT SPEND THEIR EVERY WAKING MOMENT LISTENING TO MUSIC? ITS LIKE PURE HEAVEN OH MY GOSH.
Another notable quote from her:
“Oh wow. Water really sounds like that. I thought that was just in videogames.”
(She can play videogames with headphones, which is why she hears better in games than in real life, as it were.)
Based on this reaction, we put down some real money and got her a proper set of hearing aids. When I was a kid, hearing aids were ugly, bulky things that sometimes made buzzing noises that would annoy other people. These new ones are smaller, lighter, don’t leak sound, and they have a bunch of fancy bluetooth features. She actually gets voice notifications from the device itself when the batteries are low, and it can relay notifications from her computer. So sometimes she’s sitting on the couch playing Wii U and suddenly her head will jolt in surprise. “Someone’s messaging me on Steam,” she says as she runs upstairs. She can also use them to listen to music. She’s part cyborg now.
Also, the hearing aids of today are overall cheaper than the ones of yesteryear. They’re still more expensive than a good smartphone, but now they’re less expensive than a vehicle.
This is just your friendly reminder that we’re living in the future and it’s a great time to be alive. Also thanks for the support, since the Patreon money made it possible for us to do this without needing to save for months and months.
 I dislike wearing glasses and I only need them when I’m not using the computer, so I rarely ever put them on.
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