I have been having some hearing issues recently. It’s not that I can’t hear (although my husband claims that I often choose not to), it’s that I seem to be hyper sensitive to shrill sounds.
Take the constant whining of my two littlest girls, for example—sets my teeth on edge. Or my twelve year old’s high decibel music blasting from her bedroom—I walk past her door with my index fingers stuffed into my ears like a child not wanting to hear her punishment. Or my husband’s happy whistling—‘Must you??’ I implore.
Sometimes I feel like a dog, acutely aware of high-pitched noises that other, human creatures are not sensitive to. I want to solemnly lay my chin on the kitchen floor and thump my paws over my ears.
I made an appointment with an ear, nose throat specialist to see if my payment for attending a couple hundred concerts in my early twenties was finally coming due, in the form of nerve damage.
The doctor was very nice; looked in my ears, set a tuning fork to various parts around my head, and asked me some questions.
‘What types of sounds hurt your ears?’ he was smiling kindly at me.
‘Nothing hurts my ears. It’s just that high-pitched noises annoy me,’ I answered with a nervous laugh.
‘What type of noises, for example?’ he asked again.
‘Uhhhhh… well, the sound of my twin five year old girls whining in tandem…My twelve year old’s hideous music, for sure…and my ten year old’s voice, especially when she is asking me to do something or get something for her, but come to think of it, no it’s just her voice in general.’ I said.
‘Ah. Okay,’ he was looking at me more seriously now. I shifted my weight from one side of the chair to the other.
‘You have Hyperacusis.’
‘Oh…’ I answered, not sure what to make of the medical term.
‘I see this a lot in women about your age with young children.’
‘Go on,’ I said steadily.
‘It is a real condition,’—that statement right there told me that it was not— ‘It is best treated with behavioral therapy…’
‘Behavioral therapy… for my children? For my children.’ I asked, then stated—in all seriousness I though it was where he was going with this—‘Because I would totally support that.’ I nodded in agreement.
‘No, the therapy would be for you. For you to be able to tolerate the… sounds that seem to annoy you.’
‘Oh!’ I exclaimed too loudly. I quieted, ‘Oh, this would be a sort of ‘bitchy Mommy therapy’,’ I whispered. His nurse, who was in the examination room, and obviously had children, allowed herself to chuckle. The doctor, while still looking kindly at me, was more serious, now ‘No, this is a real treatment for a real condition,’ He reiterated.
‘I want you to be tested by an audiologist just in case, but I can’t see anything wrong with your ears—they look spotless. After that we can begin behavioral therapy and things may start to improve at home.’ He smiled.
Although I didn’t express it to the doctor, my first thought about behavioral therapy was this: Like almost every mother I know, I find myself on edge in most domestic situations because I haven’t enough time—rushing out the door in the morning, the kids in mismatched socks or unbrushed hair. Late to pick up the little girls from ballet class because I hit village traffic while picking up my eldest from German class. Looking for a birthday card for my husband in the gas station on the way home from picking up the little girls late from ballet class, because I was too busy this week and simply forgot it was his birthday. That sort of thing.
The last thing I have time for is a bitch therapy session, (‘Hi. My name is Jenny and I am a crabby, bitchy mother of four…’ ‘Hello Jenny’).
So, rather than getting a babysitter once a week so that I can take behavioral therapy sessions to improve my hearing, I have decided to get a babysitter once a week so that my husband and I can get out and enjoy a quiet conversation in a noisy (but not in an annoying way) pub.