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Friday, October 23, 2009

Audiology 101

Saturday morning, I'll be leading the Hearing Loss Association of America's KC chapter into a presentation on Audiology 101, "Things you wanted to ask your audiologist but were afraid to ask." It features community audiologist Sam Bittel, Au.D., who was invited by member Minda Nelson to speak.

My history with audiologists is pretty.... sketchy. All my life, I continually confused who my audiologist and hearing aid dispensers were - it was a constant rotation of people I really didn't know nor understood what was going on. It seemed like it was basically just another excuse for my mom (always my mom, never my dad) to get me out of the house and into some other kind of doctor's waiting room and then getting in this big vault room talking to the lady with the paper over her mouth. Then sometime after that we would see this guy who would mix this bright pink putty-like substance then squeeze it into my ear. It tickled. ;-) I would also need a really good cleaning of my ears before and after that, because my earmolds kept the earwax from being cleaned away naturally. Gross!

As I started getting older, I started actually paying more and more attention to what was going on in the audiology office. Finally, when I was in college, I actually went to one by myself - and found out I had upwards of 100dB hearing loss. I was devastated - up until that point, I thought I had a little bit better hearing than that. It wasn't too long after that when I got my CI - being faced with the actual numbers and what they meant instead of letting my mom deal with it.

Nowadays I'm somewhat more versed in audiology lingo and am definitely more self-advocating - but I really do wonder what I should have been asking from my audiologist all along. I may not have understood it, and I certainly wasn't taught for a long time how to read an audiogram to make any good judgements about it.

Maybe that's a good thing. I've met a number of people who are just sooooo obsessed with the numbers on the chart. Numbers don't tell the whole story, though. Hearing and understanding are two different things, and quantifying understanding is still not fully possible. Even those tests where you repeat or pick a word that you hear don't quite get down to "did you understand what was said?"

I'm just glad I have the hearing I have and I'm where I'm able to understand people comfortably in most situations. I'm also able to adjust in situations where I can't understand. I'm in control of my life and my needs. How about you?

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