Aging

Hard of Hearing Makes for Hard Living

Regaining the ability to hear clearly with a little technological help is a liberating joy
BY Donna Martelli TIMEMarch 6, 2022 PRINT

I was 66 years young and didn’t think I could be hard of hearing. I mean, I could hear the TV, the movies, people talking, the phone, and the radio. Wasn’t that enough? However, I noticed a few things that made me wonder.

I watched a DVD with my sister (she’s only almost 40). I had trouble hearing when the actors spoke softly, and I asked her to please turn up the TV. She did, and I still couldn’t hear the actors unless they were talking with exclamation points.

There were several other clues as well, such as missed phone calls because I couldn’t hear the ring, missed portions of my pastor’s sermon, and my son saying “Mom, that TV is loud!” because I hadn’t noticed.

And every time my husband spoke to me, I had to say “What?” and then have him repeat it louder or closer. That wasn’t very pleasant. One time, my husband had an important video on his phone to share with me. I couldn’t hear anything except mumbling, so I just gave up and tried to decipher it by watching the pictures.

That last one convinced me that, just maybe, my hearing needed help. Within a week, I got a postcard in the mail for a free hearing analysis. Was that a coincidence? I don’t believe so. Knowing that I needed to get checked out, I went to get my free test. The audiologist put tiny speakers in my ears, and I had to push a button on a stick every time I heard a tone.

It was painless and somewhat boring, but what she found was astounding to me. I had mild to moderate hearing loss in both ears. I was missing about half of my hearing.

She told me that the loss had begun at least seven years ago and that it had progressively worsened. She let me try sample hearing aids, and what I heard was fantastic. Trying these on convinced me that the tests were correct, as there were many new and detailed sounds all around me. I began to think of what I had missed because I couldn’t hear. I’ll never know.

I had to wait a couple of weeks before getting my hearing aids. Insurance paid half the cost of them. All my appointments to check and clean them and further analyze my hearing were part of the package.

On the day that I got my hearing aids, the practitioner told me that I should only wear them for a few hours at a time. That was because my brain could be overwhelmed as it worked to interpret the new sounds it was receiving. She did a few more tests and made the proper adjustments to my hearing aids before she turned me loose on the world.

I went to my car and turned on the ignition. Whoa, was it loud! Then the turn signal, which I had never heard before, clicked loudly in my ears. I had to turn the radio way down for the sound to approach a comfortable level.

I wore my new hearing aids all day from the beginning. I never felt overwhelmed or confused: I felt simply outstanding! I discovered some other benefits as the days went by:

My balance was improved as my equilibrium was restored.

I heard the soft talk in movies and TV shows. How delightful! That gave me a newfound advantage in understanding the plots.

My husband was happy that he didn’t have to repeat himself continually.

My sister noticed that I was getting stories straight most of the time instead of understanding only bits and pieces.

A friend who obviously can’t hear very well refuses to get hearing aids. He thinks that accepting that loss means that he’s old and infirm. It’s a stigma that remains, although thankfully, not nearly so much as even a few years ago. He sees me as younger than himself, but I’m not. I’m simply happy and hearing!

If you suspect you have hearing loss, don’t hesitate to get tested. I’m so glad that I did. Most hearing health centers will give you a free test. If you have little to no loss, then you have only lost an hour or so of your day.

But if you do have even a moderate amount of hearing loss, your quality of life can be significantly enhanced with hearing aids. The ones of today are hardly noticeable. Now I can hear everything going on around me, so watch out, world: I’m listening!

Formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, and faculty member at Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, Donna was Director of Fitness Arts at LivRite Fitness. There, she taught Ballet, Barre, Pilates, Stretch and Conditioning, Personal Training and provided fitness consultations to members. She created Raise the Barre at LivRite, trained, qualified, and managed its instructors, and wrote its training manual. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available wherever books are sold.
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