Living with hearing loss: a personal perspective
It’s estimated that roughly 19% of adults in Canada have at least mild hearing loss, and it ranks among the top five causes of years lived with a disability.1
But what does it really mean to be living with hearing loss?
The experience is different for each person, but for Katherine, a 32-year-old working for a primary health network, it’s a journey that began nine years ago with the jarring realization that she had been experiencing progressive hearing loss for years.
“I was diagnosed with otosclerosis,” she explains, “and I was told I had hearing loss in both of my ears, which was a frightening experience.”
The diagnosis was an emotional one for Katherine. Although her doctors said she would likely never be completely deaf, she was only 23, and processing the fact that she was living with progressive hearing loss at such a young age was something she was completely unprepared for.
The diagnosis hit hard, but Katherine’s priority was reconnecting to the life she hadn’t even realized she was missing all those years—and that meant getting a hearing aid.
It was definitely an adjustment. As Katherine explains, “Your brain has to get used to hearing through a piece of technology, and it can take some time to calibrate.” But when she left the audiologist’s clinic wearing her very first hearing aid, hearing the hydraulics from a nearby truck made her burst into tears. “I hadn’t heard any sound like that in years, and hadn’t even noticed,” she said.
Adjusting to life as someone with hearing loss has been challenging, but Katherine discovered a strength she didn’t realize she had and isn’t shy about making sure people understand her unique needs. Her husband now knows to do things like choose seating at a restaurant that ensures her better ear is positioned towards friends and away from other diners, and coworkers understand that coming up behind her while speaking means she may not hear them.
Advocating for herself is something Katherine is now very comfortable with, and she encourages other people who are living with hearing loss to talk about what they’re going through too.
“Spreading awareness helps others understand that this is a more common condition than they may think,” she says, “and I feel that being open about what I’m going through helps those around me understand how to support me.”
What can you do to help someone you care about after their diagnosis? “Accept that there will be emotional moments along the way,” Katherine says, “and be there to support your friend or family member experiencing hearing loss. Encourage them to speak to a mental health professional if they need additional help to process everything they’re going through.”
According to Katherine, perhaps the most important thing you can do is let them make their own decisions at their own pace, because she believes having someone who is patient and supportive of the process that works best for you is the only way to safely journey through this life-changing experience.
And Katherine’s life definitely has changed since her hearing loss. Always an introvert, she is even more likely to want to spend a quiet night at home with her husband and their greyhound rescue dog now. But she is also quick to encourage others in her situation not to let hearing loss hold them back.
“Getting a hearing aid is one of the bravest things you can do,” she says, “and it will let you take back your life and start living it to its fullest again.”
If you’re ready to #SwitchLifeOn, join the more than 750,000 clients who have trusted HearingLife with their hearing healthcare needs. HearingLife forms the largest network of hearing clinics with over 350 network clinics across Canada. Staffed by certified hearing healthcare professionals, HearingLife offers the most advanced hearing aid technology and up-to-date diagnostic equipment, as well as clinical support and exclusive 360-AfterCare.