My hearing loss first became noticeable in my 20s. People had to repeat themselves so many times that they would tell me how frustrating it was. But I put off having a hearing test until my 30s. Sure enough, I had significant hearing loss – but no one could tell me why.
I was prescribed hearing aids, but they kept falling out and amplified everything so the background noise was so loud it drowned out voices. They were cumbersome and made me more conscious of my hearing loss – so I stopped wearing them.
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Working from home as a cake decorator meant I could do my job with a hearing impairment but, over time, I began to feel increasingly withdrawn, and quite low. Although my husband and children were supportive, I struggled with day-to-day activities, like group chats, phone calls, TV, radio and social events. I gave up trying to converse and would let everyone else chat while I smiled and nodded. I avoided using the phone and would text and email instead.
Socialising became harder; people would say, ‘Don’t worry about telling Yvonne, she won’t be able to hear you.’ It made me sad that people were no longer making an effort with me. But something had to change. With some encouragement from my best friend, I made an appointment at Hidden Hearing. By now, my hearing loss was so severe it was compared to that of a 90-year-old!
I was fitted with Oticon Opn hearing aids, which uses the latest technology to provide ‘surround sound’ – the nearest thing to natural hearing as possible. Unlike other hearing aids, it enables ‘brain hearing’ rather than ‘ear hearing’.
The difference was incredible; I didn’t know how noisy life really was! The wind rustling leaves, the hum of the fridge, traffic, water going down a plughole, birdsong – these were all new sounds to me. And I could now use my phone and listen to my TV as the hearing aids use Bluetooth technology to connect to devices.
As soon as I wake up, I put them in and feel lost without ‘my ears’ (as I call them). My confidence has soared so much that I don’t worry about social situations anymore, and I’m no longer ignored in large groups or spoken to slowly and loudly (which was really patronising). I’ve started exam invigilating too – a job I would never have done before because everyone has to communicate quietly. But with my new hearing aids I don’t miss a thing.
I’d urge anyone with hearing loss to seek help immediately. Don’t let age or stigma put you off – hearing loss is far more noticeable than hearing aids.