So, What Took You So Long?

Judy Smith
Judy Smith

It was during a hotel stay that Judy Smith realized that she was hearing impaired.  She picked up the phone in her hotel room and buzzed the front desk.  “There were tiny scratchy-sounding noises on the other end but no voice, so I assumed the phone was out of order,” says Judy. “Not exactly.  The extremely polite young maintenance man who came to my room could hear just fine.”

Two weeks later, Judy visited her ENT, ReSound customer, Thumper Johnson, at Mid-Kansas ENT.  “So, what took you so long?” said Thumper.  The answer was simple and not dissimilar to every other hearing impaired individual.  “Pride.”

“Somewhere along the line, in the process of living a full and busy life, I have lost all of my highs and lows and a considerable amount of what’s supposed to be in between,” says Judy. “It happened so gradually at first, I wasn’t consciously aware of what was taking place, but I knew I was missing things people said and that the problem was growing steadily more frustrating.  I couldn’t figure out why Kim was always deliberately lowering the sound level when we were watching TV, and I uncharacteristically snapped at him for it.”

No matter how much hearing technology advances, or the impact that hearing loss has on the quality of a person’s life, a certain stigma still exists with wearing a hearing aid.  The average time it takes for a hearing impaired individual to seek help is a whopping 7 years.

Thumper Johnson
Thumper Johnson

“I find it interesting that people wait as long as they do before seeking help,” says Thumper.  “As we find that younger and younger individuals are getting hearing aids, I think the stigma of wearing them is more in the minds of the individual than a society standard as it once was.”

The day of her exam, Judy became the “proud owner” of a pair of bilateral ReSound Alera 961 hearing aids.  “They’re sweet little triangle-shaped computers about an eighth of an inch thick that nestle behind the top part of my ears, and each one is attached to a tiny almost invisible tube that ends in an extremely small speaker,” says Judy. “Once my hairdresser and I conspire on a slightly modified haircut, no one on God’s green earth would know I wear them.”

“By far, the hearing loss is more visible than the hearing aid options we have available to us today,” says Thumper. “With the advances in technology, we are able to give a clear sound with enough background adjustment to make them comfortable to use in most environments.  With the addition of a mini mic or other streamer, solving problems of understanding have improved dramatically.”

Judy says that “suddenly being able to hear again was something of a shock…… There are myriad sounds I hadn’t heard in a very long time but didn’t realize I was doing without.  The swish of my own bare feet on our tile floors.  Birds outside my office window.  The tick of my star-shaped clock on the wall.  The rush and patter of rain, with its thunderous applause.  A hundred sweet little accompaniments to the ballet of daily living.  Sometimes it touches me so deeply to be able to hear again, it moves me to tears.  When I take my ears off, my world instantly reverts to mute.  The contrast is staggering.”

And yet, so many people remain in denial, refusing to seek help. They let this so-called stigma affect their lives and they sink further and further into social isolation.  It is for this reason that Judy has broken her silence about something she was originally very reluctant to admit she needed.  “Life is too brief and too beautiful to miss.  If you suspect that your audio capabilities could use a boost, don’t wait.  What I thought would make me feel older instead makes me feel infinitely younger.  For one thing, constantly saying “What?” does not make you hip.”

“Everyone has had this kind of experience with this kind of patient,” says Thumper. “The one who blossoms when given back that which they didn’t even fully realize was lost.  Judy has started going out more, has more confidence in her understanding and finds that although she was very concerned with anyone knowing she was wearing a hearing aid, she has started telling others voluntarily.  People like Judy are what make this job fun.”

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