As I was on my way out after my most recent day at the Phonak office in Stäfa, Vincent quickly showed me the beginning of D. J.’s YouTube video. It was funny! (We can hope so, he’s a stand-up comedian.)
I just finished watching the video now and have been laughing out loud in my living-room. Do watch it too if you want a laugh.
When I first started wearing a hearing aids, I was forever losing them but now they have a home and it’s no longer an issue.
The first hearing aid I had was an in-the-ear kind from the NHS. It wasn’t comfortable and it was set too loud and so I used to take it to work with me and only wear it when I was in a meeting. Consequently, it lived its life mainly in pockets and I spent most mornings trying to retrace my steps to see where it had ended up in order to stuff it in the pocket of that day’s outfit for emergency use only. I then learnt to lipread and abandoned the aid altogether.
When I later needed an aid in my other ear, I purchased some behind the ear aids with receiver in the ear and open fit domes. I mainly managed with just the one aid and so one lived in my ear and the other lived a varied life in pockets, handbags and in its case in various locations in my house. This pair had a remote control, which led a nomadic lifestyle; living in jackets, coats, jeans, handbags, on tables – anywhere its fancy took it. The aid I used to use had a single place I’d put it every night – a little ceramic bowl on my dressing table – but the other aid and remote could end up anywhere.
Almost every exit of the house started with, “Where’s my remote? Where’s my other aid?” and a frantic search. I needed to get more organised. I started to leave the remote on the coffee table every evening and so I knew where to locate it each morning and this worked – mostly.
Everybody who has met me knows that I have a very strong, yet unpredictable sense of style.
One day, I will wear a blue high-low dress that floats over the floor as I walk. My eyes are blue and silver, and my legs completely black from the illusion created by leggings and boots. The next, I might step out in hot pink skinny jeans and a Gap kids’ shirt with a starry-eyed cat, paired with black thigh-high boots. Cat wings will grace my eyes, and sometimes, I’ll wear heart-shaped glasses if I feel really psychedelic. In college, I actually received a prize for having the most colorful fashion in the entire school. Frequently, I am the fashion consult of my family and friends. The outlandish, erratic nature of my fashion is, ironically, a signature style.
My freedom to dress so outlandishly was acquired by the alienation that came from my hearing loss and chronic ear infections. Other middle school students frequently called me a “retard”, and harassed me in every class because of my hearing loss.
One of my monthly tasks as Sales Analyst for Phonak is to monitor official market sales data within Europe. Changes to reimbursements and subsidies affect the number of hearing aids that are sold, as funding becomes more or less available to the end user. This has an impact on the trends that can be seen within the market data.
For example, a German court ruling stated that the hearing aid subsidies should rise by 76% to 740€ per hearing aid. No one could have predicted the dramatic effect it would have on the German market.
Again and again, when I talk about my hearing loss and my role as Open Ears editor, people tell me about their relative, acquaintance, or friend who has hearing loss of some degree, got hearing aids, but never wears them. This is a well-known problem in the industry, of course. I haven’t done checking out the existing research on the topic, but after an umpteenth discussion — and a failed fitting in my history — I do have a few thoughts to share.
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.
Imagine being at a movie where the sound track is turned to the highest volume. Actors’ voices are screaming at you. After five minutes, you leave holding your ears and cursing the theatre for its poor judgment. Turning newspaper pages, running water in the kitchen sink, your child placing dishes and silverware on the table — all are intolerable to your ears. A baby cries or a truck screeches its brakes to a halt and the sound is excruciating. What has happened to my ears?
When out and about with my dog, Tilly, I have been known to refer to her as my ‘unofficial hearing dog’ as a bit of an ice-breaker when meeting new people. I do this as a way of letting them know they’re talking to a deafened person and that I might not be able to follow everything they’re saying. I’ve also used the term in my writing and in my event speaking in the context of telling people about the five year waiting list there is for an official hearing dog. And, I sometimes speak about how, when I lost my hearing suddenly, I suffered panic attacks and a loss of confidence in going out of the house without my husband. I felt I just couldn’t wait that five years for a dog and so we started looking for a rescue dog to adopt to keep me company and help me feel more secure when my husband goes out.
Tilly is a rescue Westie – an ex-breeding bitch from an illegal ‘puppy farm’. She lets me know when someone’s at the door (by barking and running to the front door or if we’re in a room where the door is closed, she lets it be known she wants to get out of that room so she can run to the front door). However, when the phone rings, the smoke alarm sounds or the burglar alarm goes off, she does absolutely nothing at all. She is clearly not a proper hearing dog!