Do you remember yours? That moment when you realized your hearing loss was truly having an effect on your life and those around you? That moment that you decided that maybe it wasn’t everyone else mumbling and that just maybe it was your hearing?
I do! Mine happened in 2002. My daughter Christie had just graduated from high school and we decided to celebrate by going to San Francisco for a week. I had been tested and told that I had hearing loss. I even had some hearing aids back then but rarely wore them. I didn’t think I needed them. Sound familiar?
Late one afternoon we decided to go over to the wharf and have some of that great San Francisco seafood. I took my time eating my amazing seafood chowder and when I was finished, our young server came up to our table. He asked me a question but I wasn’t sure what he had asked me so I politely said, “I’m sorry?” and he asked me the question again. I still didn’t understand him and I was looking right at him. So I once again asked him to repeat what he had asked me.
In a frustrated and possibly embarrassed tone Christie said “MOM! He wants to know if you are done with your plate so he can take it!” I gave the young man an embarrassed smile and nodded that I was indeed finished.
I am not sure if my words here will fully describe the feelings that welled up inside of me at that point. My eyes filled up with tears and I did my best to hold them at bay. I looked out the window to my right and blinked several times to stop my tears from spilling over my eyelashes. My face was red from embarrassment and I had a lump in my throat.
What were all of these emotions I was feeling? I was 38 years old. How could this be happening to me? My hearing had been tested before and I knew I had a hearing loss and that I should even be wearing hearing aids. By that time, I had worked in this industry for 18 years, this was no big deal….just a hearing loss.
Why was I so upset? Didn’t I know better?
As I look back at that day, I am sure my reaction to that moment involved a lot more than just my own situation. Suddenly, I started seeing the faces of so many of our patients. The pain they had gone through in possibly similar situations before they had the courage to come in to see us. The pain and frustration their family members had gone through. I had just experienced a breakdown in communication due to my hearing loss and all of the emotions that came with it. I was visualizing the look of hopelessness some of our patients have when they first sit down with us and then the look of hope when we tell them how we are going to help them.
I have always been passionate about helping my patients hear better, but my own personal experience took that passion to an entirely new level. When I am with a patient, I spend most of my time gaining an understanding of where their hearing loss is causing the pain. What impact is the communication breakdown having on their relationships? On their own personalities?
When a patient goes in to his or her MD’s office with a broken arm or a bleeding leg, holding their chest in pain, or not able to put pressure on a foot, their doctor is able to look right at them and have an idea of where it hurts. Hearing loss carries with it a different type of pain. A silent, emotional pain. It tears at the fabric of relationships. It can lead to feelings of insecurity and isolation. Those of us with hearing loss learn to nod and smile and shake our heads rather than ask yet again for someone to repeat themselves. To have someone say what they said louder and we still don’t get it, then we feel we are being yelled at. Or they look at us and say, “never mind” at which point we feel we are just not important enough….
But at the end of the day, it is up to us. Those of us with the hearing loss must take action. Our family and friends are sick of working so hard to communicate with us and they shouldn’t have to. We have to take personal responsibility to resolve our hearing issues. We owe it to ourselves and to our loved ones.
If you have had an AHA moment with your hearing loss…please let me know about it. If you need to have your hearing tested; take action today! I can tell you from my own personal experience there is a sense of calm and confidence when I have my hearing aids on!