For Eric Jackson, world-class kayaking (and hearing loss) is a family affair.
June is Men’s Health Month. Not to mention Father’s Day on June 20.
Men are twice as likely to experience hearing loss but are less likely than women to seek help.
That’s why entrepreneur, fishing pro, world champion and Olympic kayaker (and dad) Eric Jackson is making a special push this month to get all the dads and granddads out there to get their hearing tested.
Eric, who at age 57 was recently named to the Team USA kayak extreme slalom team, is considered the most successful freestyle kayaker in the history of the sport.
He lost his hearing when he was two years old. Over time, his hearing has been partially restored, but he relies on hearing aids and lipreading as tools to help him communicate.
He is currently wearing ReSound ONE hearing aids and works with the company to encourage others to promote treatment of hearing loss. His daughter Emily and son Dane, both also highly decorated kayakers, as well as his youngest son KC, also have hearing loss and use hearing aids.
When did you discover your hearing loss, and start wearing hearing aids?
My ears were tested after I got scarlet fever at age 2 (1966) and then again when I was 5 before school. I needed hearing aids, but I did not get them due to the cost and how ineffective they were at the time. My grandmother gave me my first set hearing aids when I went to college.
In what ways has hearing loss impacted your life and things you love to do? How do hearing aids help?
Without hearing aids, I’m not fully engaged in meetings or part of any conversation in group settings, especially when it is dark outside or in a room (I read lips). My friends or colleagues would say I was “aloof”. When I put my hearing aids in, I immediately feel part of any group and confident that I will follow any conversation. In the outdoors, I go from complete silence to a world alive with the sounds of bugs, birds, wind, and other ambient sounds.
Several members of your family also have hearing loss. How has your experience helped them?
First off, I recognize what their challenges are and know when they are hearing or not hearing. This helps me be more effective at communicating with them, while others will continue with ineffectual volume, or attention capturing. Since I am very proud of my lip reading skills, I have wanted my kids to accomplish the same. I grew up knowing I lost my hearing to Scarlet Fever. However, since all three of my kids have hearing loss, the more likely scenario of it being genetic is suddenly a reality. We are all hearing impaired and that can be fixed with hearing aids. With the technology in our Resound ONEs, we feel like we have advantages that a normal hearing person doesn’t even have.
What message would you have for someone who is thinking about getting hearing aids, or has a family member who seems to be experiencing hearing loss?
The biggest hurdle for people with hearing loss, especially degenerative, is that they rarely will go to an audiologist. There is no benefit to the amazing hearing aid technology and products available if you don’t have them plugged into your ear. Get off your butt and get tested today. If you have a family member seems to be showing signs of poor hearing, don’t just bug them to get tested, set the appointment and drive them in. It is not only a great gift for them…but just as much for you. Living with a hearing impaired person can be a real challenge! I know.
Watch: Eric was recently featured in this news report.