By Vivian Hoang
I once saw a client – let’s call her Lily – that came in because her dog had chewed her hearing aids. Lily had managed without her hearing aids for months because she was too embarrassed to tell her audiologist what had happened. She became motivated to book an appointment when she failed a test on a course she was taking. She knew that she could have passed if she’d been able to hear the teacher clearly. When I saw Lily, she was upset, and understandably so. The audiologist and I comforted Lily and assured her that her hearing aids would be repaired and when they were, she could get back to normal life.
Moral of the story: The “my dog ate my hearing aids” excuse is a valid one!
I never appreciated how important my hearing is for living life until I decided to become an audiologist. Simple things like dining at a restaurant with your friends, chatting with your family at a gathering, or attending a work meeting, can turn into a struggle when you have trouble hearing. It’s then not surprising that social isolation is one of the biggest problems experienced by someone with a hearing loss. Straining to hear conversations and constantly having to ask people to repeat what they’re saying can be exhausting, and embarrassing. People with a hearing loss struggle in noisy environments where there is a lot of background noise; settings like restaurants, or when multiple people are talking at the same time. Participating in conversations can become so tiring that they stop participating at all. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay home.
Many of the clients I see report that they go out infrequently and that they avoid situations in which they have difficulty hearing. This often results in strained relationships with the people in their life – their partner, family, friends, and colleagues. And it sucks! It sucks that a hearing loss can come to negatively impact every facet of their life. Some people might find it extremely difficult to follow conversations around the table at a restaurant, and so they stop going to restaurants. They can’t hear their friends at a party because of the loud music and all of the background chatter, so they stop going to parties. It’s logical. And then suddenly, their wife complains that they never go out, and their best friend complains that they never see them, and they find that they’ve isolated themselves from their loved ones.
Dealing with a hearing loss is difficult, especially if someone is just beginning to accept it. The support of family and friends can be crucial and the fact that a hearing loss can drive a wedge between loved ones just makes staying in a relationship especially hard.
If you are experiencing a hearing loss it’s important that you see a professional and as the old adage goes, you are not alone. For those who know someone with a hearing loss, please remember that communication is a two-way street. It’s on them to do their best to communicate effectively with you, but it’s also your responsibility to ensure that you make it as easy as possible to be understood.