A version of this was originally published in Prevention Magazine’s “9 Women Share What It Feels Like To Lose Your Hearing.”
You don’t appreciate your hearing until you lose it. You may not even realize it’s happening. Hearing loss can develop gradually, and our body instinctively adjusts. Or if you’re like me, you spend 12 years denying it and finding ways to hide it until you hit rock-bottom (fail your torts class in law school), and then you discover the revelation that is hearing aids. Over the last 12 years, I’ve learned that hearing loss affects everything — work, school, health, love. I’ve had so many moments where I look back and think with regret on not acknowledging my hearing loss sooner (over 80 percent of my hearing is now gone), on how much I screwed up or missed out on because of it.
Now I spend my days as a Starkey Hearing Technologies communications associate and my nights as the author of “Hear ‘What?'” videos and blogs. My days are spent trying to help others accept their hearing loss, help family and loved with ones with hearing loss, and, when they’re ready, take the courageous leap to consider better hearing solutions like hearing aids. Basically between work and this lovely little blog here, my goal is to help others avoid 12 years of living a “half-life” as I did.
So what’s it like to lose your hearing?
Well, it goes something like this: You deny it, because of course you’re too young and you didn’t play your music that loud. You get frustrated at not being able to hear and blame your mother for mumbling. You get angry that something that should be so easy is suddenly so hard. You try to hide it when you realize you can’t fix it; lip reading, sitting in the front row, watching others around you to make sure that you laugh when they do even when you missed the joke. You feel ashamed because you’re suddenly not able to do things you used to, like everybody else — nobody else wants to nap at 2 p.m. because they spent all morning struggling to listen in meetings. You get depressed because you can’t experience or enjoy things like your friends can; making excuses to miss drinks on Friday night because the “fun musical atmosphere” of your formerly favorite bar is now horrendously noisy chaos. Instead you hide and isolate yourself, because it seems easier, pulling away from everything and everyone. They are frustrated when you can’t hear, you’re frustrated when you can’t hear, and you’re tired of trying. You hide at the barn crying into a horse’s neck because horses don’t require you to have a conversation and won’t tease you when you respond incorrectly to a question.
Eventually though, you hit your moment. The moment when you are done letting your broken ears rule your life. The moment when getting help, though hard to accept, is a relief. The moment when you realize that better hearing actually does mean better living.