With many years of living with hearing loss, I have become the hearing answer girl for a special dinner exchange group. We have a wonderful deal with another couple with hosting a dinner exchange for the last two years. One month, their job is to bring wine to go with my entrée. Then the opposite occurs the following month. They host and prepare a meal, we bring the wine. I love these evenings, just the four of us, eating together at each other’s homes. Before dinner, we sit and talk over wine and appetizers then move on to the dining room for the meal. There is adequate lighting, no background noise, and the ease for us to communicate effectively about our lives, politics or the books we’ve read, movies we’ve seen.
This past month, our conversation turned to hearing and the things to do to one’s home to help with background noise. My initial discussion addressed the assistance of room sound absorbers like curtains, carpeting and low ceilings. This lead to the question as to when I first noticed my hearing loss.
I explained to our friends that as a young adult I had no clue I had a hearing problem until it was brought to my attention. As a twenty-six-year-old mother-to-be, I was working in hospital administration and was told by one of the doctors that I often ask people to repeat, which prompted a hearing test. The hearing test indicated I had lost twenty-five percent of my hearing. This apparently, had happened over time since childhood.
The conversation got me thinking about how little we pay attention to our hearing history and health history in general. Earlier this year, I had problems with my stomach. It all started with vague symptoms, like tiredness, pain, loss of appetite, and progressed to vomiting and weight loss. The vomiting and weight loss got my attention. Upon a visit to my doctor, I was told I would need some tests and various questions were asked, like if I had arthritis. I was confused by the questions and need for additional testing. Between my busy schedule and theirs, I was finding it difficult to schedule the tests. I became sicker and sicker and landed in the hospital. After the tests were completed, I was told I had three ulcers. When my doctor started questioning me again, they discovered I was taking Ibuprofen for arthritic pain. Come to find out, overuse of this drug can cause ulcers in some people. I didn’t say anything initially because my doctor had asked about arthritic pain. I didn’t have the pain because I was taking the medication. As a lay person, I just didn’t see any connection between his question and my condition. Now I know the importance of being forthcoming about medications and ailments that one might not believe are related to a medical condition.
Hearing history is no different. Anyone with a hearing loss should sit down and think about when they first noticed the loss. You should also write down what medications you are taking and surgeries you’ve had, and your family history of illness or hearing loss. This information can help your doctor and audiologist determine underlying factors to your hearing loss and determine a plan of action.
Additionally, it is important to remember your hearing loss may continue to change over time. So you should keep records and have your hearing tested at least once a year. It may help to write down anything you may notice something strange or different about your hearing, diary style, including dates, time, and the details of what you noticed.
The next time you visit your audiologist or ENT physician, you can provide a copy of your notes to your provider. A good thorough hearing history might help direct the proper diagnosis and treatment for your hearing loss – so you can hear better in the future.