Meandering Through A Hearing World

Don’t Be Left Out of the Hearing World

My life was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with hearing loss. As my loss progressed from moderate to severe and then from severe to profound, I found myself making life changes, many were not easy or pleasant. Everyone assumes that hearing aids or cochlear implants are the answer. Though these devices help you hear, they are not perfect solutions. Even with the best technology available, those of us with hearing loss are left to adapt to the hearing world.

In the beginning, hearing loss affected my television viewing. I am a huge movie buff and love movies from the 40s and 50s as well as modern-day pictures. There came a time when I couldn’t hear dialogue. Until the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed requiring television stations to provide closed captioning, I had to give up one of my favorite pastimes. Now the only way I can watch television is with my streamer and with closed captions turned on. Ditto for radio. I can no longer listen to talk shows on NPR or any other stations. Music from my car radio sounds noisy, not melodic. My car has become a silent cavern. The only way I can listen to music is to connect directly to my iPad or iPhone, selecting my favorite tunes that way.

Bank, pharmacy, restaurant, or dry cleaning drive-thru services are next to impossible for me. The intercom systems at these establishments are not very good. At best, the voice at the other end sounds mechanical and full of static. Couple a visit to the bank drive-thru with a female teller and you’ve got a hearing disaster. I stopped using drive-up windows a long time ago, opting to go inside. I live in a small town. Now, the tellers at my local bank know me as do the folks in the pharmacy. I consider this inconvenience as an advantage. I got to meet people, and the added exercise of having to walk from the parking lot in to a building helps my hips from becoming too fleshy.

One of the things I really miss is going to lectures, symphonies, and theater. Like many who suffer from hearing loss, I can no longer attend these events unless the venue is equipped with a hearing loop. Hearing loops are wonderful. If your hearing aids have t-coils, you can opt into the loop by pushing a button on your aids or by accessing the loop from a smart phone app or other handheld device. Once you’ve established a loop connection, all sound is streamed into your ears. We have several churches in our area with hearing loops as well as a symphony hall, which has a variety of musical and lecture offerings. Check with your favorite venue to see if they have or might be considering a hearing loop. If your current hearing aids are not loop compatible, speak with your audiologist about an upgrade.

Traveling is extremely difficult when you can’t hear. I rarely travel alone anymore, but when I do, I tell people I have hearing difficulties. Most airlines will allow you to board early if they know you can’t hear announcements. Once on board, I let the flight attendants know of my hearing loss. More and more airports are installing hearing loops as are train and bus stations. Before heading out on your next travel adventure, check with your local airport, bus, or train stations to see if hearing loops are installed.

I love all the available navigation systems out there, but they present hearing problems. Even with my Made-for-IPhone hearing aids, it’s nearly impossible for me to hear Siri, Alexa, or the sweet soft voices on WAZE. I usually read or preprint directions before heading out by car, insuring I know where I’m going.

Change is never easy. The amount of adjustment those with hearing loss must endure depends on the severity of the loss and what aids or implants are used. Doing something about hearing loss helps. Doing nothing leaves you missing out on life. I know my hearing is far from normal even with my aids. I’ve learned to adapt by outfitting myself with the best available technology in an effort to make my meanderings through the hearing world as easy as possible.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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