Working with my one ear

I used to almost consider my hearing as a super strength; it was a sense I relied heavily on as a teacher of young children. In fact, a couple of years ago I underwent a hearing test, as part of a staff medical assessment, and the audiologist commented on how remarkable it was that I was able to hear even the quietest of tones above the background noise of the children in the corridor. As a teacher I was able to identify the owner of any voice in the classroom, without having to turn and see their face. I was able to pinpoint the precise location of where a voice was coming from, and could swiftly turn around to face the person who had made the tiniest of noises, or uttered a sound in the quietest of voices; with an ease of motion gained from years of experience teaching infants. Only after my hearing loss did I realize how much confidence I placed in this ability. My super power was now gone, and I was learning to survive in a classroom, and a school setting, without it.

I had resigned from my job as a teacher of 4 and 5 year olds. Working full time in a classroom wasn’t an option for me anymore, due to the amount of noise exposure I would have. My new job was working as a learning assistant. My new job involved some time supporting a teacher in the classroom; some time covering teachers when they would be in meetings or planning lessons; and some time working with individuals and small groups, in a quiet environment, outside of the main classroom.

With only one hearing ear, I am unable to locate sounds. If a child speaks to me in a classroom, and they are not standing in an obvious position, I will have no idea where the child is situated, and will spend some moments looking around trying to determine their position. Similarly, if I am sitting in front of a class, and a child shouts something out, I cannot rely on my listening skills to identify the culprit, and will instead search for a guilty-looking face. With time I have discovered that, when a child makes an inappropriate noise, if I say, “Who was that?” in a stern voice, without moving to look, the other children will immediately turn or point to the perpetrator!

There is the difficulty of being unable to focus on spoken word over background noise. If a child tries to speak to me in the classroom when the rest of the children are busy carrying out activities, I have to make sure they are on my hearing side, and very close to my ear, in order to be able to hear what they are saying. There have been times where I am concentrating on something a child is saying to me, on my hearing side, when all of a sudden I have felt a vibration or a whisper of a breath in my deaf ear, and I’ve turned around, only to be startled by a child speaking intently into this ear!

Working in an Infant school is a demanding role for someone with a sensitivity to noise. The children are young, and so naturally are often noisy. As well as the obvious loudness of children’s voices in the classrooms and the corridors, there are also some difficult situations I can’t always predict or plan for. There is the painfully-loud noise of a fire alarm drill; the loudness of music played in assemblies and music lessons; the intense volume of other staff member’s voices in staff meeting debates that often overlap with each other, becoming unintelligible to me.

There is my lunchroom nemesis. The school dining hall is a space with an absence of soft furnishings. There are neither carpets nor curtains to absorb the abundance of sound produced in this room. Inside this space are long tables, and glass windows that frame the full length of one side of the room. The opposite side of the room opens onto to a small utility area, featuring a large-scale kitchen sink. This area is used for rinsing the children’s lunch trays with a high-powered rinsing tap. During lunchtimes this room is an abundance of energy. The long tables brim with children. The room fills with chattering voices, the clinking of cutlery, the banging of plastic trays against bins to rid them of any leftover food, and the sound of jets of water spraying into a metallic sink. The sounds seem to bounce around the room from the glass windows, to the hard floor, and to the metallic kitchen area; rarely being absorbed, and mixing with the new sounds being made every moment. I have been using my time spent in this room as part of my sound retraining therapy; getting used to everyday sounds I find challenging, and to help my brain tolerate noises that at present seem too harsh or too loud. As well as battling with the discomfort of the noise in this room, I also have the issue of socializing. Lunch time is often the only time members of staff have, in the school day, to have a quick chat. In this room, if someone sits next to me on my hearing side, I can usually conduct a conversation with a little effort; making sure my ear is close to the person speaking. However, if someone comes to sit next to me on my deaf side, I won’t hear them approach. This means I continuously check this space to see if anyone has sat down. If there is already someone sitting there, I find myself constantly observing their face to determine whether or not they are talking to me. I often find myself eating my lunch quickly to avoid the noise exposure and the communication difficulties. I know this isn’t helpful in moving forward in dealing with my nemesis, but sometimes, when lunchtime arrives, I’m so tired and it’s hard to concentrate. The other scenario is that I make a big effort to start and hold a conversation with the person sitting on my deaf side. This means I have to turn my body around to face them, to have any chance of hearing their dialogue. This makes eating my lunch a difficult task, and hence means more time spent in this room; my nemesis.

