It’s Important to Hear

While back in my hometown caring for my sick mom, I’ve had the chance to catch up with my relatives. Some have hearing issues, mostly brought on through aging. We’ve talked about how I inherited my hearing problems from my dad and how I use aids and assistive devices to hear. My relatives are always interested in the technology that I use, how I can connect my aids to my iPhone, and pad, how I have a device on my television to help me hear. My relatives and I discussed the practical and emotional adjustments needed when first purchasing a pair of aids, and the difficulties going from silence to being immersed in sound. One of my uncles talked about how he felt after receiving his first pair of aids. He did not realize how many times he would need adjustments. He did not think it would bother him to suddenly hear cars, sirens, and general traffic noise. All he wanted to do was remove his aids and go back to the peace and quiet of not hearing. I told him that I had a similar experience, but I also mentioned that I see advantages in wearing hearing aids. Yes, the world is noisy and background of any kind is annoying, particularly when you’re trying to focus on a conversation or a phone call. But missing out on bird song, crickets chirping, or waves crashing into the beach was one of the things that prompted me to do something about my hearing. There are too many beautiful natural sounds. Before my dad passed away, in the late 1980s, he received a cochlear implant. These were first generation instruments and without the technology of today. I remember him talking about environmental noise, how previous to his implant he had stopped hearing the sound of running water, the doorbell, and traffic noise. After his implant was turned on, he spent a lot of time learning to discern one sound from another. It took him nearly a year to get used to household and outdoor noises.

I go through an adaptation period each time I receive new aids. It takes time and patience. Sometimes, I’ve wanted to turn off my aids and enjoy the quiet. There are moments when I do just that. But I also know how important hearing is and how without out it, you are not fully participating in life. We need to hear to stay in touch with family and friends, to listen to music, to make phone calls and to visit with family and friends. We need to conduct the business of our lives. In some cases people rely on us. I know I never want to be a burden. I want to hear what’s going on around me. I want to be a part of life. While meandering through the hearing world, think about what your hearing means to you. Do all you can do to be part of the world in which we live, it will make you happy and lead to a better and more productive life.

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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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