Think about what you're missing – and who you're annoying

by Martin Jurek, Campbell River Hearing Clinic

Last year around this time, a man walked into my clinic. With a chuckle and a shake of his head, he told me his hearing was fine but his son told him he had to get it checked or he wouldn’t come to visit anymore.

I proceeded to test the man’s hearing with a pretty good idea of what I was going to find. I’d seen it a hundred times before and I’ll see it a hundred times again: the first ones to notice your hearing loss are, nine times out of ten, the people around you.

Now fitted with a nearly invisible hearing aid, that same man returned to my office just the other day with his visiting son in tow. You know what he said this time? “I should have done this a long time ago.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that – well, I wouldn’t have had to beg Santa for those new mountain bike pedals. Living with reduced hearing sensitivity is like walking through life with tunnel vision; you rarely realize the significance of what you’re missing.

Once hearing is restored, however, it’s like the veil has been lifted on all the subtle pleasures that give life meaning and depth.

You don’t know what you’re missing

One of my favourite parts of my job is watching clients rediscover the things they never even knew they were missing. Here are just a few of the things they’ve told me:

“After I was fitted with hearing aids, one of my co-workers said to me, ‘My you’re chatty today!’ I didn’t realize how much I’d been unconsciously avoiding conversations because of my hearing loss.”

"Now I realize how much my family had to repeat themselves around me, and how annoying that must have been. I thought I'd be embarrassed by wearing hearing aids, but it was much more embarrassing trying to cover for my obvious hearing loss."

“I never realized the creek behind our house made such a nice relaxing sound – I forgot about that!”

“I left last year’s Christmas party early because I was annoyed not being able to understand anybody. This year, people couldn’t wait for me to leave because I was yakking so much!”

Why can’t it be me saying all those nice things?

Oh, but it can. All you need to do is make the decision to book a free hearing assessment, if only to ensure you truly are living life to its fullest. If it turns out you are missing out on some of life’s subtle aural pleasures (that’s AUral), there’s plenty we can do.

A successful hearing solution requires just three elements:

1. You

Hey, you’re already a third of the way there, right? Not so fast. You don’t merely have to exist, you must also be genuinely motivated to invest some time and energy into restoring your hearing and listening ability. Simply putting in hearing aids and expecting to understand everything perfectly is like going in for hip surgery and expecting to dance out of the operating room – it ain’t gonna happen. But with a little patience, you’ll soon be tap dancing like Fred Astaire. Figuratively speaking of course.

2. Your hearing care provider

Full disclosure: I’m a hearing care provider and I sincerely hope you choose me. That said, it’s important that you find a hearing care provider whom you like and trust, as you’ll be spending a fair deal of time with him or her. Perception and comfort are different for every individual – just as some people like red while others prefer blue, we each respond differently to different “aural tones." The person programming your instruments needs to understand how these variables apply to you. And for the record, I prefer orange – a fact that will become obvious the moment you step into our office.

3. A hearing instrument 

With so many features, styles and price points, it’s nearly impossible to choose the right hearing aid on your own. But have no fear – you’ll have plenty of help from that trustworthy, likable hearing care practitioner you chose in element #2. (You picked me, right?) I will – er, I mean he or she will – look at your lifestyle needs, budget and type and degree of hearing loss and help you identify the options that will give you the best result.

Please don’t come see me

Let me explain . . . .

I’ll be thrilled if you choose me to be the one to help improve your hearing, and I do sincerely believe I can help you find an ideal solution. But words are cheap.

What I really want you to do is ask around. Find out what’s worked and what hasn’t for people you know with hearing aids. Ask them who they recommend, and why. Hopefully our name comes up, but the most important thing is that you find someone you trust and with whom you’re comfortable.

Did you take my Holiday Hearing Challenge?

Before the holidays, I gave you some homework. I challenged each of you to pay attention to how you felt during the paper-crumbling, toddler-shrieking, off-colour-joke-laughing din of the holidays. You see, people with even mild hearing loss need to exert a lot of extra effort to understand conversations under these conditions. This often causes those same people to become exhausted, annoyed and downright Grinch-like for no apparent reason.

Even worse is the way it can annoy the people around you, who constantly have to repeat themselves for your benefit. Typically you won't even realize you're doing it until someone points it out – then you realize everyone knew about your hearing loss but you.

So if you found that any of your holiday festivities left you or your loved ones feeling less than merry, you can draw one of two conclusions: 1) It’s time to stop spending so much time with your raucous family; or 2) It’s time to book a free hearing assessment, start enjoying the people around you and vastly improve the quality of your relationships.

When you’re ready – or if you’d just like to find out more – give us a call or stop in at our office at 780-D 13th Avenue.  No pressure. No judgment. Just honest answers.