I've been gradually losing my hearing for the last ten years or so. In recent years it has progressed to the point where there are many sounds I cannot hear and many conversations I cannot follow. It makes it hard at work and in social situations. It is frustrating and isolating.
It saddens me when I can't hear the things most people can. A couple years ago my daughter asked me if I could hear the brakes on my car grinding. No, I didn't. John asks if I can hear the train, or the helicopter overhead, or the thunder, or the cat pawing at the door. I sadly shake my head and answer "no". I can't begin to tell you how many jokes were generated over things I misheard. I laughed along and laughed at myself, but it didn't really feel all that funny on the inside. I also lost the ability to accurately gauge if my own voice was too loud or too soft. It always sounded ok to me, because we hear ourselves differently than others hear us.
A few years ago I bought a pair of hearing aids, and they weren't cheap. But they were the analog kind, not digital, and they did not adjust to different sound environments. I had to constantly adjust the volume manually. They did not filter out background noise. I heard everything - from a paperclip falling on the floor to my keys clicking against the steering column of my car. I am extremely sensitive to noise and it made me crazy. When using the telephone they squealed with feedback. Ouch! The audiologist who prescribed them assured me that I would get used to this, but I never did. They weren't very comfortable either and having them in my ears bugged me. I couldn't wait until bedtime so I could take them out. Eventually I just gave up the struggle and put them away in a drawer.
Since that time I've been fumbling my way thru meetings and conversations, and asking for the tv to be turned up louder so I could hear it. My new work environment accentuated the problem and made me aware of just how much worse my hearing has become. I answer the telephones. We have ten lines and twenty one extensions. It keeps me busy. I have to strain to hear what is being said and respond correctly. Sometimes I have to ask customers to repeat themselves. There is a glass window in front of our counter with an opening at the bottom for payments to be passed thru. When customers talk to me, the glass muffles their words, making it even more difficult to hear what they are saying. By the end of the day I am exhausted with the effort.
But wait... this story has a happy ending! At long last I am finally in a financial position to be able to afford new hearing aids (though it will take me two years to pay for them) - state of the art digital hearing aids that are mini-computers capable of self-adjusting to various sound environments. They automatically sense when I pick up a telephone too, and adjust accordingly so I can hear conversations clearly with no feedback. (How do they sense that, you wonder? So did I. The answer is that phone receivers have a magnet which they can detect. :-) A week ago I went for new hearing tests and they were ordered, and today I was able to go and pick them up. The audiologist actually connects them to his computer to fine-tune the settings for each individual's needs.
WOW! I left his office wide-eyed and near tears. I can hear.... I CAN HEAR!! I could hear his receptionist talking to us from the next room. When I got in the car I was stunned to discover that my car radio was blasting. (It always seemed moderately loud to me before.) I called John on my cellphone just to hear his voice... it was wonderful! Then I returned to work and for the first time had no trouble hearing what customers and callers were saying. I could hear (too well) the ongoing gossip of my supervisor who sits about 20 feet behind me. :-) And - these hearing aids fit comfortably just as the audiologist had promised. Within I short while I was able to forget I had them in my ears.
Two tiny computers, not much at all to look at, almost invisible when in my ears... but to me they are two tiny life-changing miracles, and tonight I am feeling blessed beyond words. Thank you God for the gift of renewed hearing, it means everything to me!