So, if this pandemic has taught me anything – it has forced me to acknowledge how much I rely on lip reading during everyday situations. Those masks, while important for helping to stop the spread of viruses, are a challenge for those of us with hearing impairments. What I also noticed is that mask-wearing caused several people in my circle of friends and family to acknowledge that perhaps their hearing wasn’t up to par.
My friends and family are all aware that I wear hearing aids. I’ve worn them since I was five years old. They are so much a part of my “being” that I don’t even think twice about them. I lost my hearing as a child due to multiple, really bad ear infections. My hearing loss is considered to be severe/profound – meaning without my hearing aids in you all sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher in old cartoons. I may be dating myself there – so another example would be try talking with your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth. You can hear the sounds but they don’t make sense.
But my type of hearing loss is only one example – you can have mild to moderate loss from prolonged exposure to loud noises. Loss of hearing can be due to things like job situations (artillery, machinery, etc), rocking out in your car during your teenage years or just general aging.
. So here are few common questions people have asked me most recently about hearing loss:
- How do I know if I have hearing loss? Have your hearing tested by a certified audiologist. Chances are if you’re having trouble hearing or understanding speech in a noisy environment (TV is on, restaurant, meetings) – you should probably get your hearing checked out. Trust me NO ONE likes the annoying beeping tests but they are important for validating hearing ranges.
- Are there different types of hearing aids? Yes. There are Behind The Ear(BTE) for mild – profound hearing loss (BTEs are what I wear); In The Ear (ITE) for mild – severe, and Canal aids that are used for mild to moderate loss. Images of each of these can be seen here on the Mayo Clinic’s website
- Are hearing aids expensive? Yes and in a lot of cases insurance plans don’t cover them. However, I would check with your audiologist on pricing, insurance-coverage and payment plans.
- Are there benefits to wearing hearing aids? Besides being able to hear, I can think of a couple – new technologies allow me to stream sound directly from other devices to my hearing aids. (For example my TV, cell phone and Peloton all stream to my aids). Another perk is that if my husband and I are arguing – the fastest way to end the argument is for me to remove my hearing aids. (Petty but it works)
- Are there downsides? The only main issue I have with hearing aids is that they are not waterproof. I would love to be able to go to the beach, pool, lake and not have to worry about removing them or getting them wet. I’m hoping some of these up and coming engineering & research focused college graduates will bring new and innovative ideas to hearing loss and treatment options.
- Are they comfortable? Well they are custom-made to fit your ears so I think so. If you’ve ever worn air pods or a Bluetooth device in your ears – you can handle wearing hearing aids. Some people may need to gradually wear them longer and longer each day so their brain has time to adjust to sounds that they may not have been hearing previously.
- Who is your audiologist? I have been seeing Dr. Hoehl at Vienna Hearing Center for probably 15 years now. She is the best I’ve ever worked with in over my 40+ years of wearing aids.
- I’m worried about how other people will react. This isn’t a question as much as a comment I get when discussing hearing aids with others. My response is that don’t miss out on hearing all the beauty in the world because of someone else’s opinion. What you’ll find out is that to the people who know and love you – it’s just becomes a part of who you are. They will be happy to know you are addressing a challenge and taking care of yourself.
My 6 year old niece showing me that her American Girl doll wears hearing aids just like me. I didn’t know this doll existed and I have to say it warmed my heart to see it. Representation matters.