Patricia MacDonald is one of a few editorial colleagues with a story to share about hearing. Hers is honest and hopeful. I'm taking her words to heart as I go to get my hearing retested later this month.
She also touches on how she uses closed captioning, reminding us that not all users are totally deaf or "hearies" using captions for other reasons.
I can’t remember when I started noticing my hearing loss. I was probably in my late 20s. I do know the exact moment I couldn’t deny any longer that it was a problem: when I couldn’t hear everything my brother was saying as he was delivering my father’s eulogy. What a thing to miss.
But still I didn’t get my hearing checked. I knew I needed hearing aids, but I didn’t want to wear them. Hearing aids are for old people, I thought. Everyone will notice them. So I struggled on for another few years, constantly frustrated when I caught only bits of conversations, wondering what I had missed when others around me were laughing at something I hadn’t heard. My husband bought me a cheap little device that amplified sound, and I used that a lot, especially when I was watching TV. It worked great but could only do so much. I was still missing out on a lot in real life.
I did eventually get my hearing tested, and the results were as expected: significant hearing loss in both ears. The culprit? Otosclerosis. Basically there was a hardening of the bones in my middle ear, and they were unable to vibrate properly in order to conduct sound. The good news? I was a perfect candidate for hearing aids. The bad news? I was a perfect candidate for hearing aids. I still didn’t want them, and it was at least another year before I finally went for a fitting.
The catalyst was an editing conference I attended in Ottawa in 2012. The sessions were fine because I had my trusty sound booster with me; socializing, however, was a different story. One-on-one interaction was okay for the most part, but put me around a table in a noisy restaurant and I was lost. I still ended up having a wonderful time, but it was a wake-up call. I needed to do something.
So I took the leap and got two hearing aids. And suddenly I could hear all that I was missing—and it was a lot, trust me. I was very grateful for this new lease on life, although I was extremely self-conscious for the first little while, the first couple of years, even. To this day I’m still a little self-conscious. But I can hear better, and that’s really all that matters.
Hearing aids aren’t the perfect solution, though. I often have trouble hearing on the phone and when I’m in a crowded room. I still miss some things.
Closed captioning has become a good friend, especially when I’m watching a show with fast dialogue or accents.
So there’s still frustration. But I can function almost normally again. And I must say that when I “take my ears out” at night, I welcome the quiet and enjoy a good sleep. It’s not all bad. :^)
It’s taken a while, but I’ve come to terms with my hearing loss—I have a disability that fortunately I was able to correct. I just wish I had done it years earlier. I wish I had heard all of my dad’s eulogy. But I was thinking about how I would look instead of how I could hear. If you have hearing loss and are hesitant about trying hearing aids, for whatever reason, I urge you to give them a shot. It will change your life for the better.
Patricia MacDonald is a freelance copyeditor in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, specializing in sports books and memoirs, guides for athletes and coaches, and textbooks for physical education and kinesiology students.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of P. MacDonald.