Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Like most people, 84-year-old Marie Redfern wasn’t ready to admit she had hearing loss. Even though her kids were telling her she wasn’t hearing well and she kept accusing her husband of mumbling, she didn’t think she had a problem. Finally, frustrated that she couldn’t hear what her husband was saying, she decided to see an Ear, Nose and Throat physician to see if she had anything blocking her ears. “After he examined my ears he said “It’s not your ears, it’s your years”,” she said, “and referred me to a hearing healthcare professional.”
That professional was Cheryl McCarthy, a hearing instrument specialist at Media Hearing Aid Center in Media, Pennsylvania, who fit Marie with a pair of ReSound hearing aids. That was two years ago. Now, not only does Marie hear her husband and other family members much better, she also enjoys other social activities she avoided when she couldn’t hear well.
According to Hearing Charities of America, a typical person waits an average of seven years between the time they are affected by hearing loss and when they seek treatment. Along the way, they encounter a lot of negative attitudes and myths about hearing aids. Marie was no exception.
“I waited an awful long time,” she admitted when asked how long it took her to seek treatment. “Somewhere someone told me that if you have hearing aids, you’ll never hear your husband’s voice again – and I believed it. That just isn’t true.”
In fact, not only can she hear her husband’s voice, but sometimes she has to leave the room because he turns the volume up too high on the television. Hearing aids have also made it enjoyable for her to go to the movie theater and attend social gatherings again – two things her untreated hearing loss had made very difficult.
“I didn’t want to go to parties because I didn’t know what people were saying. I used to just sit there and let people talk.” She also didn’t like the assistive listening devices she had to use at the theater in order to understand the dialogue.
Like most people, Marie had to adjust to wearing hearing aids. Initially, noisy environments, such as people gathered in the clubhouse of the retirement community they live in, made her queasy and off balance, she said. She also had to readjust to hearing sounds she hadn’t heard in years — such as footsteps on the carpet.
“I was working at a church at the time and the pastor’s study was right next to my office,” she remembered. “The first week that I had my hearing aids, every time he walked through my office to get to the hall, it would startle me. He would say, ‘I’m sorry, Marie.’ It wasn’t his fault. I just wasn’t able to hear his footsteps before.”
She was so intrigued by hearing sounds she had been missing, she decided to take a walk around her neighborhood after dark.
“I told Bob I was going to walk to the corner and hear the night sounds,” she remembered. “I heard all kinds of little noises in the grass. It’s a whole different world out there in the dark.”
But the best part of wearing hearing aids, Marie said, is being able to take part in the conversation again. “I can understand it when my teenage grandchildren are talking about their day at school,” she added. “I couldn’t hear that before. I sit at the dinner table and say, ‘I’m glad I have hearing aids.’ My son-in-law says, ‘We are, too, mom.’”
Research indicates Marie isn’t the only one happy with her hearing aids. Consumer satisfaction surveys reveal more than 80 percent of hearing aid users have better quality of life and would recommend hearing aids to friends and family who need them. A Hear The World Foundation survey of more than 4,300 people about hearing aids and relationships indicate almost 70 percent believe hearing aids have improved their relationships. Hearing aid users are also more likely than non-users to engage in activities involving other people – like going to the movies and attending social gatherings – and are warmer and less negative in their personal relationships.
Hearing aid technology has come a long way in even the last ten years. They’re smaller, work smarter and are more comfortable than the hearing aids your parents wore. They enhance your quality of life along with your overall health as untreated hearing loss has been linked to a variety of health problems, such as heart disease, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
As a result of her positive experience, Marie is not only a hearing aid user, she’s also one of their biggest advocates. “I wish everyone could hear again. I talk to my friends about it and tell them they won’t believe the difference. You miss so much when you don’t hear well.”
Her advice is simple. “Don’t wait. Be part of the crowd now. Don’t just be a spectator,” she said emphatically. “You can be part of the conversation again. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
If you’re ready to get help for your hearing loss, please visit our directory of hearing care professionals to find a local hearing center.