Now I hear what you hear.

Now I hear what you hear

Learning to accept being hard of hearing is the hard part

Hamilton Spectator

I’ve got a secret. Just between you and me, I’ve been hard of hearing for many, many years. Procrastinating, postponing, delaying … that’s been me.

I’ve belonged to the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association for more than 20 years, but have never worn a hearing aid. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have hearing loss. In fact, the hearing in my left ear is extremely poor. How did it happen? I’m not sure. As a child, I took a bad fall in an acrobatic class, maybe it was then. When I was 19 my family doctor discovered I had minimal hearing loss in my right ear. At that age, who cares? I was invincible or so I thought.

In my 20s I developed Meniere’s disease (inner ear dizzy spells), which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It would go in and out of remission and I survived, with the support of my family. Time marched on. One day I was on the phone at work and all of a sudden, I couldn’t hear out of my left ear. The hearing returned for a short while and then it was gone, never to return. It was then I learned Meniere’s could travel. I was now bilateral. And to keep life interesting, I’d also developed tinnitus (ringing in the ear), too.

Anyone with Meniere’s will understand my frustration. It was during this time I searched for a support group and found the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. CHHA became my lifeline and sustenance. I became involved, gradually holding a number of positions, but what I found important was being able to help others with hearing loss, albeit in some small way.

More than a year ago my audiologist told me it was time for a hearing aid. These were busy times with many other things to do and I kept putting it off. This past year I began to require captioning while watching TV. One evening I was shocked while attending a local historical meeting. I could not hear or understand a single word spoken by the president or guest speaker. My astonishment was monumental! I was OK talking one-on-one, but totally confused in group conversations.

It was time to act. I went for my annual hearing test and had a mould made for an hearing aid. It takes some time to become accustomed to a hearing aid, but if others can do it, I certainly can, too. It will do me no good sitting in a drawer. Recently, I’ve learned by not wearing your hearing aids regularly (which I’ve been guilty of) the hearing nerve is not being continually stimulated and it will die. It is just like a muscle and will atrophy.

Wearing my brand new hearing aid I attended the CHHA national conference in Toronto this May. I realize it is selective perception, but couldn’t get over it that virtually everyone in attendance was wearing either a hearing aid or a cochlear implant.

What I find interesting, when I put my hearing aid on in the morning in the bedroom, I can hear the radio in the bathroom. I store it in the bedroom because washroom dampness and hair spray are definitely not good for a hearing aid.

I wear a behind the ear model basically because my ear canal is too small for in the ear styles. Initially, I thought everyone would see and notice I was wearing a hearing aid. Actually, it is not very noticeable unless you’re paying close attention and it’s a similar colour to my hair.

Recently we attended a function and I meant to put a new battery in my aid prior to leaving. Well, I was busy and didn’t get around to it. You guessed it, the battery died while we were out. Everyone around me sounded muted and muffled. I’ve learned my lesson. In future I will replace my battery at home or at least carry extras.

Life is full of future expectations. One event I’m really looking forward to is the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association’s meeting Dec. 3. It is called Deafened But Not Silent … Music & Hearing Loss. Speaker Peter Stelmacovich wears a hearing aid in one ear, a cochlear implant in the other, is an audiologist and plays guitar in a band. How cool is that?

So, my secret is out, I’m definitely enjoying (while not perfect, but) improved hearing.

Jacquie Reid lives in Hamilton. She is the newsletter editor for the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (Hamilton branch) http://www.chha-hamilton.ca/chha-hamilton.

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