Oi deafy! I’ve heard (snigger) that a few times over the years and it used to upset me. Not so much now I’m older and have become immune to nonsense like that. Any type of hearing loss is a big deal for those who suffer from it and indeed those who have to deal with it from the other side. It’s frustrating repeating yourself a million times a day and just as frustrating having to say pardon all the time. In the end you shy away from conversations you would so love to be a part of yet can’t as all you can hear is the racket in the background. You may even stop going out at all because you just don’t feel part of it.
If I asked you to conjure up a picture of someone who’s hard of hearing and you’d probably imagine a little old lady called Doris who shouts too loud down the phone and tells you off for mumbling. That of course may well be the case but I’m in my 40’s and I have a hearing loss. Mine was caused by repeated infections as a child that my Mum had to fight a Dr who told her she was being neurotic to do something about it. In the end it got serious and I required an operation on the mastoid bone. That left me with much reduced hearing in one ear at the age of 10. I later found out this was a conductive loss. The first thing people usually say when I tell them (if I have to) that I have a hearing loss is “you’re too young for hearing aids!” but of course anyone can wear them and even babies do if they’re born with a loss.
There are two types of hearing loss:
Sensorineural hearing loss – This type unfortunately is permanent. It’s caused by damage to the hair cells inside the inner ear or damage to the hearing nerve or both. It changes your ability to hear quiet sounds and has a detrimental effect to the quality of the sound that you hear.
Conductive hearing loss – This hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. It happens when sounds cannot get from your outer ear to your inner ear, because of a blockage (such as ear wax.) Sounds become muffled and quieter.
There are many different reasons why you may have a hearing loss such as:
- Aging – not much we can do about this!
- Earwax – this can easily be sorted by syringing/microsuction
- Exposure to loud noise for prolonged periods – such as at work, although most jobs nowadays offer hearing protection.
- Genetics – thanks a bunch Mum/Dad/Gran/Grandad!
- Medication – some medications can be ototoxic.
- Infection – see your GP!
- Listening to loud music – all those teens with their headphones in will suffer in years to come, I’m always on at my kids about it.
- Acoustic neuroma – a noncancerous growth that develops on the eighth cranial nerve.
- Head trauma – Ouch!
I was never offered any other help and I suppose I just got on with it as most people do, you learn to adapt. It was hard when I worked at a call centre for many years and if someone tried to talk to me whilst already on a call I couldn’t hear them at all I’d get annoyed because they were making me feel and look stupid. Maybe I should have done more about it as I got a bit older and demanded a hearing aid but if I’m honest in my teens/20’s I wouldn’t have worn one of those clodhopping NHS ones anyway – this coming from someone who wore bumbags back in the day mind you!! Although in hindsight anything would have been better than nothing.
Now I actually do wear a hearing aid it does make all the difference. I can hear when in groups of people and at meetings which used to make me cringe if I sat too far back. Who wants to always be sat at the front? You might get picked for role play! I used to think admitting you wear a hearing aid would be toe curlingly cringy and everyone would laugh. It isn’t the case though. Far from it. I wear a really small aid that goes right in your ear canal that you can barely see. Most people don’t actually notice and those that do are fascinated.
Having worked with people who have hearing problems it’s surprising how much of a difference it makes to people’s lives. To be out of that bubble they’ve been in for so long because they’ve just given up trying to listen. I’ve seen people laugh and cry and honestly it’s life changing, not only for them but the people around them. If you know anyone that is suffering then gently encourage them to make an appointment with their GP or a private hearing aid company as they’ll be so glad they did when they finally get their hearing sorted out and realise what they’ve been missing out on.
Denial is of course the first hurdle to get over because many people would rather not think they’re getting old or that they’re not as sharp as they used to be but over time most people will come round to the idea. If you could’nt see properly you’d buy glasses wouldn’t you? So why should your hearing be any different? It doesn’t hurt or take up much of your time so getting your hearing checked is something we should all fit into our self care.