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Clogged Ears and Congestion... the Fun of a Cold

Posted Nov 11 2010 7:26am
For most of October I found myself dealing with a cold, and everything that comes along with it: congestion, a sore throat, a cough, and, unfortunately, clogged ears. I don't remember having clogged ears during a cold much before, but recently it seems to happen all the time. I surprised myself with how frustrated I got over it. If you had asked me before, I would have said I surely could handle a little more hearing loss, especially if I knew it was temporary due to sickness. Unfortunately that isn't the case.

I know how to get along with my hearing loss as it is right now - and I think I am just sensitive to changes to it. I had to work extra hard to make sure I could understand people and most of the time I was guessing much more than I typically do. At work, interacting with patrons whose voices were unfamiliar to me, I would try my best to listen for certain keywords (like "renew," "movie," "empty case," "lost book") - words that would allow me to guess the rest of the sentence. Then, I would repeat what I thought the sentence was back to them. Luckily most people tend to say the same things and use the same phrasing over and over. I could probably hear about 30-40% of what they were saying depending on the clarity and quality of their voice. Luckily with my coworkers it was much easier because I know their voices.

Then my hearing aids started acting up. I'm not sure what it was, actually. My ears are no longer clogged and they are no longer acting up so I think it was something related to the cold. It was very strange, whatever it was. One minute they would be amplifying things strangely (I could hear something going on 10 feet to the left of me but not directly in front of me) and the next they would be muting everything down to very quiet levels. That's what really got me, not just the clogged ears. It was kind of interesting at first to pay attention to my hearing and see how things were changing, but when my husband and I tried to make a trip to the mall on a busy Saturday I just got too frustrated to handle everything. I tried to explain what was going on to my husband and it was just too difficult.

I wish there was an easy way to show people what I and other deaf people "hear" on a daily basis. We can try to describe it but there are so few parallels to hearing people that it is difficult. Sometimes I just stay quiet about it for so long that when I do express my frustration it feels silly to explain it has been going on for days. But I am pretty good at adapting to my surroundings. I just deal with it for as long as I can.

Luckily the clogged ears and fluctuating volume levels have gone away with my cold. I wonder if taking a trip to the audiologist would have done any good. I don't know if it was my hearing aids, my brain reacting to the decreased sound levels, or my ears themselves. It might have just been more frustrating than anything.
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