About 50 million Americans suffer from varying degrees of hearing loss. While you may not be aware that hearing loss is affecting you, it could be.
Perhaps you don’t realize you are suffering from the loss, or how severely. You may be missing important communication. The other possibility is that someone with whom you’re trying to communicate is not hearing the conversation. It can be frustrating in both situations, even to the point that it causes conflict, misunderstandings or communication shuts down.
My own conversations were generously sprinkled with the phrases, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.” “What?” and “Huh?” Sometimes I didn’t even hear that I was being addressed at all. This did affect all relationships in my life, including my husband, my children, my friends, my business associates and even the store clerk. I also found myself reading lips, and closely watching facial expressions and body language to try and compensate.
When aware that someone was speaking to me, it was and is important to me to listen, and to understand what he or she is saying.
I felt horrible when I realized that I had missed an opportunity to connect with someone because I didn’t hear them. I felt horrible when I thought I had heard and heard correctly, only to find out that I had not. Or worse, when after being asked to repeat themselves, sometimes repeatedly, he or she would exasperatedly say, “Oh, never mind…”
Yes, I have hearing loss.
While pregnant with my son I experienced a life-threatening situation that resulted in a drastic hearing loss for me. The damage was irreparable, permanent and at that time could not be corrected surgically or with hearing aid assistance.
Hearing loss can happen to anyone for a multitude of reasons. There is no appropriate age, gender or class. Due to my age most people thought I was joking when I said I had hearing loss. In fact due to noise exposure, all age groups are now suffering hearing loss to a greater degree.
The noise exposure may be for enjoyment purposes such as listening to music or television at high volume. Unfortunately, as you suffer hearing loss, especially when unaware of it, the volume continues to go up.
Hobbies such as hunting with firearms and without ear protection can lead to hearing loss. Sports, be it in a large, noisy stadium or in your own living room while loudly and excitedly watching a game, contributes to noise exposure, and again obviously there is no age limit.
Many adults are exposed to high volume noise while on the job, be it in a factory setting, or around heavy equipment such as tractors.
An important thing to know is that regardless of why hearing may be getting worse, deterioration can be prevented, or at least slowed by hearing protection, also known as hearing conservation.
As expressed before, there are multiple medical reasons that cause hearing loss, both physically and sometimes as a result of medications to treat health problems.
And perhaps we are more prone to suffer hearing loss just because society as a whole has become noisier at a more continual level.
The new, more advanced hearing aids are so small that they can be virtually unseen by others. Some are designed so that they actually look like ear bling or a Bluetooth accessory.
When functioning correctly the only hearing they affect is yours, in a very positive way. No more shrieks or annoying noise for others.
Regardless of who you are or who suffers the hearing loss, it separates you from human connection and from people. You may not even know what you’re missing due to hearing loss.
Hearing loss damage based in the inner ear is not repairable and neglecting to get correction can accelerate the progression. Hearing loss caused by a problem in the middle ear may be medically correctable.
Another aspect of hearing loss is the lessened ability to understand words or speech and what is being said. The good news is correction with hearing aids can not only help with actual hearing, but can also slow the deterioration of word understanding.
The miracle of hearing
The fitting and wearing of hearing aids has been such a tremendous and positive change for me that I want to share it with you.
While having a friendly conversation with a personal acquaintance, she mentioned Kathy-Jo Facteau at A-1 Hearing Aid Service, who is board certified in hearing instrument sciences.
I decided that it was time to investigate the possibility of hearing aids that could correct my hearing loss.
After an initial consultation to confirm my hearing loss and the extent of it, as well as to test my performance of understanding words, I received my new, tiny, disappearing hearing aids.
Hearing well for the first time in 19 years is a beautiful experience! Admittedly it has taken some getting used to for me and those in my life. But Kathy-Jo prepared me for not only what to expect, but also ways to alleviate being overpowered by having my sense of hearing restored to a tremendous degree.
Hearing new sounds and then trying to identify them can be tiring. Your thought processes change as your world expands with sound. Hearing things such as breathing and footsteps — yes even your own — can make you pause. Hearing the sound of your own voice can be quite a shock. These are noises that are normally ignored as background noise.
Over time I also am learning to distinguish and disregard some noises.
I surprised the girls in the office one day by blurting out, “Are these keyboards always so noisy?” and questioning them with, “Am I talking too loudly?” I became self-conscious because I could hear my shoes squeak or my pant legs swish. I was told that these are noises people with good hearing hear all the time. There was such a noticeable difference that it was fun for them to say, “Can you hear me?” and me to reply, “Yep!”
Perhaps not so fun for my family at times is that I can now hear the comments and jests that are said under their breath. Okay, it was kind of fun to let them have their fun, and then for me to have mine by repeating a little later what had been said.
It is truly a blessing to have a conversation without turning my head to the good ear (there really wasn’t a good ear) or straining to hear and read body language. My son commented how nice it was that we had been talking for quite some time, and I hadn’t asked him to repeat anything. I had heard him.
Kathy-Jo also supplied tips for talking to the hard of hearing. It was a relief to read the tips and realize that all hard of hearing persons experience unnecessary embarrassments. The wonderful thing is that with the help of a hearing aid one need never experience those types of embarrassments again. The tips are also now very much in my awareness so that I will hopefully always remember to extend an extra measure of help for someone with hearing loss.
This has been a life changing process for me, opening up a new world that had been lost to me. I encourage everyone who believes they may suffer from hearing loss, or loves someone who may suffer from hearing loss, to explore the new technology in hearing aids. Yes, I can hear you now!