Column: How the phrase ‘What did you say?’ means something different to me

When I say the phrase “what did you say?” it usually not because I’m being rude and was not listening, but because I simply did not hear you, even with the help of my hearing aids.

Since about third grade, I have failed every hearing test I have taken at school or at the doctor during my annual checkup. However, at that young age no one really thought anything of it. It was not until the doctors and nurses noticed a steady decline in my hearing that my parents and I started to get worried.

Around Christmas break of junior year, I made several trips to my local ear, nose and throat doctor and to the audiologist. Both of them confirmed what my parents and I had suspected for a long time, I had a noticeable level of hearing loss.

My hearing loss is not extremely horrible, but significant enough to where I can’t hear high-pitched sounds or soft letters such as “s” or “c”. This causes much difficulty when people call my name because I either cannot hear it, or cannot decipher whether the person said Carra or Sarah.

Along with the hearing loss, I experience a high-pitched ringing noise in my ear on and off for years. The ringing is especially bothersome at night when I am trying to sleep or during class when I’m trying to focus.

There is no clear start or reason to my hearing loss. I had a normal childhood with no major injuries and I didn’t live near loud noises, yet I have enough hearing loss to make class and having normal conversations a bit difficult. My audiologists believes that my hearing loss is a result of some microscopic hairs in my inner ear forming incorrectly or not forming at all, leaving them unable to sense or interpret sounds waves that come through.

So I after a few months of deliberating, I, at the age of 17, received two hearing aids for both ears and the difference in what I can hear with them is amazing. Before I got hearing aids, I could not hear our school bell or even the tweeting of birds.

The hearing aids are barely noticeable and fit snugly behind the back of my ear. They are extremely comfortable and I often forget they are there, which is a problem when I enter the shower or jump in a pool.

There is some interference with them some times and when people put their hands to close to my ears they ring loudly, but the hearing aid help so much that it is now hard to function with out them. My hearing has remained pretty steady the last few months, with only a slight decline, but I currently cannot see a time when I will not need the aids.

Getting hearing aids opened up a whole new world of sounds to me. It is also so much easier to interact with people and actually understand what they are saying.