Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I can’t hear you March 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:01 AM
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COULD SOMEONE PLEASE answer the phone, turn off the radio and fix the potholes?

That isn’t going to happen. Not for me now, anytime soon or perhaps ever.

Welcome to my new world of ringing telephones, annoying transistor radios and bothersome potholes. I’ll explain after giving you some background.

Three weeks ago I suffered a sudden sensory hearing loss. One minute I could hear mostly fine in my right ear. The next minute it was as if someone had closed the door to my hearing.

At this point, why I suddenly lost 70 percent of the hearing in my right ear remains an unknown. It could be related to an ear trauma three years ago at a Wisconsin waterpark where a waterfall pounded my head. That caused permanent nerve damage, and some hearing loss, to my right inner ear. Or it could be the result of a viral infection, or something else.

Whatever the cause, I now have only 30 percent of my hearing in my right ear.

Thus, the ringing telephone, the transistor and the problem potholes have become issues for me. It’s not like I didn’t try to eliminate all three.

I tried a 10-day mega dose of inflammation-reducing steroids in an attempt to salvage some, if not all, of my hearing. The Prednisone didn’t work, only made me jittery, sleepless and emotional. I noticed no improvement in my hearing. The drug is typically most effective within 48 hours of symptom onset and my treatment started long after that.

I see a specialist next week to recheck my hearing and perhaps get some answers.

I took this photo of my eyes last week when I wasn't getting much sleep due to the effects of my steroid treatment. I'm still having sleep issues.

For now, I’ve accepted the fact that this is my new world of hearing. Sometimes the tinnitus is so bad that I joke to my husband, “Can you please answer the telephone?” Only problem, the telephone is inside my right ear.

As for the transistor, those of you old enough to remember transistor radios will also recall how they were often plagued by poor reception resulting in lots of static. I’m hearing that type of static now in my right ear more often than I like.

With my “bad” right ear I hear just “noise,” nothing as clear or distinct as an individual word.

Driving over an uneven roadway surface, like a pothole or a crack, hurts my ear with the thump echoing unpleasantly inside my ear.

I’m trying to adjust to this hearing loss. But, honestly, it’s not always easy. I can barely tolerate the organ music in church and singing isn’t too much fun any more.

My right ear, in which I've lost 70 percent of my hearing due to a sudden sensory hearing loss.

But most difficult for me, like anyone with a hearing loss, is the inability to clearly hear conversations. And for me, a blogger and writer, that’s a very big deal. I need to hear, and hear accurately.

All too often I find myself asking others to speak louder. I’m sure they’re thinking, “Why doesn’t she just get a hearing aid?” It’s not that simple. An audiologist and an ear/nose/throat doctor have told me that a hearing aid will not help, not with this type of hearing loss.

Put me in a room full of people, and I struggle to hear.

The other night while waiting in a check-out line at the grocery store, I was frustrated because I couldn’t hear everything the young male checker in the lane next to me was telling the bagger. He was offering her relationship advice, something about his fiancée who’d gone to college on the East Coast and who’d cheated on him. I caught the advice about hanging on to someone you care about and to, basically, not mess it up. It would have been a great blog topic, but I couldn’t hear enough of the conversation to accurately pull together a post. My days of eavesdropping may have ended with this sudden sensory hearing loss.

Despite all of this, I realize my health issues could be much worse and that many people suffer from severe hearing losses.

Like all other challenges I’ve faced in my life, I’ll adjust, adapt, accept and move on.

Yet, if I feel the need to cry, which I have several times already, I’ll cry.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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13 Responses to “I can’t hear you”

  1. Bernie Says:

    I was so hoping that the drugs would help you. And I suppose the fact that its coming from INSIDE of you ear, wearing earplugs to block noise wouldn’t help.
    It hurts my heart that even the organ at church can be painful in a way. Its something I never thought of before.
    I’ll keep everything crossed that the audiologist might be able to help in some way.
    I must admit it made me chuckle that you couldn’t hear the clerk and bag boy. Not the fact you couldn’t hear them, but the fact you are as nosy as me. *lol*

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, Bernie, I so appreciate your concern.

      It’s interesting how we take so many things for granted, like the beautiful church organ, until life changes. No, plugging my ear won’t help.

      Yes, I am a nosy person. It’s a good quality to have when you are a writer.

  2. Audrey, My thoughts are with you! The hearing loss is one thing but the tinnitus is another. Hope that the specialist can help in at least some small way. Good luck & keep me posted. Nancy F.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yeah, that ringing does sort of get to me at times, especially at night, when I’m sitting reading, or trying to sleep, or in a large group of people. I try not to think about it because that only makes the situation worse.

  3. Jim Smith Says:

    Three days a week I drive a small school bus past your house. I am delivering kids from the Deaf school to their homes. There is no talking on my bus. There is much laughter however. The kids all use sign language but their laughter is universal. I just love to hear them.
    I have no explanation for their affliction nor for yours. I do believe God has a plan for us all and he will reveal it in His own time. I will pray for you that there is some relief or even a cure for this condition.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you for your insightful perspective into hearing losses. The picture you painted of deaf children laughing on your school bus is one I will keep in my mind. I, too, believe that God has a purpose for everything that happens in our lives. Good or bad, there is a reason. Already I’ve gained an appreciation for the sense of hearing and an empathy for others who suffer from a hearing loss.

  4. vicki Says:

    Good luck with your situation. I admire your positive attitude. My mother had tinnitus, too, so I can understand some of what you’re going through.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Really, one must choose to be positive. When I think of what you went through with losing your home to the flood in Hammond, I wonder if I could be positive. I admire your spirit.

  5. Milo Larson Says:

    Hi Audrey,
    I’m sorry to hear about this and hope things get better, until they do I’m sure your writing will take a new turn reaching a broader audience.

    I’ve relished the tough times in my life that opened new doors to help others and learned empathy along the way.

    Keep positive for someday it will come to you and all why this is happening as I know you will. There will be a lot of people praying for you and your family through this extremely tough time.

    Keep the faith and have a gentle day. Milo

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you so much, Milo. I’ve already felt the prayers of so many lifting me up. The caring thoughts expressed to me in comments submitted to this blog have deeply touched me.

      One of my favorite bible verses has always been Romans 8:28, which I ponder during those challenging moments of life.

      We all face difficulties and obstacles. It is how we meet them that determines what good comes from such situations.

  6. Rosie Says:

    Jon has suffered from tinnitus for the last 5 or 6 years. The specialists feel it is likely related to his years in the infantry and being around concussion grenades. He gets used to it, then the ringing changes tone and frustrates him again. He is very careful to wear hearing protection when mowing lawn and using the chainsaws, as those activities will worsen the ringing for several days when he forgets.

    Good Luck, we’ll keep you in our prayers that there is relief in your future.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I didn’t know about Jon’s tinnitus. Maybe we’ll have to form a club or something…

      Interesting that you should point out that certain activities cause the ringing in the ears to increase. Good tip, to which I’ll need to be more alert. I do know that the organ music in church almost “hurts” my ears.

      I have noticed, too, that the volume and type of ringing changes. Once I even heard a “ping.” Weird, totally weird. The tinnitus seems worse when I’m tired.

      Readers, if you suffer from tinnitus and have any tips on dealing with it, submit a comment. I’d like some strategies.


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