||[Dec. 15th, 2006|08:30 pm]
I've been too swamped at work to actually visit a medical doctor yet, but the speech pathologist at our school screened my hearing a few months ago and found I had a significant hearing loss in the lower frequencies, consistent with a conductive, middle ear problem. I have ringing in my ears so frequently I don't even notice it. I did grow up hearing cicadas and crickets in Alabama. For awhile I thought there were noisy insects in Hawaii, then I realized I hadn't remembered them from the first time I lived here!
When I was in the classroom, I often had difficulty hearing students. I assumed they were mumbling, and they used to get very frustrated with me. I told them I listened to too much loud music as a kid, and damaged my hearing, so they needed to speak up. I figured it was a good warning for them, anyway. The speech pathologist tells me I have the wrong profile for that kind of hearing loss, though.
Now, I mostly work in an office, but sometimes assess students' academic abilities. The loud, obnoxious kids, I can hear fine, but if I get a student that is soft-spoken, I cannot hear her well enough to assess her accurately. I have to ask someone else to do something outside of their job description becauses I cannot do what is inside my own job description.
In fact, my brother suffers from otoschlerosis and had a stapedectomy a few years ago. I know it runs in families, and I know it is more common where the water is not flouridated (like where we grew up and where I live now). And middle-aged females such as myself are more likely to get it, so it seems chances are good I will be diagnosed. I have friends who had suffered other kinds of hearing losses, who have had to train themselves to use hearing aids late in life. Have you ever seen the Scietific American special on cohlear implants? Considering the expected outcomes for stapedectomy, I'll feel lucky if this is the kind of hearing loss I have.
If stapedectomy is recommended for me, I'm considering moving to Honolulu. Otherwise, I would have to fly in a 37-seat or 9-seat propellor plane to return to home and work after the surgery. Jets do not fly to this island, and the only ferry is from Maui, not Honolulu.
There are other reasons, too, but they are compounded by my hearing loss. Here on the rural neighbor island where I've lived for two-and-a-half years, people don't get attached to folks from the mainland. They've seen too many people come and go over the years. Many of the folks here have huge extended families that have been here for centuries, and I will always be an outsider.
The folks here speak a dialect of English that they call Pidgin. They speak it because they grew up speaking it, because it identifies them as locals, and sometimes to keep people like me from knowing exactly what they're talking about. "Ho Brah, you know--da kine...li' dat." Add that to a hearing loss, and I feel pretty isolated most of the time.
My friends like to drag me out to bars to listen to music and make small talk with people they don't know for hours. To me that's hours of trying to piece together the bits and pieces I can hear distinctly into something that has meaning to me, that I can respond to or comment about. It's about as much fun as trying to understand Chinese was, when I lived in Taiwan. I've developed a reputation for being standoffish as a result, and sometimes people get offended because I don't remember something they've already told me twice about themselves.
Cozy little group we got here.