The Quiet Years
I first realised I was losing my hearing about 10, maybe 14 years ago. It started on a course where I discovered that I couldn’t hear the tutor at the front of the room. Okay I was at least 15 feet from her, but even so, a couple of years before it hadn’t been an issue.
As time progressed I noticed that any situation in which I was in a hall or auditorium was somewhere between difficult and lost on me, but not all situations. There were some television programmes I couldn’t hear, some people I had to ask to keep repeating, but it didn’t significantly affect my life. It wasn’t until I started answering the wrong questions, and met with the frustration and eye rolling, that it really hit me how much I was struggling.
The fact is that you don’t realise how bad your hearing is getting for several very good reasons, one being that there’s a significant difference in hearing between when you’re relaxed and stressed or tense. I did an event and couldn’t hear anyone from the stage who was trying to ask me questions, yet in bed that night my partner turned away and lowered their voice, and said that I answered everything they said. It was confusing, did I have a hearing problem or not? When you’re faced with a spend of thousands of pounds that’s a question you really need the right answer to.
My first hearing test did not deliver the right answer. I was told that I had up to 25% of my hearing missing in both ears, and to go away for 3 years and see how I got on. Which was all well and good but I was still struggling, and people were struggling with me!
I eventually went for 3 more tests with different people. The first of those delivered a completely different result, the second mainly agreed, and by now it was nearly Christmas so I hung on for the January sales. I had to have yet another hearing test, but that was broadly similar, so I felt comfortable moving forward.
For a long time it really hurt me that I was getting old, my hearing issue is age related, and I couldn’t face the idea of admitting it by getting hearing support, but as things got worse I realised that my failure to deal with it was making me look stupid, and also resulting in isolation – I preferred not to go out and see people. I also thought I was getting memory loss, just to put the tin lid on it!
When I made the decision to get support I asked around, and one thing I was told very firmly by other people was – don’t waste your money going cheap. Exactly as my mother said, and my grandmother before her, if you spend very little money you will land up hearing everything, all at once! You won’t be able to hear the person next to you, but you will hear plates crashing in a restaurant kitchen, snatches of conversation from everywhere, sniffing, coughing, knives scraping plates. It’s apparently overwhelming.
Also, match your hearing aids to your lifestyle. I’m a professional public speaker so I need to be able to hear across an auditorium, therefore spending £3000 (for two hearing aids) was worth it for me. I can have a microphone pinned to my blouse, and hand a small mic around a room, if the person speaks into that mic it transmits to mine, then up to my hearing aids, so I hear in my ears not across the room. Apparently university lecturers use them.
The hearing centre set them up for me, and now I’m popping back once a fortnight to refine the sound until it’s perfect for me. I can turn them up or down, focus on one person or the entire room. They bluetooth into my phone, my computer, my car, and have a TV adapter that they can link into, and apparently you land up being able to hear the television better than anyone else in the room as they balance the sound properly and the sound effects don’t outweigh the voice!
They have a microphone, so as long as I’m within range one tap behind my ear answers it, and a 2 second hold cuts the call off. No more yelling pointlessly at my phone “hang on, I’m just trying to get my phone out of my bag”, one tap and apparently I’m walking round a shopping centre talking to myself. It’s rather wonderful.
A Whole New Kind of Youthful
I feel 20 years younger than I did a month ago. My aids are hidden behind my ears – you can’t have inner ear aids if you have tinnitus as it aggravates it – and you’d never know they’re there. For me that helps.
It turns out that my memory is fine providing I can hear what’s being said. I did part three of a course I’m studying and came home fully confident that I knew what I was doing. I hadn’t realised how much I’d been missing, and the ability to ask for clarification here and there had changed the landscape of how much knowledge went in and stayed!
I’m having conversations without a struggle, I’m laughing because I heard the joke, and the world has opened back up to me again. I stood in the garden for at least half an hour just listening to birdsong. I’ve discovered that one of my cats loves to chat to me. I don’t miss the doorbell. I hear children laughing and playing. I’ve always loved the sound of hail and rain, and I can hear them again. It’s quite wonderful.
It’s also bought much needed humour into my life. When I went to meet my husband after the aids were fitted I asked him what he’d been doing and he replied “Pardon me I missed that?” People around us were looking at me trying to work out why that was so funny. He’s constantly asking me if we can have the TV sound up just a little, and I’m now replying “why what’s wrong with it, I can hear it?” It was also nice to crack the joke when asked was it nice to be able to hear again “only when people are interesting”. I’d been laughed at for so long that gentle joke just felt levelling to me. I had my power back!
As a lovely friend said to me “It’s wonderful to see you have your life back”, and that’s exactly what it’s like. Sound, laughter, all the dialogue on films rather than wondering what just happened, music, doorbells, telephones, stress-free conversations. I hadn’t realised how much hearing loss had shaken my confidence until I got these two little miracles.
Hubby was talking about my hearing aids the other day, and I said “excuse me, these are not just hearing aids, I’m a technological marvel and fully bluetooth compatible!” That’s how it feels. I’m watching other people struggle as I did in different ways, and I’m not feeling old I’m feeling blessed.
I pop them on to recharge overnight, they don’t need new batteries more than once every 4 years, they don’t overcharge. Another benefit of paying more if you possibly can. They can be endlessly altered, only if something much, much better comes out will I need to consider changing them… ever!
If you can’t afford the bluetooth hearing aids, save up if you possibly can, you will not regret it. All my friends that thought ‘what the heck cheap will do’ have regretted it. There are even better than mine on the market, but they’re really expensive! Apparently you can go up to £7000!
Children are Born with Hearing Loss!
So, if you’re feeling as I did that the whole idea is embarrassing, ageing, frightening, and the start of a slow slip into the grave, think again! These little marvels will give you 20 years back! No one needs to know that you’re wearing them, and always remember, children are born with hearing loss, so we’re very lucky that we had our own hearing for many years, and that the technology exists to support us when we need it!