Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hearing Check

For several years now, when watching a movie on DVD, I have felt compelled to turn on the "captions for the hearing-impaired". I do this in the interest of being able to comprehend the dialogue, which can sound muddy and indistinct. I can simply turn up the volume to achieve the same end, but that makes the music and the explosions too loud. This problem seems to have worsened during the past year or so, so recently I obtained a prescription for a hearing evaluation from my primary care doc. She noted that chemotherapy has been known to affect hearing, and we agreed that in any case it would be good to at least establish a baseline, for future reference, even if there is nothing else to do about the problem for now.

Today I travelled to downtown Wilmington for my evaluation. There was really not much to this; I spent more time filling out forms than I did being tested. The audiologist first simply did a visual inspection, to ensure that there were no physical obstructions blocking the ear canals. She also did some kind of pressure test, in an effort to verify that there was no water in there, behind the eardrums. For the actual test, I was seated in a soundproof room, wearing a pair of earphones and holding a pushbutton device. I was instructed to push the button whenever I thought I could hear any tone, however indistinct, coming through the earphones. Of course I was fed tones at a wide range of volumes and frequencies. Finally, I was asked to listen to and repeat back a number of one-syllable words; these were obviously designed to detect any inability to distinguish between similar-sounding consonants.

The audiologist indicated that the test did not reveal any substantial loss of hearing. There is some deterioration at higher frequencies, which could account for some of my difficulties. But at this point there is nothing wrong that makes intervention necessary or desirable.

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