Then there was The Cough. I was in a classroom, covering for a teacher, and every few seconds one of the girls would burst into a deep chesty cough. I encouraged her to drink water whenever she felt the need to, but this didn’t seem to provide her with any relief. Over the course of the hour during which I was in the class, I spent my time dueling with The Cough. Every time I spoke, there was a cough interruption. In the presence of The Cough, it was as though any audio in the room at that moment was being censored. Just like when watching something on television when there is a bleep censor used as the replacement of a profanity, or for when classified information is used; this was the consequence of The Cough. So, whilst sitting in front of the class, trying to teach, every few moments, I was for a few seconds unable to hear anything other than The Cough. I was also unable to gauge whether the volume of my voice was at an audible level. Similarly, I was unsure of how much to raise my voice for it to be heard over The Cough, without raising it so much as to be shouting. Then when a child spoke to me in the moment of The Cough, I had completely lost the battle.

There was an awkward moment at the end of a school day. I was again, in a class covering for a teacher. It was the end of the school day and I was reading a chapter from a story to the children. Within moments of beginning to read, a parent came to the door. She opened the door, and she wanted to speak to me. The door was at the opposite end of the room from where I was sitting with the children. I walked across the room to the door, and predictability the children burst into conversation. I walked towards the lady who was standing at the door. And so, the rumbling of chattering continued. The parent at the door was someone I was unfamiliar with. She began to speak to me. I couldn’t hear her. I moved my right ear towards her, closer to her mouth, to give me a chance at gaining some understanding of what she was saying. Well, I was momentarily perplexed by what happened next. The lady turned to face me. She put her hands on my shoulders, and proceeded to kiss me on both of my cheeks! She had unknowingly mistaken my advancing towards her in order to hear her, as an attempt to initiate this customary Spanish greeting! I observed the tradition, in a brief confused state, and uttered a nervous laugh. I then continued to stand ‘too close’ to her as she proceeded to speak to me. I’m sure she felt the awkwardness, but I’m also very sure she had no idea of the reason for it.

Although the majority of my colleagues are aware of my hearing loss, people often seem to forget. Words are habitually spoken to me in passing in a busy corridor, or across a noisy classroom. I consider these moments a complement. I must not be visibly struggling.

Above all, I am tired. I am working in the hearing world, yet this is a world that I don’t entirely fit into any more. The level of concentration and energy needed to focus on spoken word all day is exhausting. Working in the hearing world, I am always visually scanning my environment in order to identify the potential movement of speaking lips. With the exhaustion comes, at times, almost deafening levels of tinnitus. With tiredness and noise, the pressure in my ears builds, like a balloon skin being pulled tight; a balloon full of air pushing against the inside of my ear and spilling out into my head, causing my ears to hurt, and the hum of a daily headache.

Every day is a challenge. Working life is still really difficult and I often feel completely drained. But I am glad to be filling my days. I am happy to be making progress in getting some ‘normality’ back into my life.

Advertisements

Author: myhearinglossstory

Hi, My name is Carly. I am 35 years old and I am currently living in Spain. I am originally from a small seaside town in Yorkshire called Bridlington, and have also lived in China and Thailand. I am an Early Years primary school teacher, and have been teaching for nearly 12 years. I love walking in the countryside, getting lost in Madrid, going out for breakfast, taking photos, listening to music, storytelling podcasts, baking, running, drinking wine, and eating spicy food. In August 2016, I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. I started this blog as a way to inform my friends and family about my progress, for anyone else who is going through a similar experience as me, or for anybody who is interested in learning about this type of hearing loss, and the way it can affect everyday life.

28 thoughts on “Working with my one ear”

  1. I totally identify with you on this. It is very frustrating and above all, tiring.

    Just the other day, I had such an experience. There is a sweet gal that is in our pickelball group at the recreation center here. She recently was diagnosed with a serious leukemia condition. Last week they had a blood donation to help her cause and of course I participated. I happened to be on the table next to her husband, who also plays with us. I wanted to find out more about how she was doing and her prognosis, but it was so hard to hear him over the din of all the volunteers and contributers. And I had me hearing aids in and was lying with by left ear (my far better hearing ear) toward him, but it was still such a struggle. I certainly couldn’t be rude say I didn’t want to talk to him because of the difficulty, I don’t get to see him otherwise. I left there more tired from the conversation than the donation itself!

