There is an advantage with hearing loss. When craving silence, you can lower the volume or turn off your aids or cochlear implant. You can tune out most anything, music, traffic noise, talkative flight attendants, and restless children on a long flight. Every night, I enjoy blissful silence after placing my aids in their recharging unit, sleeping undisturbed by household noises.
Yet, having the ability to choose a silent world can leave you vulnerable and perhaps unsafe. Without aids, I hear almost nothing. While drifting into sleep, I do not know if faucets are dripping or if anyone is stirring about. My husband can rise to use the bathroom at two o’clock in the morning without disturbing me. I would not be alerted if our home’s carbon monoxide or smoke detectors went off. There would be no way of knowing that an intruder was lurking since without aids, the blare of my home security system’s alarm would go unnoticed.
Most suffering from hearing loss face these problems. Mothers suffering from hearing loss could miss the cry of a baby or sick child. Those who care for elderly or sick family members have similar nighttime issues. When my mother developed pancreatic cancer, I became one of her caregivers. My brothers and sisters worried that I would not know if my mom called for help in the night. We tried placing a baby alarm unit in the room where I slept, but it wasn’t loud enough. Luckily, there were no issues.
If you have hearing loss, you might find it difficult to live or travel alone. I’ve stayed in hotel rooms by myself, after alerting the front-desk staff of my hearing issues. However, the person on the day shift might not be the person on the night shift. In an emergency, who knows if hotel staff takes the time to check on their customers with special hearing needs.
An answer for the nighttime hearing dilemma might be on the way. Last year, The FDA sanctioned Cochlear, Inc. to begin human trials with their latest device, an internal cochlear implant. Currently, the wire, internal processor, and electrodes of C.I. devices are implanted internally while the external processor and microphone sits behind the ear, hearing aid style. Some C.I. models have a disc-style external processor that sits next to the ear, adhering to a magnet placed under the skin. Like hearing aid users, those wearing CIs remove the external portions of their devices to sleep. However, if the FDA approves an internal implant then wearers will be able to turn off their devices or leave them activated as they sleep.
For now, there are ways to help those of us who cannot hear at night. The attached disc on a specialized alarm clock can be tucked under a pillow. When the alarm rings, the disc vibrates, waking you. Bluetooth-enabled, vibrating wristbands can be paired with compatible alarms, smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, as well as home security systems. In active mode, strobe lights can flood a room with light when connected to carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms, home security systems, or baby monitoring units. If you travel solo, ask for a special-needs room when you book a reservation. These usually have strobe lights tied to the hotel’s fire alarm and carbon monoxide detecting systems. Household hearing systems can be purchased. Your audiologist can guide you in choosing the devices you need. Some states provide some of these safety gadgets free of charge.
While we meander through the hearing world, know that you can choose what you want to hear. I cherish this hearing benefit while outfitting my home with devices I need to function.

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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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