It’s official now. I am deaf.
Some who know me wouldn’t be too surprised to hear me say that (at least the ones who can hear). I’ve always demonstrated some minor amount of hearing loss, though I don’t know that you can say that you’ve lost what you’ve never actually had. OK, I guess it’s safe to say that I don’t hear certain things quite as well as others do.
But as of yesterday, it would seem that I have a severe hearing loss. "How do you figure that?", you might ask. "Huh?", I might reply (in jest, of course).
Yesterday was my annual physical at work. Since I work at a hazardous waste site (though I don’t handle the stuff myself), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) thinks I should have a physical every year to make sure I don’t suffer any ill effects from said waste (such as a new foot growing from my kneecap, an extra eyelid over my scapula, you know, stuff like that, I guess). I’m not complaining. I get a free annual physical and they share the results with my regular doctor.
Along with testing my blood and my blood pressure and my eyes and everything (yes, that everything every few years), they also perform a hearing test every year. After all, there is a lot of heavy equipment used at our jobsite that is quite loud. I’ve always scored about the same on the test, or at least I did until yesterday.
Now let me say that I am just getting over a cold, which might affect my hearing slightly, but that’s not really a factor here. What is? Be patient, I’m getting to that.
The audiometric test (AKA hearing test) is performed by placing the subject in a sound-isolating booth (think ‘cone-of-silence’), putting headphones on said subject, and having them push a little button every time they hear a tone. The pitch and volume of the tone change, so you go with the lowest volume heard for each pitch to determine the overall score. Most of the time I can hear my own heartbeat and breathing louder than some of the quietest tones I can hear. Except for yesterday, that is.
You see, the sound-isolating booths aren’t exactly perfect at cutting out all external noise. As standard protocol, the technician either leaves the area or just sits quietly at the console during the test. In that case, the booth is adequate. But imagine, if you will, that the technician stays in the room, joined by another technician, and maybe another technician, and they discuss (loudly) the (apparently) hilarious television show that each of them watched the night before. You might, as part of your imagining, wonder if the booth would be adequate at “sound-isolating” under that set of conditions.
Well, wonder no longer. It really came as no shock to me that I failed the test miserably. I did ask them to run the test again while, perhaps, standing in the next room in silent Zen-like contemplation and self-reflection. (Okay, I didn’t say it that way, but even though I was polite, I did get a brief scowl from one of the technicians – fortunately not the one who later drew blood from my arm). I passed the next test with my usual score.
Too bad, really. I could have used the ‘deafness’ excuse the next time MG gets after me to do some minor chore around the house. Hmm, I think I (don't) hear her coming now...