I’ve had interesting conversations with friends and acquaintances regarding hearing loss and sheltering. Most of us have stayed home for a number of weeks and adopted a lone-wolf lifestyle, family and roommates only. Some are saying that they prefer solitary living, even though everything around them is opening up.

My sheltered arrangement included only my husband and I. For over two months, we found solace in each other and the safety of our home. This living situation suited me. I am not naturally outgoing. I don’t mind quiet evenings with a book, movie, or a good streamed series. I have a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances. Though I’m sure the psychiatrists and psychologists would disagree, I’m happy being by myself.
When stores and restaurants in my area began to open, I wasn’t anxious to get out. My husband and I are over sixty-five and concerned that a case of Covid 19 might not agree with us. Yet, we know that spending our lives ordering groceries and necessities online and never eating out or socializing with friends or family is no way to conduct our lives.

We bought gloves, masks, and made hand-gel. A grocery store outing was our first getaway, that was followed by doctor’s appointments and visits to the barber and hair salon. Within a few weeks, friends tempted us with an invitation to join them at one of our favorite Greek restaurants. How could we resist? We love the food there.

Our friends reserved an outdoor table, which made us feel better. We decided to wear masks and gloves. At the restaurant, we found face coverings only on restaurant staff so after we were seated, we removed our blue masks. Well at least I’ll be able to lip read, I thought. I’ve experienced a number of hearing mishaps because speech reading is impossible with other masked individuals.

I sipped wine, looking over the wonderful menu choices. I realized I missed the joy of dining out. Yes, it was noisy, but I had hearing help from my mini mic. Our friends know me well and make every effort to make it easier for me to hear them.

We talked about our feelings of being out and the virus. There was anxiety mixed with the excitement of participating in one of our favorite pre-virus activities. We placed our orders as a warm summer wind caressed us. It seemed idyllic sitting there, four old friends, just being us.
We’ve since been to other restaurants. Though we’ve enjoyed connecting with people again, my husband and I have decided that there is no place like home. He does not want to go back to our old life of going out three times in one week, how we were determined to never miss a chance to go dancing. We relish our comfortable home and enjoy cooking all our meals. For us, discovering new recipes or tweaking old ones isn’t a chore.

Only you can make the choice of how and when to end sheltering. There is much to consider; age, underlying health problems, and the amount of risk one is willing to take. You have to think about the role that the silence of sheltering has played on your hearing health.

These are difficult choices. I hope there is a vaccine soon. Until then, we have to deal with this virus, perhaps for months to come. Be safe and well as you meander out into a hearing world full of health and hearing hurdles. Most of all, be happy.

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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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