A year on my hearing loss journey
My hearing loss journey started a little over a year ago and I can’t believe the ups and downs I went through to get to where I am today.
Going from having normal hearing all your life to suddenly losing it, is an experience that is only relatable if you have gone through it. Even if it is just a small loss, the effects of the experience of learning about your hearing loss, getting fit with hearing aids and readjusting back to normal life are significant.
Here is a glimpse of my transformation over the full year. You will be able to see how my attitude has changed and what it took for me to accept my hearing loss.
The beginning months
My initial experience with hearing loss was years of stressing over my vain attempts at keeping up with conversations, trying to catch mumbling television dialogue and listening to songs not sounding like they used to. This becomes tiring and I am persuaded to take a hearing test.
My first idea is to first an online hearing test because it is so easy. I failed the test. Instantly I thought ‘the result is wrong’ as I read the results telling me to consult a doctor to arrange a referral to an audiologist.
I am in disbelief and take the test a second time. This time I use headphones instead of pc speakers. The same result popped on my screen. My wife smiled at me gently and mentioned that even with my headphones on, she could still hear me missing many sounds.
I am not pleased and agree to take the test one last time. The result is exactly the same. I phone my GP and make an appointment.
My first appointment
Two weeks later and I’m talking to my family doctor and she is smiling and nodding and telling me not to worry, because I don’t seem to have any problem with my hearing. This is a huge relief. She does tell me that as I do have a build-up of wax, she will arrange for a nurse to remove this and then all will be back to normal once more.
Now that my ears are clear of wax, the nurse told me that she could clearly see the eardrum in both ears, I am wondering why there seems to be some kind of deadening to my hearing, as though I had foam earplugs in.
Another couple of days passes and I am back to my old habits of missing conversation and having the TV volume on high. I telephone the surgery and ask to speak to my doctor.
She is really nice and explains that my hearing must be fine if I am able to have a phone conversation. This makes me frustrated and I ask her to refer me to a formal hearing test. She verbally fences with me for several more minutes and then gives in. With a sigh, she says I will be hearing from the hospital soon.
When I go to my audiology appointment, I fully expect them to find a slight problem with one of my ears. I assume that they will not be able to help, but at least I will know for certain.
At the hospital audiology department, I am surprised by the fact that I am taken care of by an obviously deaf student audiologist. I feel slightly uneasy because I am not prepared and feel unsure of how to talk to her. She is so nice and appears to understand my answers to her questions perfectly. She has a deaf accent and I suddenly feel a fraud.
Part of me wishes that I’d listened to my doctor and not insisted on the appointment. Here, right in front of me, is a genuine person with hearing issues. I feel ashamed and can’t wait for the tests to be over, so I can go home.
After the tests, I am shocked to be told that I have hearing loss in both ears and will require two hearing aids. I sit there stunned, listening to my audiologist explaining that my life will not be the same again.
The workings of my hearing aids are explained to me making me feel a little reassured that they are so small, but I feel scared at the idea of having to wear these alien devices in my ears for the rest of my life.
“I feel scared at the idea of having to wear these alien devices in my ears for the rest of my life.”
My hearing aid fitting appointment isn’t for six weeks, which makes me frustrated again. I go through various moods and later discover that this is, in fact, a grieving process, for the loss of my hearing.
To find out more information I started consulting doctor Google and search websites and forums for answers. I find the usual, the good, the bad and the indifferent. Yes, there are a number of success stories, but there is also a plethora of horror stories as well. At this time I also discover Hearing Like Me and begin to see a far more optimistic future.
“At this time I also discover Hearing Like Me and begin to see a far more optimistic future.”
I watch endless YouTube videos and soon have a pretty good understanding of different hearing aids, hearing loss and deafness. Even though I am learning so much, I still feel depressed, as I await the fitting of my new aids. They still feel like something of a prison sentence, waiting to be carried out.
I meet the audiologist that fit my hearing aids and he took me by surprise. We have music in common, both having been in bands. I feel better and he explains that my new aids should help to give me access to the missing areas of my hearing. I have mild to moderate loss in both ears. Although it doesn’t sound much, it is significant. The aids feel odd and uncomfortable. They’re plugged into a computer and various sounds come through them and into my ears. One test is where he screws up a piece of paper and to my ears, it sounds as though he were smashing a metal tea tray on his desk.
Later on, I leave with my new silver aids. In the case, not my ears, having been warned not to wear them in the street, until I get used to them. I am to try them in short doses at first. On the way home I go into a coffee shop and decide to try out my hearing aids.
The noise is very loud. My aids have automatic volumes and so I’m stuck with the sheer volume of noise. I can hear conversations from tables away, but struggle to hear my wife’s voice, over the coffee making machines. All the sounds seem to be misplaced. The coffee machines sounded like they were on our table, instead of behind the counter and across the far wall.
I decided there and then to keep them in. I will get used to them. After all, the idea is for them to help me hear. They can’t do that sitting in a case.
“I decided there and then to keep them in. I will get used to them.”
Back home, things are noisy, but fun. Voices sound metallic and unreal. I’m told that this will take about three weeks for my brain to adjust to the new sounds. I decide that it should be shorter for me, as I’m now wearing my aids all the time, only taking them out to sleep and shower.
The television gets turned down. In fact, the normal volume now sounds a little loud. I can even hear the characters whisper and breathe. The direction sounds come from is different particularly in the street. It is slightly alarming, to begin with, as I can’t quite tell where the sounds of cars are coming from when crossing roads.
An optimistic new future with hearing aids
I rediscover music, once more picking up my guitar. No longer do my guitar strings sound off, nor my voice slightly off-key. In fact, my music is now better than it’s been in years. The same happens with favorite albums because suddenly I’m hearing songs, as though for the first time and this is so good.
“In fact, my music is now better than it’s been in years.”
I joined a hearing loss charity, which pushed me to begin my acceptance of my hearing loss. Also, accepting that I am now a member of the deaf community, even if it is only on the outer circle. I became determined to learn more and hopefully do more, but unsure of what, when or how.
Getting used to my hearing aids was going well. I was finding that at times I forgot I even have a hearing problem. I realize that I am one of the lucky ones, in that my aids suit me perfectly and compensate very well for my hearing loss challenges, most of the time.
The weeks run into months, as I enjoy life again. Thanks to my hearing aids! I find that during this time my confidence soars and I feel able to live my life to the full.
I join another charity, Hearing Link. Their focus is on hearing loss rather than deafness. I find that I really identify with the charities aims and set to learning all I can from their very informative website.
Hearing Link’s volunteering opportunities stand out to me and I begin to really consider if I could offer anything to them and to hearing loss suffers in general. I decide to take the plunge and offer the charity my services. I begin to feel good about my hearing loss.
I become a Phonak hEARo and start to write articles for Hearing Like Me. This now gives me a voice and allows me to offer my own experiences to others in similar situations.
“This now gives me a voice and allows me to offer my own experiences to others in similar situations.”
I have focused on just a twelve month period, but have recently gone on to more advocacy work. This includes being a part of a local disabilities forum and providing a voice for the hearing loss community within my own area. I personally have found wearing hearing aids to have added greatly to my life and am honestly happier these days. The secret if there is one, is to embrace the experience, rather than fight it. After all, it is still a beautiful world.