by Martin Jurek
A friend of mine has severe
arthritis in his left ankle, which makes him walk with a noticeable
limp. Last weekend we hiked the Ripple Rock trail, and I had to
constantly nag him to keep up. I found it really inconsiderate – and
rude – of him to keep us from enjoying the trail at a reasonable pace.
What a useless, lazy oaf.
Before you dismiss me as a heartless
creep, let me assure you that this didn’t really happen. Like you, I
realize how insensitive it sounds. I made up this scenario to make a
point: that this is exactly how people with reduced hearing sensitivity
are treated every day.
The burden of invisibility
hearing sensitivity is a very real condition that affects about one in
10 Canadians. But it’s an invisible condition. Without a limp, cane or
other visual reminder to draw attention, it’s easy for others to forget –
or never even realize – the condition exists.
In many cases, the
person with reduced hearing sensitivity doesn’t even realize their
hearing is affected. They don’t understand why everyone seems to be
mumbling, why they’re mentally exhausted and grumpy at the end of the
day or why they increasingly retreat from social interaction.
complexity and slow, progressive nature can also create confusion. A
loss in the high frequencies, for example, often means someone can hear
well in a small, carpeted computer room but not in a kitchen with tile
flooring and a running dishwasher. Needless to say, this sort of
“selective hearing” can create serious tension between partners and
quickly lead to the kind of scorn and contempt described above.
expect people with reduced hearing sensitivity to engage in
conversation in noisy restaurants. We get annoyed (or ignore them
entirely) when they ask us to repeat ourselves. We lose patience and
accuse them of not listening when they miss important details.
not fair, and it makes me sad to see it beat down so many good people
and spoil so many otherwise loving relationships. By the same token,
just as other people might be inconsiderate of someone with reduced
hearing sensitivity, it’s just as inconsiderate of that person to do
nothing and simply expect everyone around them to be patient.
A cure for annoying husbands?
In my practice, I’ve seen again and again how reduced hearing sensitivity can create serious tension between partners.
couple I saw recently was having a particularly difficult time. The
wife was upset with her husband because she thought he was ignoring her
and because he continually disappeared whenever company came over. While
she suspected his hearing sensitivity had changed somewhat, she thought
he was taking advantage of the situation and was simply being rude. As
you can imagine, their relationship suffered accordingly.
completing her husband’s hearing test, I plugged the results into a
hearing simulator and had the wife listen to a recorded story. When she
heard for herself how her husband heard all the time – and realized how
difficult it must be for him – she began to cry. She apologized
profusely and promised to be more understanding.
These are the
moments I live for; the moment someone suddenly understands just how
profound an effect reduced hearing can have on one’s life and realizes
how unfair society is to people whose hearing is less than perfect.
a society, we demand wheelchair ramps for public buildings and audio
signals for the visually impaired. But nobody cares that the acoustics
of the local church, or the constant hum of a furnace at the local
community centre, are torturous to 10% of the population.
Get to know your hearing
truly love what I do. It’s not the tinkering with electronics that I
love (although I do enjoy that), or the bookkeeping and other paperwork
(I sincerely dislike that). It’s watching how dramatically lives and
relationships can be improved with better hearing – and even with the
mere understanding of what the world sounds like through the ears of
someone with reduced hearing sensitivity.
Most people with reduced
hearing sensitivity don’t even know it. So if you recognize any of the
scenarios above, or you have any reason to suspect your hearing isn’t as
sharp as it once was, you owe it to yourself and the people around you
to get it checked out.
We’d be happy to provide you with a
complimentary hearing assessment, and we’ll even let you experience the
hearing simulator I mentioned earlier.
Every decision about your
health and your hearing, of course, is yours and yours alone. We’re not
going to pressure you or try to “sell” you anything – I don’t like it
when people do that to me and I’m certainly not going to do it to you.
If I can help you better understand the complexities of hearing
sensitivity, though, I’ve done my job. If I can provide you with a
solution that will improve your relationships and quality of life, then
I’ve really done my job.
You can call me, if and when you’re ready, at 250-914-3200.