This morning the wind blew from the east and from my bedroom I could hear the rustling of leaves that had dropped from the box tree on the verge.
Distinct sounds of splashing of water from the tap and the kettle boiling came from the kitchen where my husband made our early morning coffee. Conversation later at breakfast in a cafe with my book-club friends was loud and intelligible.
Overcoming hearing loss seems like a personal miracle. I am reminded of the miracle story in the New Testament, when Jesus restored a beggar’s hearing when he mixed mud and His own spit and put it in the man’s ears.
Fear of hearing loss plagued me for years. Embarrassment and fear of wearing hearing aids seemed more overwhelming than that of hearing loss itself.
I experienced shame about the number of times I asked people to repeat what they’d said. The speech of my great-grandchildren often escaped me. I missed precious moments of communication with people I love. Meetings were difficult. The strain of keeping up when two people spoke at once tired me and I often gave up. I suspect sometimes the effort of listening intently showed on my face.
As part of the adventure of being eighty, I finally sought professional advice. Visits to a general practitioner, an audiologist, an ear nose and throat consultant and to a second audiologist took over a month.
‘Are you yelling?’ I asked when he put hearing aids in my ears for the first time.
‘No, I’m speaking in a perfectly normal voice,’ he said. ‘I’m surprised you cope so well, given the severity of your hearing loss.’
‘I think I may have learned to lip-read without knowing it. I didn’t think it was that bad,’ I said.
Finally, I emerged from his office with a pair of state-of-the-art hearing aids, along with a new perspective on the world and gratitude on my lips. I had forgotten how wonderful the world full of sound can be.
The miracle persists. My hearing aids sit in their box overnight and for just as long as it takes me to swim and shower. I forget I am wearing them. Already I hate to be without them.
No one has noticed that I am wearing them. Elizabeth Worts, my dear sister, did not even see the hearing aid when she adjusted one of my earrings at a wedding last weekend.
Hearing loss and dementia
It seems there may be a strong correlation between hearing loss and the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. There is not enough research, yet, to show whether hearing loss is a predictor or cause of cognitive decline in later years. There are similar findings about visual acuity and dementia.
Hearing loss and technology
Hearing aid technology has advanced over the past few years. Some writers talk about a paradigm shift in the way hearing can be improved although basic models of hearing aids are still available.
The audiologist asked me what I wanted hearing aids to do, and my list was long.
- I want to hear my great-grandchildren when they whisper
- to hear at meetings and in places where there is background noise
- to listen to music with enjoyment and without strain
- to enjoy simple conversation.
The model the audiologist recommended was not cheap. However with a subsidy from the Australian government and a rebate from HBF the cost was just over $3000. That seems like money well invested in my future health, enjoyment and quality of life.
‘If you had said you wanted to hear the television, I would have suggested an entirely different product,’ the audiologist told ‘me. ‘If that was all you wanted.’
I am still in training and have two further appointments with the audiologist to fine-tune what I think is already an amazing result.
My one regret is that fear prevented me from dealing with hearing loss earlier. Perhaps if I’d researched I would have acted sooner.
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