As conversations go, it ended up being a wide ranging discussion of our hearing loss journey to the point of us both getting Cochlear implants. Our reasons for needing this technology are different, as to the cause of the loss, but the story is similar.
This friend mentioned that the turning point was when they realized just how much of their kid's life they were missing. That led to a deep sadness that continued after they got their Cochlear implant. Not a sadness over getting their hearing back, but the fact that there was so much they would never know that they missed before the implant.
I mentioned that I was really in denial about my hearing loss. Sure, I knew I was not hearing well, but I never realized how little I was really hearing.
There was an insecurity the last few months before my return to the doctor. This was before I even realized an implant was an option for me. I was becoming paranoid in my conversations in public. I would notice people staring at me while I was talking to others. Yes, really. I brushed it off as best I could, but it continued. Why were people staring at me? What was their problem?
Turns out, it was my problem.
One thing that people losing their hearing are in denial about is that we think we are the only ones that can tell. We go about our life compensating as best as we can. We attempt to hide it from others because the stigma of being hard of hearing or deaf is so great, especially as a late deafened adult. It's human nature. We don't want to be seen as different.
Not only hearing, but how many people walk around with poor eyesight, yet refuse to get an eye exam and glasses. They use "cheaters" as long as they can, even though they are cheap and maybe not that effective. Yet when kids and adults alike, finally get glasses they are amazed at what they had been missing.
But that acceptance for hearing loss is still not there. We hide, deny, and reject the fact that we lose our hearing. For some it means they are officially "old". For others, it makes them seem less intelligent. Nothing could be further form the truth.
So, why was I having this perception of people staring at me? I got that answer very quickly when I had my Cochlear implant activated, or switched on. I still had enough hearing in one ear that I could hear myself. I was in denial yet that I was deaf, and I was only hopeful that this device would restore some sort of hearing to my 18 year deaf ear. I walked into the office that day and was talking to my wife and the audiologist. Yes, I could barely hear them and myself.
At the moment she went live with the Cochlear implant, I got the full exposure to why people were staring. Yes, they actually were. And the reason was very simple. I was one of the rare exceptions to the typical activation in that I could understand speech immediately and I was loud. Not just a little loud. I was yelling loud. I now understood why my wife and kids would accuse me of yelling at home. It's because I was. I was yelling in order to hear myself. I had no idea. Yet everyone else did. I was yelling so much, that it was actually exhausting me to talk.
The next day I had my second programming session and the audiologist's first words to me were something along the lines of "I can tell you are much softer today already." I could tell too. My chest actually hurt from not using so much force to speak.
The point I am making is this: I applaud the gentleman for finally using the PLD's, I do not know the struggles he was having to hear. I am sure some of them were emotional on his part. It takes courage to own up to your loss. It takes courage to seek help. It takes courage to have people "know" you have severe hearing loss.
But really, chances are, they already know.
'til next time
Just a guy trying to live with an invisible, potentially debilitating illness