Hearing and the Other Senses

My husband is quite a good cook. The other day I noticed him chopping tomatoes, onions, garlic, and fresh spices, ingredients for his Bolognese Sauce. While the sauce simmered, he tasted and when he thought everything was prefect, he asked for my opinion. As I dipped my spoon into his fragrant creation, he stood there, anticipating my reaction. “It smells heavenly,” I told him, “and I can taste the garlic and oregano. It’s near perfect.” My comments made him smile.

My husband is convinced that my sense of taste and smell is more acute since my hearing has diminished. I was first diagnosed with hearing loss at age twenty six and now I’m in my mid-sixties. Forty years of struggling with hearing loss isn’t easy but in some ways I believe he’s right. I’ve noticed changes in my sense of taste, smell, and balance.

When walking or driving, I find myself looking around me, making sure of my surroundings. I don’t hear from behind. When walking, I frequently glance in all directions to see if anyone is following me. When driving, I use my peripheral vision and car mirrors. It’s good to pay attention when driving. I don’t always hear the screech of a fire truck. And when I do it’s difficult to know the truck’s location as I no longer can tell where a sound is coming from. Checking mirrors frequently keeps you oriented to all that is happening on the highway.

I never enter a dark room. I don’t know why but I can’t make my way in the dark anymore. I find driving at night difficult. It isn’t because of poor vision. I’ve had cataract surgery and see perfectly. I believe my problems of getting around in the dark has to do with my loss of balance, a phenomenon people with hearing loss might experience. My audiologist encourages me to do balance exercises, and my ENT physician evaluates me for balance issues.

I’ve read studies that conclude that people with hearing loss might have more of an acute sense of sight, taste, or smell. Most studies agree that senses are affected depending on the degree of hearing loss. Someone with a mild hearing loss may see little or no changes in their other senses, while others with severe or profound hearing loss or those born without hearing might notice differences. The trick is to pay attention to your body and your reactions to the world. If you become aware of a change in your other senses or if you have anxiety in crowds or noise, if you tend to avoid social situations all together, then it’s time to take notice and consult a physician or audiologist.

Keeping yourself in the best hearing shape possible is important. We should strive to navigate through the hearing world while paying attention to our senses and how we react and relate to our surroundings, thus enjoying our greatest gift, our lives. After all, you never know when that favorite person in your life might just cook you up a wonderful meal and invite you to be their taste tester.

I wish all my readers a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year. The column will resume during the week of January 7, 2019.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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