    Just realized, if we ever meet, we can have our conversation standing next to each other, my left ear to your right ear. Ha ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Al. Thank you as always for reading and for your comment. It’s always good to hear from you 🙂 It’s also comforting that you have an understanding of the hearing issues I experience (although I obviously wish you didn’t have these difficulties!) …You’re right..we could coordinate our ears if we ever meet!! Take care Al.
      Your blogging friend, Carly

      Like

      1. Hi again. Don’t mean to hog your blog, but thought of another positive last night. We were watching a foreign film on Netflix. Of course, I have been using closed-captioning for years. Can’t watch movies otherwise. For years in our marriage, when I had normal hearing, I always said no thanks when my wife wanted to watch a foreign movie with subtitles. My macho self just didn’t want to be bothered to have to follow along on the bottom of the screen. Now I am eating crow big time. By default, my hearing woes have opened up a plethora of great movies that I would not have seen otherwise. I guess it’s true what they say about silver linings.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sending you hugs Carly. I completely understand your struggles and frustrations as my hearing loss is very similar. I am fortunate in that I was already planning to leave my job when my hearing loss occurred and I have not had to return to the work world. I truly admire your determination.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I understand how tough working must be for you, especially in a school situation and I understand how tired you must be at days end, having worked in schools its hard enough with two ears let alone coping with just one. You’ve also given my an insight into how my daughter with a similar problem must find her day to day though she doesn’t work in a school she is ironically an audiometrist though she has had her hearing issues since she was about eight.
    Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michael. Thank you for reading and for the comment. I remember you writing to me about your daughter. I seem to remember she was close to me in age…Yes, it was tiring working in a school, even with two working ears! I’m very glad to be able to give you an insight into how your daughters may find her day-to-day life…I think it’s difficult to explain sometimes, the effect of hearing loss on the ‘everyday’, as it can have so much more impact than the effect of just plugging an ear.
      Take care, and I hope your daughter is doing well…how ironic that she is working as an audiologist 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t tell you how much it helped in reading your blog. I have been through all you have been through, even the disheartening ,insensenitive ENTs.
    I have had my unilateral hearing loss for 18 years now.. Not to discourage you but the older I got the harder as to the point of quitting my job at 56. 😣.
    Knowing someone else who knows the struggle day in and day out has got me through another day.
    Nobody understands who doesnt have it.
    The limitations are fierce,and people are wicked when they move their lips pretending to to talk when they ate actually just lipping it.
    My question to them is would yiu do that yo someone who is blind in one eye.
    Nice meeting you Carly and hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Christel. Thank you for reading and for your comment. I am so glad that you have found my blog of some help and comfort. I agree, it is hard for others to know how difficult things can be sometimes with hearing loss, unless they have experienced it themselves. I am sorry you have had experiences of people moving their lips, pretending to talk…that’s really sad that someone would find that funny. It sounds like we have had some similar experiences. If you ever want to talk more, or just to say hello, please feel free to visit my contact page and send me an email 🙂
      Warmest wishes
      Carly

      Like

  5. Hi Carly, you have tried long and hard. You were holding your job, seek medical help, tried to make the adjustment. It’s not an easy decision for you to change from a teaching position to an assistant position. A job is a mean of life. You are valuable regardless the job that you hold, you are serving the children, helping them learn, that’s important. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, my! From your words, I can only imagine how tedious this must be. Even without suffering from hearing loss, the constant noise from children can give one a headache yet to brace up and brave it daily. Your post gives me more perspective that I’ve never even thought of.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Carly my dearest, I have always admired your confidence in the way you have faced this journey of your life. Your light heart has always encouraged me and I thank you. I continue to pray that as seasons go by, you will continue to know how special of a person you are and how many lives/hearts you touch with your story every day.
    I love you my sister

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Susan,
      Hello Susan.
      Thank you for reading and for such a lovely comment 🙂 I also know how you too have been strong through your illness and have continued to stay positive. I hope you and your beautiful family are very well.
      Lots of love ❤

      Like

    1. Hello Sam, Thank you for your comment. I am so happy to have brightened your day a little 🙂 I think sometimes it helps just to remember that we are not the only ones having these experiences, and there are other people out there who are facing similar challenges to us…
      Now I’m intrigued about your story…Can you hear in your other ear? Is your hearing loss recent? How are you finding working in a school??! Please feel free to contact me via my contact page, if you’d like to share more of your story! Best wishes,
      Carly

      Like

      1. It started going when I was about 7 and took about 10 or 12 years. Nowadays I just have the partial in one and nothing in the other side which is sealed up in my canal. I’ve been teaching for years and there are a lot of things in place for all of us to function in class together (and be successful), but it really is my home so I was determined not to give it up! I definitely will, thank you for being here!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s