SOUND OFF with…
San Francisco Chapter Treasurer, perpetual seeker of knowledge, environmentalist, and practical idealist.
1. What was the moment when you realized that you had a hearing loss? What did you do about it?
I was hiking with a friend one day when he suddenly began shouting at me to stop. I was really startled by his outburst and froze in my tracks. He walked up to me and pointed at a rattlesnake that I had almost stepped on. My friend had heard the snake rattling and stopped, but I kept on walking because I could not hear it. This frightening incident made me realize that I needed to have my hearing checked. I was in my mid-twenties at that time and a subsequent hearing test showed that I had a mild hearing loss in both ears. I wore one hearing aid for two years before switching to two because my hearing was steadily declining.
2. How has your hearing loss affected your life?
My hearing loss (hereditary nerve deafness) and the uncertainty about how quickly it would progress profoundly affected my life because I had no choice but to re-evaluate everything; everything I had done until that point and everything I had hoped to do in the future. I really had a difficult time adjusting to and accepting my hearing loss. Paradoxically, my hearing loss proved to be a valuable gain, because it was the catalyst that prompted me to examine things and pursue goals that I probably would not have done otherwise. Also, as the outer world became quieter, I have turned inward to seek a better understanding of myself and my relationship with others. As the ancient Greeks well understood, to gain wisdom, one must “first know thyself.”
3. What current issue related to hearing loss would you like to see addressed more? Why?
I’d really like to see the cost of buying and maintaining hearing aids covered by medical insurers and that the coverage extends to all age groups. I am sure that virtually everyone with a hearing impairment would agree with that. Too many working-age adults who could benefit from hearing aids must struggle with buying and/or maintaining hearing aids.
4. What would you like to tell the younger generation?
I would tell them that Life will invariably toss up some challenges for them. Some of these can be emotionally devastating, such as the loss of friends or family members early in life, or growing up neglected in a dysfunctional family. The loss of much of one’s hearing is another challenge, and one that can, like the others, be dealt with. Living with a hearing loss does not mean that they cannot receive an education, enjoy the company of friends or family, or succeed in some careers. Yes, some doors will be closed to them, but many others will be open. Challenges are really opportunities to grow, to practice patience, and to gain wisdom.
5. What technologies are the most useful to you? How?
My hearing aids, of course, are the most useful, but almost as useful are my portable telephone amplifier, captioned telephone calls (I use SprintCapTel and CaptionCall), email, and my Phonak SmartLink wireless microphone (not just for staff meetings at work and classroom situations but also for watching TV).
6. I am a member of HLAA because..
Learning how other people deal with their hearing impairment helps me to use similar strategies or come up with new ones. It also prompts me to share my experiences with others and, hopefully, help someone else with dealing with his/her hearing loss. It is this concept of self-help that really attracted me to SHHH (now HLAA) and which is the organization’s most powerful tool for carrying out its mission.