Saturday, August 26, 2006

This week's Stupid Triathlete tip.

Today's Tip for Triathletes is, "Don't wear your hearing aid in the pool."

I haven't been able to hear out of my left ear most of my life. This would gone undiscovered if it weren't for my unfortunate tendency to forget to eat the first half of my life, which resulted in me passing out at school when I was fifteen.

A checkup at the doctor later, and he asked casually about my hearing as he peaked in each ear. Then he spun me around and frowned at me. "What do you mean, 'right-eared'?"

"I'm right eared," I answered. "Always have been." I thought it was normal.

Several visits later, and I was scheduled for surgery, when the swimmer's ear cleared up, they found a hole in my ear drum; when they investigated that, they found a tumor. They removed it, but not before it had munched up the little bones in the middle ear that get sound from the ear drum inside to the part that sends the vibrations to the auditory nerve. An unsuccessul attempt at making "new parts" out of teflon, and I was tumor free, but still couldn't hear.

They offered to try one more time, but by then I'd had two surgeries; twice I'd woken up in recovery with half my head shaved and a row of stitches going across my skull. Lovely. No, thank you.

The truth is, I was good at figuring stuff out. Your brain is wired to interpret input as you grow up, and I'd been this way since I was a baby. I could hear; I just couldn't always interpret what I was hearing most of the time. So, I paid attention to faces, surroundings, and context. "Guess what? bought a moo tar!" makes a lot more sense when the person saying it happens to be jerking their thump toward an automobile that they weren't driving yesterday.

Likewise, "thouser asses this ear?" is something that can be understood within the context of two teachers talking during the second week of school. "Oh, my classes are fine this year, thanks!"

Then there's always the fallback:
Nod, look attentive, smile when you think/hope that it's appropriate to do so.
Laugh when other people laugh.
Look concerned when others look concerned.
You can always find out what happened later.

It gets old, though. It takes a lot of energy for the brain to spend that much time interpreting, especially in crowds. At the end of the day I'd be exhausted and cranky, and want to be alone.

It also got pretty taxing, and context became more difficult, particularly with ever perplexing slang terminology coming out of the mouths of 14- and 15-yer-olds.

"Bling? Are you saying, 'Bling'?" that's not even a word.

Finally, at the age of 39, I broke down and started the process of getting a hearing instrument. I was informed that "Hearing impaired" is considered non-PC, but I prefer it over "Hard of Hearing," which to me, sounds old. The guy that tested my hearing couldn't believe I was just now getting around to doing this. Practicality won out over vanity, I suppose.

I was fitted for it right around my 40th birthday. It sits behind my ear, and most people don't see it because my hair covers it.

It is a blessing and a curse. It's digital, and the audiologist plugs it into a computer and programs it so that only the right frequencies are amplified.

But, I have to say, this is a very, very noisy world. I can hear now, but sometimes I don't like what I'm hearing. There's all that clicking, and tappping, and stomachs making weird noises, farts, burps, teeth grinding, sniffing, nose blowing, etc. When I ride my bike, all I hear is "WHOOOOOOOSH!" really loud.

Well, at least I can turn it off.

Anyway, of course I lost that damned thing two months after we got it. Of COURSE I did. I slipped it into the pockt of my bike shorts, then, part of the way home, it occured to me that I'd reached into that pocket a couple of times to get some gum, and boy, it would suck if I accidentally pulled that out and dropped it and didn't realize it.

Yeah, it sucked all right. I spent two hours walking up a down that bike path in 90 degree heat in July, and all around down town Albuquerque, trying to find it.


Luckily, I had some sort of insurance policy on it that covered stupidity, and after paying the deductable, got another one. Meanwhile, I had to use a "loaner" which wasn't digital and wasn't nearly as cool and would some times just start shrieking and whistling on its own usually while I was sitting in a meeting. People would look all around and finally lean into me and say, "is that noise coming from YOU?"

Which brings me to this weeks stupid act.

I renewed my membership at a local gym so that I could fit some swim practice in. I sat on the edge of the pool for a moment, fitting on my oh, so wonderful new gogges, and then jumped in, squatting down so that the water went up over my head.


Even before the shrill shrieking in my left ear began, I realized I'd screwed up. I jumped up out of the water, and immediately grabbed it out of my ear, dumping the battery onto the side of the pool. I'd read somewhere that if you get an electronic wet, the thing to do is to immediately disconnect all power and allow it to dry out before hooking it back up again. How water ruins electronics is by creating a short circuit, which is interrupted if you cut the power.

I let it dry out for most of the rest of the day, and I MUST be the luckiest person on earth, because I don't have the stupidity coverage any more, but it seems to be working fine. Just don't tell my audiologist. I even debated whether to tell Sweet Baboo, because these things, brand new, are a minimum of $1200, and I figured he'd be really nervous from now on, but he'd have read it here anyway.

But, it won't happen again, because I stuck a big note in my swim goggles case that says, "TAKE OUT YOUR HEARING AID!!!" so that I won't forget again.



  1. You are one funny lady. I am glad you have kept your sense of humor over all these years.

    Your experiences make the time I peed on an electric fence a bit tame.

  2. As my mother used to tell my grandmother, a hearing aid is like a gift to everyone around you. There is nothing more irritating than someone who is in denial about their hearing loss who continually says "what?" and pretends it's your fault for not speaking clearly or whatever.

    So Good for You, Misty - at least you HAVE a bloody hearing instrument!

  3. I don't think I ever forgot to eat. Ever. Good thing my hearing is 75% normal!


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