I arrived at the clinic early to fill out the required paperwork, and was called up right on time. The audiologist was matter-of-fact when I told her about my hearing history; she was familiar with Meniere’s, which was a relief. She tested my hearing in the booth, and when I emerged, confirmed the ‘cookie-bite’ diagnosis of my childhood.
And this is the part where my life changed. She said, “We have several treatment options for you.”
I couldn’t believe it. Really? I told her what I had been told so long ago, that there was nothing they could do about it; she agreed that while that may have been the case 40 years ago, advances in technology have brought effective treatment for sensorineural hearing loss (nerve deafness). She showed me a selection of hearing devices and explained how they worked. They were not large and bulky and made of ugly beige plastic like my grandpa wore; these were small and compact with a nearly-invisible ear piece and wire. They are not merely amplifiers; they are programmable to compensate for your personal hearing loss.
She asked me if I’d like to try them. She put them in my ears and programmed them to my test results, which makes adjustments almost completely unnecessary. She told me that the change would be subtle, but that I would begin to notice sounds I never noticed before. She made small talk with me as I wore them, even slyly stepping outside the door while talking. I started to cry when I realized that I could hear and understand her even though she was out of the room and not facing me. That was huge. Huge!
I walked out of her office fitted with a pair of hearing devices, marveling at the rustle of wind in the trees, the sounds of conversation nearby, and even the slight cough of a passerby. I was in tears off and on the rest of that day and the next, a mixture of joy and relief and self-awareness; now, I’m not shouting — I’m being told I talk too softly. Now, I can understand what people are saying to me. Now, music sounds even better. Hell — the whole world sounds better!
Hearing loss, and its associated social stigma, is a thief. It robs you of communication with the world and the people you love and gives you isolation in return. It negates your enthusiasm and replaces it with frustration and defeat. It takes away your sense of self and security and puts dependency in their place. Hearing loss often meant the slow, progressive death of your social life as you withdrew further and further. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
With the help of two remarkable instruments, I am improving my social and psychological well-being. So, I will be straightforward about it – I wear hearing devices. They are so much more than hearing aids – they are like ‘glasses for my ears’.
That’s my story. And it could be yours, too, if you have undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss. Don’t wait a moment longer. You’ll be amazed at what you’re missing.
photo credit recordinghacks