Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.
~ Helen Keller
Did you know that 1 in 3 people ages 65 to 75 have some form of hearing loss?
I’m one of them.
I’ve had trouble hearing for several years. I was in my early fifties when I first had difficulty hearing someone talking to me from one room, while I was in another. Also, If I was running water or cooking with the fan on, I couldn't hear all the words that were being spoken behind me.
Watching movies or programs on television became a problem, especially when I was visiting my children. Even if they turned the volume up, it was never quite enough for me to hear all the words, especially if it was a high female voice. So, I'd smile and laugh along with everyone, watching the screen closely, so as to appear engaged.
As time passed, I found myself often asking, What did you say? or Sorry, I didn't hear what you said.
One time, at my son's house, we ordered food in. Rob said, "we use DoorDash, and they are really quick." I asked what it was called again and I know I had a puzzled look on my face. Rob, repeated the word more slowly, but I still looked puzzled! With a little laugh he said, "Mama, you need to get your ears checked!" I laughed also, but I thought, Jordache is a funny name for a delivery service. I figured the jean company must have decided to get into the food delivery service.
It was nearly a year before I discovered that I heard it incorrectly. I laughed at my misunderstanding, realizing that my hearing was definitely causing me some problems.
After a few trips of sitting in the backseat of a car, trying to be a part of conversations that sounded more like mumbling to my ears, plus the inability to hear a grandchild whisper sweet stories, I decided it was high time that I made an appointment!
Once I was on the schedule, I began observing more closely where I was having the most trouble hearing. I began noticing when and how often I laughed, nodded my head in agreement, or just smiled when I didn't hear what was being said. I paid attention when watching television, noting what voices I could hear and how often I turned up the television during a movie or tv show. After the month-long wait was over, I had solid information to share with the audiologist.
The testing was Thorough!
The entire exam was done in a sound-proof booth with the doctor speaking to me, or a recorded voice, through earbuds. Each ear was tested separately, to isolate the problem.
I began by repeating words that the doctor said. Then a series of beeps were played in each ear and I was supposed to push a button when I heard them. A recorded male voice spoke a series of words in high and low volumes. I also repeated sentences that were read by a recorded female voice. After the first sentence, one, two, then several voices were added in the background. The goal was to find the speaker's voice among the many talking at the same volume.
At first, it seemed easy. But then there appeared to be periods where I didn't hear any beeping in either ear. And, when the volume was turned down, it became more difficult to make out words. I knew my left ear was a problem but it became apparent that my right ear had issues also. Once all the testing was completed, we returned to his office to review the results.
On the computer screen, a graph displayed two lines, representing each ear. The red line showed that my left ear was having problems with certain letters. Although the blue line showed that the right ear was better, both ears had significant hearing loss when it came to hearing very high-pitched sounds. Plus, both ears had difficultly with hearing certain letters at lower volumes. Words that I missed were close, but not the actual word. That's why DoorDash became Jordache!
Obviously, the next topic was hearing aids!
The doctor asked me about my lifestyle and activities surrounded by noise. Once that was established, he brought out several styles and colors. I was overwhelmed!
He told me that the real expense when buying hearing devices is in technology. The better the technology, the better the capabilities. Some needed nightly charging versus ones needing batteries. After lots of questions and personal considerations, I was ready to purchase.
I decided on a small, receiver in the ear hearing aids, which need weekly batteries. They are in a brown tone that matches the underneath of my hair. (At least for now!) They have very small wires that fit into the ear with Bluetooth capabilities. Meaning, if I need to turn them up or down, I just use my i-phone!
The doctor said it would take about 6 weeks to get used to wearing my hearing devices. Two weeks to get used to them in my ears, with the rest of the time adjusting to the sound of my voice and all the other noises that had been lost to me.
Believe it or not, I was/am excited!!
I had a friend touch my arm gently and tell me how sorry she was at the news. It struck me as an odd thing to say because I didn’t feel sad. I felt joyful at the prospects of hearing well again. No more missing out on conversations from the backseat, no more lost words and voices in movies, and no more straining to hear the television.
Having the ability to hear my plane called in a busy airport, enjoying the whispers of my grandchildren, and hearing what is being said across the room, leaves me feeling quite joy-filled!
Hearing loss can occur for many reasons. Men, more often than women, have earring loss due to their choice of occupation and recreation. Prolonged exposure to loud sounds without ear protection leads to hearing loss. It can also be caused by heredity, illness, and medications.
For me, I had vertigo when I was 50 that had me so sick I could hardly sit up, so the doctor said that could be a factor. I also have very small ear canal openings and ears that lay flat to my head, so that is an issue as well. With my hearing problems began in my early 50’s, there may be a family history that I'm unaware of. Since I am one of the 3 people, between 65 and 70, who experience hearing loss, I decided to do a bit of research on the subject, with quite concerning findings.
A study from John Hopkins revealed that not only is hearing loss frustrating, it also is linked with walking problems, falls, and even dementia. After tracking 639 adults for nearly 12 years, doctors found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Moderate loss tripled risk, and people with severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia.
The links between hearing and health were quite interesting. With nearly 27 million Americans age 50 and older having hearing loss, and only one in seven using a hearing aid, the following information should make people take notice:
- Hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain. When you lose certain areas of hearing, that area of the brain begins to shut down over time.
- Hearing loss contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are, you may not want to engage in conversations.
- While walking, your ears pick up subtle cues that help with balance. Hearing loss mutes these signals, causing unnecessary falls. It also makes your brain work harder just to process sound. This subconscious multitasking may interfere with some of the mental processing needed to walk safely.
For those who have, or suspect they have hearing issues, what are you doing about it? If you are ignoring it, for whatever reason, you might want to take this information to heart.
Over the years, I've heard many excuses for not getting or wearing hearing devices:
- My hearing really isn't that bad if people would quit mumbling!
- They make me look and feel old!
- They really bother my ears.
- Everything seems so much louder when I have them on. Plus, they are difficult to turn down.
- I forget to put them on in in the morning.
But after reading the research findings, those issues become quite trivial compared to the alternatives.
Untreated hearing loss is nothing to fool
around with. It is detrimental to your health!
Although I don't have my hearing aids yet, I'm so looking forward to getting them!
I’m grateful that hearing aids have been greatly improved, not only in their sound quality but in size. In fact, with the new blue tooth earbuds that people are using with their phones, I will look right in style!
Please, don’t get me wrong, I may be happy to wear hearing aids, but I'm vain in other areas. For instance, my vanity keeps me dying and highlighting my hair every 5 to 6 weeks!
Someday, that will change. Eventually, I will quit highlighting my hair with blonde streaks to hid the gray. But I will have to keep dying my hair brown so it matches my hearing aids ;)