April 2019 marked 8 years since Founder of #HearingLossHour, Angie Aspinall developed a profound sudden hearing loss in her ‘good’ ear. The word ‘anniversary’ usually conjures up thoughts of a celebration, but how do you mark the anniversary of discovering you have hearing loss?
While she won’t be celebrating this particular anniversary, she feels she can’t ignore it. So, Angie decided to look back and reflect on the past 8 years and share of her experiences, tips and what she’s learnt:
You’re not alone
When I experienced Sudden Onset Hearing Loss (as the doctors call it), I’d never heard of the condition before and I mistook what was happening for a brain haemorrhage. I lost my hearing over a three-hour period and my head felt like it was going to explode. It was painful and terrifying. I was sent home from the emergency department with a diagnosis of having an ear infection. I thought I must be the only person in the world that this had happened to.
But sudden deafness is not as rare as you’d think. Since my experience, I’ve come into contact with many other people who have had the same type of sudden, dramatic hearing loss. Some have had successful treatment and regained some of their hearing, and others (like me), were not offered any treatment and have had to come to terms with the loss. (There is a small window of opportunity for steroid treatment following sudden hearing loss, so it is essential to seek treatment immediately.)
One thing’s for sure, having hearing loss can make you feel lonely, but there’s no need to feel alone; there are lots of online groups full of people willing to give support and friendship. There are groups for people with single-sided deafness, profound deafness, cochlear implant users, young people… the list goes on. Why not get online and give them a try?
You find out who your real friends are
When something serious happens to you, you really find out who your friends are. Whether it’s losing your hearing, your sight, or your mobility, some friends just can’t deal with you being different and not being able to do what you used to do. This is not your fault!
While it’s heart-breaking and hurtful at the time, hopefully, you will have other people around you who will come into their own and surprise you. The people who stick with you through the toughest times: they are your true friends. And, the new people you meet can also turn out to be real gems. Treasure them.
You don’t need to suffer in silence
Easier said than done, I know – especially if you are having to come to terms with a hidden disability pretty much overnight. But when you start to come to terms with your hearing loss, you’ll find that the easiest way to get people to help you is to ask them for help.
If you can learn how to talk about your hearing loss without feeling embarrassed, it will help you to be able to reach out to others and get more support.
Joining a lipreading class helped me to learn how to feel comfortable telling others about my hearing loss and how to articulate how they could help meet my communication needs. In the UK, you can find a lipreading class near you on the ATLA website.
You might need to find new hobbies
In the same way that old friends may fall by the wayside, you might find that some of the activities you used to enjoy just aren’t as much fun with hearing loss.
You may need to grieve and mourn this loss. (Again, this is where the online groups can provide so much support as people who have no experience of hearing loss might not be able to understand.) In time, you may find that new hobbies and pastimes start to give you as much enjoyment as your previous ones.
I used to enjoy going to live music gigs , but now (with or without my hearing aids) the noise is anathema to me. Now, I get pleasure from watching the birds in my garden. It’s a totally different pastime, but the enjoyment is not reliant on the ability to hear and I enjoy the peacefulness which accompanies it. Or maybe I’m just getting old!
Another aspect of your life which changes when you get hearing aids is the need to plan ahead. You can’t just dash out on a whim; trips take a little bit of forward-planning. Yep! I’m talking about hearing aid batteries – and the need to carry spares.
The first person with hearing loss I became friends with told me that she had a pack of batteries in every one of her handbags. At the time, I thought she was being a bit paranoid, but it only takes your batteries dying in the middle of an important meeting once to ensure that never forget your spares again.
How about you?
There are so many other things I’ve learnt about living with hearing loss over the past 8 years, but what about you? What has your hearing loss taught you? Tweet us @HearWithRayovac.