Sat with Nat

Nat gets her hearing checked and encounters unfettered sexism.

Recently I have been having trouble understanding what people are saying when there is background noise as well as some numbness on the left side of my face. I had been putting it off when a Deaf colleague asked me why I didn’t do something about my hearing.

Unwilling to stay stuck in my ableist bullshit I was sure to discuss it with my doctor.

My family doctor then referred me to an audiologist and an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist.

I got the appointments within a few weeks. Fast. Very fast in a public health care system known for long waits.

The trip for the hearing test was typical and I walked out being told I did not have hearing loss. I felt stupid for wasting people’s time and money and even worse for then having an appointment with a ENT doctor.

The doctor’s office was another thing altogether. I mentioned my military service and flying off and on for 12 years. He then asked if I was a “housewife”. I awkwardly laughed and clarified that I was leading a team in a quiet office environment.

When we talked about noise exposure he noted that my vacuum and hairdryer could damage my hearing. So. One thing. I do own both of those appliances and my sons use them way more than I do.

Short hair and no make up, Natalie inadvertently looks like a high maintenance person

I wasn’t loving his gendered assumptions. I found myself questioning how I was presenting myself.

There were several moments of great information exchange, including a very detailed discussion about my hearing tests. I do have “notches” in my hearing that are typical of noise induced hearing loss. It’s sufficient enough that I will eventually need hearing aids. That type of hearing loss is usually accompanied by tinnitus (ringing in the ears). My hearing loss is asymptomatic and I can still distinguish between all the word sounds. All good news.

It turns out the most troubling symptom was the numbness. The ENT palpated my face and neck looking for lumps and bumps. That’s when I realized my speedy appointment was to see if I had signs of cancer. Yikes. He assured me no lumps & bumps were found and to ask my dentist about my jaw clenching. Nerve fatigue may be the culprit. Here’s hoping I get that figured out soon. It’s weird.

I’m glad for the good information and very bummed out about the sexism I encountered. It won’t keep me from accessing services but it certainly adds a layer of stress to a moment.

6 thoughts on “Nat gets her hearing checked and encounters unfettered sexism.

  1. I lost my hearing suddenly at age 14 and the ENT sent me to the waiting room while he told my parents he thought I was faking it to get attention. I didn’t hear (ha) this story until several years later because my mom was so mad. Unfortunately he was the only ENT in town. Fortunately, the audiologist in his office was excellent and became a good confident for me as I saw a lot of her the next few years. Doctors 🙄

  2. As a grad student, I had a similar experience when I saw an ENT for pain in the jaw and cheek during cold weather (sinus? neuralgia?). He obviously thought I was making it up.

    And my mom had a thin growth of skin over the eardrum that interfered with hearing and made her uncomfortable. The ENT couldn’t diagnose it, so he recommended she see a psychiatrist. A different and more competent ENT realized what was wrong.

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