“Right Hear, Right Now”: Hearing Loss Awareness as Works of Art

The statistics are well-known. More than 1.1 billion people around the world are affected by hearing loss, but only one in five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one. Ask anyone and they will probably either know someone with hearing loss, or have someone they know who could probably benefit from a hearing aid. But why is it that while people often recognize symptoms of hearing loss they rarely do anything about it? Continue reading ““Right Hear, Right Now”: Hearing Loss Awareness as Works of Art”

My Strategies for Coping With Single-Sided Deafness

When I started losing my hearing at the age of thirty, I was really embarrassed about it and I didn’t want people to know I was going deaf. It felt like a failing and I took the news that I needed a hearing aid pretty hard.

I did not want to accept the diagnosis of otosclerosis. I’d read that it was hereditary and painless and I was having a lot of pain and didn’t know anyone in my family who’d had this condition (although my Grandmother who died when I was five did have deafness of some sort but my Dad and Aunt don’t know the cause). Most of all, I just didn’t want to accept that I was going deaf.

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What Not Being Able to Use the Phone Has Cost Me

Christmas is a time for remembering old friends, but sometimes it can also bring back some sad or unpleasant memories. Seeing a former friend’s name in my address book reminded me of something that happened a few years ago…

After my sudden deafness in my ‘good ear’ in 2011, I could no longer use our telephone or my mobile for calls. Some friends were accommodating, converting our communication to text, email or social media but, sadly, others weren’t so accommodating.

English bulldogs dressed up as santa and rudolph

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As One Song Ends, Another Finds Its Voice

Stu and his guitar.

In late summer of 2010, my wife was dying.

Managing the late stages of a rare and fatal cancer was challenging enough, but our communication was deteriorating as well. Her voice had weakened to a whisper and my poor hearing and inadequate hearing aid could not compensate. We sat quietly in her final weeks making contact with our eyes and hands when words failed us both.

And then she was gone.

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Cuddling for Amateurs — Part 2

Something that I also had to learn was that most of the susurrus that take place during lovemaking do not lend themselves to be said repeatedly and articulated clearly. One of my first dates proved especially talkative in this respect.

Golden light
Photo credit: Eleazar

I was just stroking her belly and thighs, distributing small kisses to her navel, when I heard it:

«Guään?”

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If You’re Sinking, Who Will Save You?

One of the things I love about being part of this community is the international perspective. It’s a real eye-opener learning about the experiences of fellow hearing aid users in other countries. In this post, I’d like to explore the issue of a lack of ‘follow up support’ for adults new to hearing aids here in the UK and I would love to know if you have a different experience where you live. Of course, there may be some great local initiatives in the UK that I don’t know about so, if you have some examples of good practice, this would be a great place to share them!

Lifebuoy
Photo credit: Stephanie Booth

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Thank You to All the Lipreading Tutors Out There

The 8th to 12th September is Lipreading Awareness Week in the UK and so my post is in honour of the Lipreading tutors around the world. Thank you for all you do!

When I got my first analogue aid, I shoved it in a drawer because it amplified everything and the sounds of cutlery or a running tap scared the living daylights out of me. Nobody checked up on me and it was left up to me to ask to be referred to a different hospital where I’d discovered they were (at that time) trialling the use of digital hearing aids.

At the second hospital, I was given an ‘in the ear’ aid and told to ‘build up use gradually from an hour a day to all day’. The hearing aid was set far too loud and the audiologist refused to turn it down to make it bearable (let alone comfortable) and so, it too got shoved in a drawer never to see the light of day again.

I then enrolled on a lipreading class.

Continue reading “Thank You to All the Lipreading Tutors Out There”

Accepting Silence

As I ride the train every morning, I am reminded of what quiet and/or silence really is. That brief moment when you can hear a pin drop in a packed train car, when someone rustling an umbrella or opening a bag catches your attention because it is a harsh invader in the heavy fog of silence. Everyone seems tired, there aren’t any jovial conversations being had — just the undeniable silence that leaves only the rhythmic steel wheels churning along the rails. When did silence become so thick?

On the train

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You Are Not Alone

When I was first told I needed a hearing aid, the last thing I wanted was for other people to know about it. I felt like I was the only person in the world with this ‘problem’ and that it was a private matter and not something I wished to discuss with other people. I now wonder if, because I discovered my deafness in a hospital setting, that’s why I felt that way about it: it was a medical diagnosis and therefore private, right?

Alone

I wonder if I’d had my hearing tested and been told I needed a hearing aid at an independent dispenser’s or an opticians with a hearing care centre, if I would have felt differently about the whole experience. (I may still have been advised to go to hospital later to discuss the prognosis but perhaps the initial experience of being told I needed a hearing aid might not have felt so ‘medicalised’.) Perhaps it would have felt more like being told I needed glasses, which was easy enough to come to terms with, as I recall.

Anyway, in the beginning, I couldn’t get used to the ‘in the ear’ hearing aid I’d been given at the hospital: it was so uncomfortable, made my ear and jaw sore and the volume was ‘deafening’ and it gave me terrible pains in my head after just a few hours of use. I consigned it to a drawer and instead embarked upon lip-reading classes. I remember that my goal was to become so proficient at lip-reading that nobody would know I had hearing loss. (I think I’d seen one too many spy movies with people looking through binoculars and reporting what was being said!)

My plan worked well for a time but then my hearing loss got a lot greater and I had to go and have another hearing test.

The student who announced the results of my hearing test did not realise the impact of what she was saying to me when she told me the hearing loss had begun in the other ear. She said it so matter of factly — but to me, I saw it as the ‘beginning of the end’. I needed hearing aids — not just one but TWO, and I was going slowly deaf in both ears. I was heart-broken.

The hospital offered me another in-the-ear aid but after the pain I’d had with the first one, I couldn’t face it. I chose to go private. When the audiologist told me I needed BTEs, again I was upset. “They’re just for really deaf people right? Surely I didn’t need those? I worried they’d be really noticeable but actually, I got the ‘open ear fit’ (the plastic tips have air holes in them) and they were light, discreet, and I honestly couldn’t always feel them. It was a revelation after having the ‘ear full’ experience.

open domes

When I did finally get these discreet hearing aids, I felt much less self-conscious about them and I started to tell a few people that I had hearing difficulties and when I did, I was amazed at how often people’s replies were that they were deaf in one ear or one of their relatives or their best friend. People at work told me about other people at work who had hearing aids and I’d never guessed (and why should I?). But it was far more common than I’d ever realised. I even showed my hearing aids to a couple of people and recommended my audiologist when it turned out they too had hearing loss. (I should have been on commission!)

I started to feel OK about having hearing aids, and the more people I met who also had hearing problems, the better I felt. Knowing other people trundle along through life with the same problems as you helps to put it all into perspective. Once the dust settles, you just ‘get on with it’, don’t you?

Becoming Not Quite Like Beethoven

As I was invited to contribute a series of posts to this blog, I thought first off I would like to tell you a little bit about who I am.

graz - graffiti :: beethoven
photo credit: southtyrolean

When Ludwig van Beethoven lost his hearing at age 30, he was totally and utterly devastated. I learned about this at roughly the same age and was taken aback by the commonalities. By coincidence I had found Beethoven’s letter to his brothers (which has come to be known as the Heiligenstadt Testament) on the internet: Continue reading “Becoming Not Quite Like Beethoven”