It happened slowly. I couldn’t hear the oven buzzer. I wasn’t aware of the funny noise in the car. My daughters started to mumble. I shouldn’t have been surprised. My mother has hearing loss, and I promised my family that I would get hearing aids when the time came. Certainly that would be a long time from now.
But just to be safe, I decided to go to The University of Akron’s Audiology and Speech Center and have an assessment. I figured that I could get a baseline on my hearing, and I could reassure my family that hearing aids were not needed.
I met with an audiologist and two students. They looked in my ears and asked me questions about my hearing. I listened to beeps and repeated words. I thought I did pretty well, except that some of the high tones seemed to get lost in the constant ringing in my head. When the testing was over, the audiologist told me that I did have some mild and moderate hearing loss at high frequencies, and I was a candidate for hearing aids.
The first thing I thought was: “Gosh, I’m old!”
I didn’t tell anyone that I had gone and that I had ordered hearing aids. I had to process that information myself. I finally told my husband, only because I put the cost on our charge!
Then the day came for me to get the actual hearing aids. I knew it was for the best, but I dreaded it. Was I in for a surprise! The hearing aids were so tiny and fit behind my ear very inconspicuously. A tiny clear tube from the aid was placed in my ear canal. They were not noticeable at all!
“Okay! I can do this!” I thought.
Then I heard sounds: The fan above me, wrinkling paper, and clear, loud voices. It was so cool! Everywhere I went I heard more sounds. I didn’t realize what I had been missing. I hear the click of my keyboard. I hear the crickets at night. (Who knew there were so many?!) I hear birds in the morning again! I hear the leaves rustle, though at first I thought it was some kind of static in the hearing aids. I hear the trickle in the toilet as the water fills. I had to stop and flush again because I couldn’t believe I had never heard that trickle. At night when I take the aids out, it gets dull and quieter. It is as if a cloud has passed over the sun of sound.
I am not alone. According to the , 18 percent of American adults age 45 to 64, 30 percent of adults 65 to 74, and 47 percent of adults 75 and older have some hearing loss. Of adults age 20 to 69, 15 percent have hearing loss of high frequencies due to exposure to loud sound. The sad fact is that only 1 out of 5 people who could benefit from hearing aids actually wear them. This could be due to the fact that most insurance plans do not cover the cost. This is a shame! Hearing loss is a public health issue.
There are important reasons to wear hearing aids. Did you know that there is a correlation between hearing loss and dementia? One thought is that the brain is so overworked by processing sound that it becomes more vulnerable to dementia. Perhaps hearing aids can stave off dementia. I am all about preserving my brain function! Also, people with hearing loss tend to be isolated and have a harder time with relationships because of difficulty with communication. That leads to depression…not a fun place to be.
I wore the hearing aids for three days, and they went unnoticed by my family. I finally had to point them out. Truthfully, although I am happy that they aren’t big contraptions, I would wear them anyway because I love hearing the full range of sound. And I don’t feel old. I feel alive and in the world!
Heidi Eve-Cahoon, CNP
Breast Care Navigator
Summa Health System