As a social media community manager, I get to talk to a lot of people about their hearing loss. It’s been amazing to hear people’s stories – whether it’s a mom sharing an Instagram video from the first time her child’s hearing aids turned on, or a post about how new technologies are allowing a hearing aid wearer to enjoy sounds in situations they never before thought possible.
While most of my interactions have been virtual, the raw emotions are still there. I still feel a closeness with anyone whom I can answer a question for or connect them with our community of people facing similar hearing situations.
When I first met Josef, I was immediately warmed by his presence. His friendly demeanor and grandfatherly characteristics makes him someone you could sit down with for hours and listen to the stories he could share from his 81 years of life.
As I spent the day with him and his alphorn band members, I was able to experience interactions so pure that you felt like he could be part of your family. I watched him beam with joy after playing a song on his alphorn, filling his lungs with each hefty breath and taking in each note. I watched between shots as he took in the view of the Swiss alps, looking up at the sound of a birds soaring above the fields. He happily engaged in small talk with spectators, listened to a family of ducks wading in a nearby pond and thoughtfully toasted with a drink at the end of the long day.
I saw my grandfather and my father in him. I wondered how they would be at Josef’s age. Would they need hearing aids as well? If so, would they avoid them as long as possible or wear them proudly? Would they prefer to sit at home away from overwhelming social events, or would they warm to the thought that technology could help them better distinguish voices in such situations? My father is an avid album collector, and it’s rare when the record player in his home is turned off (or even turned down low). He’s still quite good on the phone, but we’ve joked about miscommunications for years; mistaken song lyrics or mishearing a friend’s name and then constantly referring to them wrong every time he sees them.
Josef said he waited until he was retired to finally get hearing aids. He feared how his employer would treat him if they knew he had hearing loss.
I wonder how much he missed during those years.
I was happy to spend the day with Josef, and really, I realized his hearing journey reflects so many of us. What I learned most though, is that what’s important is that he’s able to continue to grow his story, by hearing all of life’s wonderful sounds and sharing them with others, for as long as possible.
Talking about hearing loss with loved ones can be a sensitive subject. As our parents get older, they might become hard of hearing. In this case, it’s up to you to help them help themselves. The sooner you begin the discussion, the sooner you can help them to communicate better, resulting in a positive, long-term outcome for both of you. Check out these useful tips to begin the conversation and help your parents in dealing with their hearing loss.