Stress of a hearing test from a hard of hearing perfectionist
Life is full of tests. Academic tests, tests of patience, tests of strength, tests of courage. They’re never-ending, and they can be stressful and complicated.
I personally appreciate tests. I like learning and figuring out the takeaways from tests. Some tests you can prepare for, and some you can’t. The latter you don’t usually know it’s a test until it’s ‘over’, so it doesn’t always feel like a test. Nothing, however, compares to the stress and anxiety I experience during a hearing test.
Why do I stress about this if I already have hearing loss?
I know, this seems like a weird one. If I already have a hearing loss, why should I stress about this? You know you’re basically doomed from the get-go. Maybe it’s because as a perfectionist who hates to fail (I never failed an academic test), this is my worst nightmare. And I guess somehow knowing beforehand that you are guaranteed to fail does not ease the situation but rather heightens it.
I suppose a lot of it has to do with this idea that my hearing, or lack thereof, is something completely out of my control. I can’t study for a hearing test like I would an academic test. Maybe it’s that tiny glimpse of hope that my hearing has gotten better, or on the opposite end, that it’s gotten worse and will continue to worsen; and that it all depends on my ability to hear and respond (or not) in a series of mini-tests.
I’m telling you, it’s the weirdest thing. The second I’m put in the little testing booth, I instantly feel like I’m in an interrogation police/FBI room. I’m on one side of the one-way mirror while the others are looking in. Thankfully, it’s a two-way window, and the audiologist and I can see each other, so it’s not quite that extreme. And if my parents come, they’ll occasionally pop in a wave to me. Secretly, I think they love seeing me frazzled!
Once the test starts
My hands clam up as I’m asked to hold a button. All devices are removed/turned off, and I’m asked to press the button every time I hear a noise. This is when the heart-racing really starts. I hear my first noise and push the button. The thoughts come rushing through: “Was that a noise, or was that my imagination?” “OMG, there was a long pause between noises, does this mean I missed one?” “Ah, my thumb slipped, my thumb slipped, I did not mean to push the button!” “The audiologist, ah, she’s writing, what is she writing!?”
The thoughts are continuous, and eventually, that mini-test is over. Now it’s on to the word-repeat drill. I absolutely hate this! As someone who relies so heavily on lip-reading, this is terrifying. And they purposely make sure the recording is mumble-y, and they pick words that people have trouble deciphering.
A recording comes on and says, “Say the word ____”, and I attempt to repeat the said word. I stammer my way through the exercise while I watch the audiologist for any cues that I may have gotten something right or wrong. Instead, she’s just making notes. It’s like when you got to a therapist and you wonder what the eff they’re writing about you!
Finally, after a few different variations of these kinds of tests (with and without devices), I’m free at last! My heart-rate drops significantly, and I’m able to breathe again. Well, sort of. Now, it’s the waiting game.
Waiting for the test results
How did I do on my ‘test’? Besides actually failing, did I fail a little less or more than last time? Usually, my results remain the same each time, which in the grand scheme of things is like a ‘C’, just average. It means I should be relieved that my hearing hasn’t gotten worse in the direction of complete deafness, but as I mentioned, there’s always a slight glimmer of hope that it’s gotten better.
Luckily, the latter is something I have experienced since I received my Esteem implant and upgraded to a digital hearing aid. Not as much in recent years as my brain has adjusted to its new ears, but initially, I got to say, “I did better on this test!” Even if it’s only a few times out of a hundred, that I’ve been able to say that, there’s no doubt that it feels good and satisfying.
It’s the little victories that matter, and the tests in life only make you stronger. Super cliche, yet there’s a reason for that. Or at least, I’m trying to tell myself that. With each test life throws at me, I gain a new perspective. With each hearing test, I’m reminded of what makes me uniquely me.
She plays soccer for the USA Women's National Deaf Team. She's currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.
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