Hearing Confidence

My mother was diagnosed with cancer, and I’ve been her caregiving for the past ten days. When my sister asked me to make the three thousand mile trip to my hometown, I wondered how much help I would be. Having profound hearing loss presents challenges. How could I participate in my mother’s care given my hearing issues? Yet, I knew my sister and mom needed me so I shook off my doubts, packed a suitcase, gritted my teeth, and booked myself on a flight.

My sister picked me up at the airport, welcoming me with a hug, so glad to see me. On the drive to my mother’s house, she explained the daily routine she had set up, and all that needed to be done. It was nothing unexpected, laundry, getting meals, grocery shopping, picking up medication at the pharmacy, and helping with bill paying. I learned how to give medication, how to handle an oxygen tank, and what to do in case of an emergency. My brother came by, ready to pitch in as well.

Then came the test. My mother requires oxygen around the clock. Should her system fail, an alarm sounds. I wondered if I would hear the beeping sound, which my sister described as very loud. There was only one way to find out. We put her system into test mode, and with my hearing aids on, the alarm was loud enough for me to hear. Then we retested without my aids. Unfortunately, I heard nothing.

It would have been easy to say I couldn’t be alone with my mom at night but I told my siblings we ought to think things through. I asked my sister how often the system failed prior to my arrival. She said it had only happened once. My brother believed that if I followed routine maintenance procedures and if I double-checked the system before going to bed all would be well.

We discussed my mother’s safety, whether or not it was reasonable to leave me alone. The debate went on. In the end, we decided to try it. I inhaled deeply gathering courage. I had come all this way. I had to believe in myself despite my hearing problems.

I convinced my siblings to leave. All went well for sever days. Then one night a problem occurred. Though I didn’t hear the alarm, my mom was well enough to get up and alert me. I flew out of bed and in all of twenty seconds, I had her oxygen system up and running again. After that, I felt confident that I could truly be counted as one of her caregivers.

It hasn’t been easy helping out. The phone rings, calls from friends and relatives who want to know how my mom is doing. There’s seeing to her needs, the household chores, and making sure her things are in reasonable order. Our relatives and my mom’s friends are understanding. I gave them my cell phone number. They know to use text messaging and email, which for me is easier than talking on the phone.

I am enjoying my time with my mom and helping her be comfortable. It’s been fun visiting relatives I haven’t seen in quite some time. I have gained new confidence in my ability to travel alone and handle what comes my way. As I meander through this unfamiliar hearing world, I realize that I should never say I can’t do what hearing people do. There are always possibilities. All it takes is a bit of courage and a willingness to jump in.


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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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