Heard the news?

The embarrassment of hearing loss

by Jason Gross

29 November 2006


True, I keep harping on the problems of music and hearing loss but there’s a good reason for that.  Not only has it gotten to me personally (I get a short ringing every few weeks or so that lasts a few seconds) but also people near and dear to me.  Also, I’d hate to think that I wouldn’t warn the people out there who are thoughtful enough to read this blog.  It wasn’t until I saw a Newsday article though that I was reminded about why music-related hearing loss is really such a problem and what it might take to overcome it.

So, let’s start here: Placido Domingo lends his voice to the hearing-impaired

The foundation, whose activities start in January with an initial capital of about $400,000, will focus on educating the public about the social and emotional implications of hearing loss. A key issue is some people’s reluctance to use a hearing-enhancing device for fear of appearing elderly or handicapped, or being ridiculed.

“There seems to be a stigma about being hard-of-hearing,” Domingo told the AP. “Let’s consider the difference between seeing trouble and hearing trouble. No one gives a second thought to wearing glasses in order to improve sight, but too many people would rather ask five times, ‘What did you say?’ than wear a hearing aid.”

Ah… there’s the crux of it then.  Even if you suffer from ringing (tinnitus) or overall hearing loss, you might be inclined to skip a visit to an audiologist because you don’t want to look or act like an old person.  So instead, you keep on suffering and stay cool.  Or so you think.

A friend of mine who’s been wearing a hearing aid for quite a while counselled me on this.  I told her about a loved one who had a hearing problem and I couldn’t bring myself to discuss it with her.  “You have to,” she said. “Her life isn’t going to get any better otherwise and she’s going to miss out on a lot of it because of this problem.”

Of course, she was right but how do you bring up such a delicate matter?  I broke out a Marx Brothers DVD to get her in a cheery mood.  It worked and then when she was all giggles, I thought it was the right time to discuss her hearing.  “Is it a problem?” she asked.  Yes, I told her.  I had to repeat a lot of things to her and when other people spoke to her, she didn’t always know to respond.  She was surprisingly receptive to it and thanked me for caring enough to speak to her about it.

The only problem was that a hearing aid was going to run her $1000 and her insurance wouldn’t cover it since it was a long-standing condition.  She didn’t know what to do.  Luckily, her mom stepped in and fronted the money though I was thinking of offering to do the same.  The aid’s helped her a lot though out of force of habit, she still turns her hear with her good ear towards you when you speak to her.

And what about the other people who get over the stigma of hearing loss but can’t afford an aide to correct the problem?  Guess we’ll have to wait for our wise elected officials to create a health care system that an ordinary tax-paying citizen can afford (or immigrate to Canada).

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