I’ll forgive you for wondering where on earth I’m going with this but give me a minute because truly, hearing loss, and especially untreated hearing loss has a lot to do with Christmas. I always associate the Holidays with family get-togethers and while on the surface that’s supposed to mean happiness and joy, most families are not without their conflicts and hearing loss can compound those conflicts.
Let me tell you a story …
My mother was deaf in one ear, her left one, for as long as I could remember. I know she told us how it came to be but that part I don’t remember. I do know that as children, my siblings and I instinctively and nonchalantly adapted to her hearing loss, standing on her right when we wanted her to hear, being on her left and whispering when we didn’t. It really didn’t seem to be an issue.
Years later that changed. It became an issue. A big issue.
I’d go back to visit my parents and find that my mum would have the radio on in the kitchen so loud that we had trouble hearing the television in the living room even though the kitchen door was shut and there was a brick wall between the two rooms. Turning up the T.V. was not a good option because aside from the general noise level in the house becoming uncomfortable, it would mean the radio in the kitchen getting louder in response!
We’d sit down to dinner and she would interrupt whoever was talking saying something that really wasn’t relevant without realizing it. My unscientific explanation was that it was her way of staying in the conversation – she couldn’t really follow what was being said but if she could get the gist of it and jump in, then she would feel included. If she didn’t interrupt she would feel isolated, alone sitting at a table surrounded by her family.
It took a while for us to realize that the problem was hearing loss.
After one particularly painful dinner, I finally got up the courage to talk to Mum about her untreated hearing loss and the problems it was causing for us. It was a very difficult, tearful conversation as she admitted her feelings of vulnerability and vanity. I begged her to go for a consultation with an audiologist. I wasn’t asking her to commit to getting a hearing aid, I just wanted her to find out her options.
On my next visit home, she showed me her hearing aid. She was still getting used to it. It was kind of clunky. There were situations where it didn’t work very well because of feedback but she was upbeat and glad she’d sought help. She conceded that it was good to hear conversation again.
That was over twenty years ago and advances in technology have significantly increased hearing aid options now. So as you prepare for the Holidays and family visits, if you know your hearing is not as good as it used to be … be honest now … I encourage you to find an audiologist to help you. ASHA.org website has a search function you can use. Hearing loss isn’t just for the elderly; my mother was in her fifties.
If you have a loved one who has untreated hearing loss, please think about having a conversation with them. I know it isn’t comfortable but a recent AARP/ASHA poll showed that nearly 70 percent of respondents said they would seek treatment for a hearing problem if they were asked to do so by a loved one. How great would it be if you were the person who got your mom, your dad, your grandfather a new lease on life because they could hear again?
Find out more about hearing loss and available resources at ASHA.org.
I wrote this blog post while participating in a Campaign by BoomBoxNetwork.com on behalf of ASHA.org and received payment for my participation. The story I’ve shared is my own and the opinions are also my own.