What are your questions as a hearing patient? I'm going to answer questions I receive in the clinic on this blog over time. I'll start with two commonly asked questions:
Q: "Why is it that I can hear people but I can't understand them?"
A: A variation of this is "why do people always mumble?" Every individual's hearing loss is different, but the concept of hearing and understanding speech is a universal issue that everyone with even a slight hearing loss faces. When looking at the audiogram on this blog, you can see that the green speech sound "banana," an average representation of the loudness and frequency of all the speech sounds in the English language, is present from soft sounds on the low pitches to louder sounds in the mid pitches, then softer sounds in the high pitches. When a person has high frequency hearing loss, which is the most common hearing loss, he or she will lose the ability to catch the soft high pitch sounds like "f", "s", "th", and sometimes "k", "h", and "t." This will make it tricky for a person to understand the sentence "I sat on the fat cat." The individual will instead hear "I _a_ on the _a_ _a_." Well, if you didn't see the person sit on his fat cat, it's really hard to fill in those blanks with no other clues!
Context helps a person to fill in those blanks, but if they are talking to someone for the first time or about a novel subject, it can be hard to pull context out of thin air. When you have a hearing evaluation, this speech banana shown along with your audiogram can help you to understand what you're catching and what you're missing. You can always ask your audiologist about the "speech banana" and how it relates to your hearing. You'll definitely impress them.
Q: "Can I wear just one hearing aid?"
A: This is something that is very specific to each person. If you have the same amount of hearing in each ear, and your audiologist is advising hearing aids, it may seem like a nice idea to spend half the money to only aid one ear. Unfortunately, we have a good reason for advising you to wear two hearing devices. The auditory system is designed from the outside in to have input from both ears. First of all, our ears are shaped so we hear the people in front of us and up to 45 degrees to the right and left of us the best. Our auditory nerve and nerve pathway from our inner ear to the brain takes input from both ears and compares the loudness and timing of the input to determine where a sound is coming from and whether it is important (speech) or not (background noise like an AC). All of these advanced processes rely on bilateral hearing (two ears working together). Unbalanced hearing can reduce the success of the brain in distinguishing speech from noise because it doesn't have the benefit of two equal signals to compare.
There are exceptions to this rule, however. If you have one ear that is not aidable (you can't understand speech when the signal is turned up to maximum power) or you have only one ear with hearing loss, then a hearing device in one ear makes sense. However, these days, there are even solutions for those individuals who have single sided deafness. Contralateral routing of the signal can transmit the signal on the poorer hearing side over to the better hearing ear. This can help to make up for the challenge of an individual with single sided deafness understanding someone who is talking on his or her "bad" side. It may take some time to get used to this new process of bilateral hearing with one ear, but it can help make up for something that can otherwise create a challenge in group settings.
If you have any questions you want me to answer and think would benefit others, feel free to comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the question. I'm happy to answer all your hearing and balance questions!