Join Me on My Journey
When I first meet a patient, I tell them I’m very hard of hearing. In fact, it’s part of my welcome speech introducing them to HearWell Center. I explain that I need to lip-read to understand speech, that I might ask them to repeat themselves occasionally, and that I appreciate their patience. Because the patient is my primary concern — not my own hearing issues — I don’t go into details.
Why do I do this? Over the years, as my hearing worsened, it became clear that those around me could tell I had communication difficulties. I could no longer ignore the clear sign that I was confusing those around me. So, when I opened HearWell Center, I decided to disclose my hearing loss to every patient that walked in my doors. I never want my hearing loss to be misunderstood as something else by my patients or their families. My worst fear is that I won’t hear something, and my lack of response will come across as unkind.
Most people come to appreciate that my hearing loss puts me in a unique position to work with those who have hearing disorders. Some patients even tell me they’re thankful I understand hearing loss firsthand.
Though I openly share that I have a hearing loss, many of my patients don’t understand just how hard of hearing I am. Here, in this blog, I want to offer a more intimate look at my hearing loss because I am embarking on a journey: I hope to soon receive a cochlear implant. I want to share what I learn along the way because I think it will benefit my patients and others.
About My Hearing Loss
I have had severe hearing loss since childhood. I managed well for a long time by using hearing aids, FM systems, streaming devices, lip-reading, and captioning. In 2003, things changed dramatically for me: Overnight, I suffered the sudden loss of all remaining high-pitched hearing in my left ear. I haven’t heard anything but bass sounds in that ear since.
At that time, I was not a candidate for a cochlear implant. The additional deafness was hard on me — I love music, but with the new loss it no longer sounded good — and I was crestfallen for a long time.
I learned to cope with the loss. I trained my brain to cope with not hearing a full spectrum of sound in my left ear. With hearing aids, for many years, I maintained nearly 90% understanding in most situations despite the significant and continued decline in hearing.
Now, things are not so easy. My loss continues to worsen. My last audiogram showed poor recognition skills in my left ear. My coping skills aren’t as helpful as they used to be. Even with hearing aids, I drain more energy as I work hard to hear people all day long. The drain makes me less likely to socialize in person or on the phone — I fear I won’t be able to participate fully. At this point, I have much to gain by getting the implant and very little to lose.
Although I’m an audiologist by trade, I’m still a woman living with deafness daily. It’s not easy to connect at times, so text messages, online chats, and emails show me I do have a community. I’m very motivated to make this work. I’m inspired by so many of my patients that have implants. Friends, colleagues, and family from near and far are sharing in my excitement and showering me with well wishes. I couldn’t ask for a better support network. I am bound to thrive with all these pillars of support!