We all know what hearing loss is, but what does it look like? I’m often asked how I feel about my hearing loss, how I treat it, and how I cope. Truthfully, I ignore the fact that I don’t hear normally, slap in my hearing aids, and hope for the best. Yet, there are days when I wonder what it might be like to converse without aids or to hear every word in a song. It would be lovely to avoid that feeling that you’ve worked too hard after spending two hours with friends, struggling to hear against background noise.
It doesn’t matter what type of hearing loss you have, conductive, sensorineural, mixed or single-sided. As someone experiencing the loss of a sense, you can easily become discouraged. You might feel left out. People may purposely avoid you because they don’t know how to handle your lack of hearing. You might decide that socializing is no longer easy or comfortable so you stay home, hibernating.
It is important to have your hearing loss diagnosed and treated. Sometimes, a conductive hearing loss is curable. People with this type of hearing loss can hear sound but the loudness varies from dull to inaudible, depending on the severity of the disease. A conductive hearing loss can occur from a build-up of earwax, from tumors, after taking ototoxic medication, or after trauma.
People with sensorineural hearing loss have damaged inner ears. An audiogram and medical history are used to make this diagnosis. With this type of hearing loss, one often hears harsh sounds (bass sounds), but not soft sounds (alto and soprano sounds). As this type of hearing loss progresses, words sound garbled because you lose the ability to hear consonants. Turning up volume doesn’t make a difference. In fact, loudness can make hearing impossible and unbearable.
Mixed hearing loss involves both a conductive and sensorineural loss and is treated in various ways depending on the severity and cause of the loss. Single-sided hearing loss occurs in one ear. A physician must determine the root cause of such a loss before recommending treatment.
I suffer from sensorineural hearing loss and the disease has progressed through the stages of mild, moderate, severe, and now profound. I no longer notice that I don’t hear consonants. I treat my hearing loss with the best technology I can afford. I make regular visits to my audiologist. I lip read. I ask someone to repeat when not hearing them.
Like all with hearing loss, I’ve been caught pretending to hear. When Florida began to open up, my husband and I invited another couple to join us for dinner in our home. During the evening, one of our friends asked me a question. I thought he had made a comment about something we had been talking about, so I sat there nodding. Finally, my husband looked at me and said, “Did you hear what he asked you. We’re wondering what you think.”
I was frustrated because I thought my newly purchased hearing aids with artificial intelligence were failing. Yet, what I was expecting. That a technologically-advanced aid would return me to normal hearing? I asked our friend to repeat his question and then answered appropriately. Even with the latest and greatest in hearing aids and cochlear implants, you might not hear everything.
For me, that’s what hearing loss looks like. Good hearing mixed with moments of frustration. As I meander through the hearing world, I try to do the things that I know will help me hear. But when all systems fail, I shrug and hope for better hearing next time.

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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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