Aaahhh!!!!! What the hell is in my ear????
Oh yeah, I have hearing aids now. No big deal. Or is it?
I certainly did not think hearing aids would be a thing in the early second half of my thirties (NOT late thirties, mind you). But what do you know, they are. The first two weeks, I thought about them constantly. Will they ever feel comfortable? Are they working? What’s that noise? Can people see them? And if I stopped thinking about them for one second, I would start swatting and say,
“What the hell is in my ear????!!!!”
Oh yeah. I have hearing aids now. And the cycle would continue.
Here are 5 things that surprised me about getting hearing aids:
- I didn’t realize how much I needed them until I had them.
My hearing loss started over 8 years ago when I was in my twenties and pregnant with my first child. My ears started ringing constantly, but my OB told me it would likely go away once I had the baby. (Something about increased blood flow during pregnancy. I don’t know. I couldn’t hear half of what she said. HA!) When it didn’t subside, I headed to an ENT. I had a terrible head cold that day and convinced myself that was what caused the hearing test to show I had mild hearing loss. Frankly, I was just there to rule out a brain tumor, so once I did, I stopped listening. I learned to live with the ringing in my ears (tinnitus), using white noise to mask it when it got bad.
Then, a few months ago, I started hearing my heart beat in my ears. I found it pretty hard to ignore, and when I discovered that a friend from college had opened an audiology clinic across the street from my office, it felt like a sign. After running the gamut of tests and making me laugh away my anxiety, Melissa told me my hearing loss had gotten worse, and she would recommend hearing aids in both ears.
I was shocked at first because I really didn’t feel like I had that much trouble hearing, but over the following weeks, it started to dawn on me – my husband’s annoyance with having to repeat himself, my preference for taking phone calls on speakerphone (or not at all), awkwardly smiling and nodding after missing half the conversation in a crowded restaurant, looking the wrong way when there was a noise in the distance. It all added up. I did struggle with hearing. I had just thought it was normal.
- Hearing aids are not covered by insurance.
The next shock was sticker shock. Hearing aids are not cheap, especially the most current technology. On top of that, the insurance industry views hearing aids as “nice to have” not “need to have,” which really fired me up. I was insulted by the idea that hearing is viewed as a luxury. Untreated hearing loss is linked to social isolation, depression, lower wages, and above all else, DEMENTIA. Hearing stimulates specific paths in your brain that will shut down if they aren’t used, which can cause the loss of gray matter. People with untreated hearing loss are 2-3 times more likely to develop dementia! So, we’re not talking about my ears – we’re talking about my brain. I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly protective over my brain, so to me, hearing aids were 100% necessary. Despite what insurance companies think, untreated hearing loss doesn’t come without consequences.
Vision used to have the same problem. In fact, vision insurance didn’t exist until 1955 when a group of optometrists got together to form a non-profit vision benefit company. Now that we understand more about the effects of hearing loss, I predict the same for hearing coverage in the semi-near future.
- Having hearing aids doesn’t make me feel old.
It might make some people feel old, especially if the hearing loss is age-related, but my hearing loss started in my 20’s (where I still mentally live), so it didn’t make me feel old at all. Actually, with the blue-tooth technology my hearing aids have, they kind of make me feel cool. It’s like having invisible air pods in all the time.
- It’s emotional.
Even though no one can really see them and they don’t make me feel old, getting hearing aids was an emotional experience for me. The idea of needing “equipment” to go through my everyday life was disconcerting. It seemed like news I had to break to people. Sometimes, I was met with an overwhelming amount of sympathy.
Person: Oh my God, I am so sorry! Are you okay?
Me: Oh yeah, no big deal. Like 7 million Americans have them, so it’s super common.
Other times, I was met with a shrug.
Person: Oh, cool. I know 14 other people who have hearing aids.
Me: But this is a HUGE deal! Feel sorry for me and give me all your attention!
In short, it was a rollercoaster, and I really didn’t know how to feel about it.
- It quickly becomes normal.
I’ve never had to wear glasses, but that’s kind of how I view my hearing aids now. Every morning, I put them in. Every night, I take them out. I’ve gotten more familiar with the app that lets me adjust them for any given environment, and it can be fun to play around with it.
The good part about experiencing something like this is being able to guide other people through it. It can be scary and isolating and just plain confusing, but you’re not alone. Does the physical pain/discomfort go away? Yes. Does your brain adjust to all the new sounds you’re hearing? Yes. Will you still mistakenly think there is a bug in your ear once in a while? Yes. Or maybe that’s just me.