Before I began working in the hearing industry, I have to admit that hearing health care wasn’t really on my radar. Strange since I always went for physicals and yearly eye exams. I could also remember regularly having my hearing checked in school as a child, but it wasn’t something I thought about much. I didn’t notice ads for hearing aids or think about whether my music might be too loud. I didn’t wonder whether or not my family members were getting their annual hearing exams either. However, after meeting and interacting with patients and others in the hearing health field, my whole perspective has changed.
First, I’ve realized that early detection is paramount. I’ve seen the difference in levels of understanding between patients who caught and corrected their hearing loss early and those who may have been unaware or waited to take steps for five, ten, sometimes fifteen years. Our ears are simply devices that send signals to our brain. Over time, our brain can forget how to translate those signals if it’s not getting them regularly. If you have a hearing loss and you wait too long to do something about it, you may never get some of that understanding back.
Second, I’ve seen the way it effects communication—with strangers, with family, in business. Try reading only every third word of this article. Did you get much out of it that way? Can you imagine if that’s all you could hear when others were speaking to you? It becomes so incredibly frustrating for both the people with the hearing loss and their loved ones. Sometimes, those with hearing loss even begin to withdraw and become distant because communication is just too difficult.
Even after getting hearing aids, it’s still extremely important to have regular visits to your hearing specialist to insure your instruments are set to the appropriate prescription for you. We recently had a patient and his wife come in for a follow-up visit who were a perfect example of this. One of our Patient Care Coordinators noted the difficulty he had hearing her, his wife, and others in the waiting room. During his time with our Hearing Instrument Specialist, she made a significant adjustment to the settings on his hearing instruments. When he came back through the waiting room just twenty minutes later, the difference was remarkable. He was communicating easily with others in the waiting room. Our PCC commented to his wife on the immediate difference, and she said, “I know. He’s not yelling anymore!” Did you ever think that twenty minutes of your time could make that big of a difference in how you interact with others? I know I hadn’t before.
Finally, I now consider how hearing health could affect my family in the future. My dad was at my house one day, and my dog suddenly took off running to the kitchen. “Where’s she going?” he asked. I said, “Didn’t you hear that? The cat jumped through the cat door and the bell on his collar jingled.” My dad hadn’t heard it. That was a high frequency sound. If he has a mild high frequency loss now, what sounds might he miss later if it’s not corrected? Could he miss my baby boy’s soft toddler chatter in a few years? Could he miss him whispering “I love you” or telling his favorite story by heart? Will all of my family be able to participate and enjoy conversation at big Sunday dinners? Will we get to appreciate and fully enjoy all of the precious moments we have together? I don’t want my family to miss any of those moments. Nor do I want to miss them myself—now or in the future when I may have my own grandchildren’s sweet words to hear.
So, now I know the real importance of hearing health care. I will get my yearly hearing exams, and I will push and prod my family to do so as well if necessary. I will make sure we get to appreciate all the amazing sounds in our lives. Will you do the same?