The latest development is that Carina adjusted the sound levels on my hearing aids, to block out certain sounds – most of which hearing people would not even notice.
These include ceiling fans and air conditioners, which made a constant loud and irritating sound. Hearing people seldom have this problem, because their brains are programmed to block out this type of constant drone. That the hearing aids can firstly make me hear this sound and, secondly, be adjusted to block it out, goes to show exactly how finely they can be tuned in.
Initially my own voice was also very loud, until Carina adjusted the hearing aids downwards. Then they were too soft again – I like hearing my own voice and the sound of my breathing.
The sounds around me are still wonderful – and I still get the WOW-feeling every now and then. The first time Carina adjusted the hearing aids, the noises sounded reasonably low-key, but when I went outside, the different sounds hit me like an oncoming train. Cars hooting and screeching past, people talking and laughing and shouting and lots of other noises. I can remember thinking, "Wow, these are sounds and I can hear them!"
Switching my 'ears' off
And I am in the privileged position that if the noise gets too much, I can switch my 'ears' off. Hearing people cannot do that – they simply have to live with it.
I had to decide whether I wanted to tone down background noises, such as in shopping centres, where I find everything a bit overwhelming. I usually switch off my hearing aids then, because the constant barrage of noise gives me headaches, but, on the other hand, it is so wonderful to be able to hear it all and to be a part of it. The noise makes me feel that I belong to the atmosphere of excitement – I no longer feel cut off from what's going on around me.
Previously I used to just see peoples' mouths moving and see them moving around with trolleys. Now I can hear all the different sounds, even though my brain can't necessarily identify them all. But I'm getting better at spotting things, identifying sounds and linking them to specific things.
Voices and my hearing aids
My boyfriend has a very soft and low-toned voice, which falls in the low-frequency scale. I wanted Carina to adjust the hearing aids, so that I could hear the sound of his voice – but sometimes he talks very loudly and his voice is far too loud for my poor ears. My mom also has a loud voice and my own sounds fairly low to me – a bit like a man's voice, in fact. I think it is because my vocal cords got so little exercise for so many years.
Marjan, who is my speech therapist, is now busy with exams and is then going on leave, so the speech therapy has come to an end for the year. I really miss the weekly sessions, because it encouraged me to talk and to practise every single day. There are many people who encourage and support me every day. I really appreciate it, but also sometimes feel pressurised by them to make more progress. I've learnt to take things as they come, because I really would like to speak clearly and well. I do believe that will still happen. But I have to admit that every now and then a certain trepidation comes over me if so much pressure is applied.
Mastering sound 'not easy'
The world of sound is still a totally new experience for me and sometimes it make me feel scared and uncertain when I wonder whether I will ever be able to master it fully. There are so many new things to learn and it isn't as easy as many other people may think.
But I have learnt to believe in myself and to persevere. There is no space for negative thoughts in my life.
In December I am going to the sea again and look forward to hearing the waves again. I am sure this will be clearer than last time with my new hearing aids.
This is my last report for the year and I would like to thank everyone at Health24 and Widex who are involved with this programme. Thank you for your support, interest and understanding – it is much appreciated. And to everyone who reads these progress reports – have a wonderful festive season and thanks for walking this road with me. We'll meet again in the New Year.