“Why do you think you need hearing aids?” the audiologist asked.
I looked into her eyes and answered, “I have to look at my grandbabies and say, ‘Stop. Look at me so I can see what you’re saying.’”
Genie nodded and made a notation on the clipboard on her lap.
“And when my husband talks to me, he doesn’t touch my hand or say my name to get my attention before he begins to talk. Then when I say, ‘I didn’t hear what you said,’ he gets upset because he has to repeat himself.”
“Yes,” she chuckled good-naturedly, “it’s time. We can help.”
“I’ve withdrawn from people, especially crowded places. It’s embarrassing when someone says something and then they stand there and look at me, waiting for an answer. I think, ‘I didn’t hear what was said! I don’t know what I’m supposed to say!’”
“You’re going to be surprised when you realize what you’ve been missing,” she advised.
We chatted for a while, during which time she prepared ‘plugs’ to place in the ear canal to keep the molding mixture where she wanted it. The plugs were made from small pieces of cotton ball tied with thread. The mold would be used to make my custom-made hearing aids. When the plugs were in place, she pumped the mixture into my ear canals, sealing out any sounds at all. I couldn’t hear the voice of the student who shadowed her that day. Genie’s voice was just the right pitch and tone that I could hear her speak, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying and her face was turned to profile so I couldn't read her lips. The only other sound I picked up on was the drawer when it closed against the cabinet face and it was very vague.
Was this what it was like to be profoundly deaf? My body began to tense, as if I was getting ready to take flight in panic. Genie touched the molds to see if they were set up and motioned to me that it would be another minute, unaware of my discomfort. Relax. I told myself it would be over soon, that it was just a temporary thing. There was a great feeling of relief when she took hold of the thread attached to the plugs and gently tugged the molds from my ears.
Most insurances don’t cover hearing aids, I’ve been advised. Genie asked a number of questions and from my answers determined that the Rehabilitation Commission will likely pay for my hearing aides because, in my work as a publicist and writer, I need to be able to communicate on the telephone and in face-to-face interviews. Additionally, I am planning to return to college beginning in fall semester and will need to be able to hear and communicate to complete my studies.
She also advised that the Rehabilitation Commission might also assist me with getting new glasses, for all the same reasons.
I chose hearing aids that will be hidden inside the ear canal. I don’t wish to advertise a disability and become ‘labeled’ and stigmatized. A hearing or vision impairment doesn’t mean I am brain-impaired. My skills and abilities in my work are sharp, and those skills are what I want to be judged on. So why am I announcing it at Senior Living? Because I want to encourage you if you are hearing-impaired. And I want you to understand that an impairment doesn't have to stop us from achieving our dreams and goals.
As we age, hearing loss is not an uncommon development. It also is not limited only to aging folks. Young people also experience hearing loss. Don’t be afraid to go to a hearing specialist to find out why you are experiencing hearing loss and get what you need to be able to hear clearly again, if possible. The earlier a hearing problem is detected, the better. You need to hear the world you’re missing.