Notes from a "Hearie"

Windy (Barbara)  Kingston, Ontario, Canada

c 1999

My father was hard of hearing! He had lost the hearing in one ear when at school one day, the teacher told him not to write left-handed (not considered"natural" then). Because he would not conform, she slapped him around the ear and broke his ear drum! No reprimand was given to the teacher and, in those days, suing was unheard of! As life went on, strain was put on the good ear, and gradually his hearing was almost non-existent!

I remember him having one hearing aid that used to havea cord attached to a large box that went in his pocket. To watch television, he had a set of headphones, they were big with no volume control. After a time he finally had a behind the ear aid. This helped somewhat but there were times he did have problems hearing - he used to put on a smile as if he was agreeing with what had been said and you just knew that he had no idea of what we were talking about! And, of course, there were times when, living in a household full of women (my mother, myself and my two older sisters), his hearing loss came in very handy! He would make out he wasn"t listening - but he actually did hear what was being said (sneaky)! He called this "cocking a deafen"!

Growing up with a hard of hearing father was difficult at times. You had to shout at him to get his attention - then try to make him understand what you were trying to say. And yes, I was guilty of saying "oh it doesn"t matter, dad.." When I look back, I know he had the look on his face that said "....please repeat what you said- it is important to me..." but we never did unless it was very important. When I called home (England) and dad would come on the phone, I would try to speak to him but my voice is very quiet and he would say "....I hear you darling but I don"t know what you"re saying, but that"s okay...."! Alas, I shall never have the chance again to tell him how sorry I was that I never did repeat my sentences.

I have been married for 33 years to my husband and friend, John. Over the years, working in factories, being involved with model aircraft, owning a woodworking shop, and then teaching construction carpentry, his hearing has diminished.Roughly eight years ago, I persuaded him to have his hearing tested, and after some initial resistance he made the appointment. He had lost some hearing in one ear and a hearing aid was recommended and ordered. Then, about two years later, the other ear showed signs of deterioration and so another aid was recommended.

I again fell into the trap of not repeating myself and saying that it didn"t matter. Together, we both learned, and are still learning, to "tolerate"each other"s impatience at one, not hearing, and two having to repeat something two to three times. I do have the habit of trying to talk to John through the walls! This he hates!

There have been times when the television sounds had been loud, but to him it isn"t. Tolerance and patience has not been one of my better traits and there have been times I have gotten annoyed because the sound has been very loud. I, on the other hand, have a problem with loud noises.

John also has tinnitus, permanently. There are times when this is so loud, he just cannot stand it. Unfortunately, I believe depression is one of the side effects of tinnitus. It is a vicious circle - hearing loss, loud tinnitus, depression- the depression does not ease up until the tinnitus has "quietened" somewhat. Thank goodness there are people out there that can help a person in this situation with coping strategies. But a lot of the time, just to be quiet and away from all kinds of noise is the only relief.

It does take a lot of work on both sides, to live with hearing loss. In the past, only looking at him and speaking was the only way that he could understand what was being said. Crowded places, parties, etc. have all been put aside because of the background noise and having to work too hard at trying to understand what was being said to him.

John has recently acquired new analog, digitally programmed hearing aids that allow him to block out certain background noises. He has tried them in crowded situations and they have proven to be very good. They are like gold dust to him right now! He is wondering how he ever got along without them!! They have made a world of difference to him, and me, I must admit! It"s good not to have to raise my voice as much. There are still times when certain situations make it very hard for him tocarry on a conversation, but with these hearing aids the situations are few and far between.

I also have tinnitus, but in one ear only on a permanent basis. Sometimes in my other ear but that goes away for whatever reason I am still trying to fathom out. There are days when my tinnitus is loud, and having to repeat myself puts me in a "stinky mood"! Then I sit back and say to myself that it"s not his fault that he is hard of hearing, and it"s not my fault that I have loud tinnitus at that time which has put me in a bad mood, be cool Barbara, relax for a while and things will be back to normal! And after a while, they are.