My writing group recently chose limitations as our current topic. We are all seniors and have had and are living with firsthand knowledge of some of the limitations our senior years have brought to us. My first thoughts went to my lowered level of hearing. In the past 15-20 years I have put a lot of energy and commitment into doing the best I can with my hearing variability.
Wearing a hearing aid in each ear became a necessity for me. Acceptance that I couldn't hear everything was important to me. I soon realized that not accepting the truth could in itself become a heavy limitation. The truth that I had to face: "I am not able to hear everything that is said to me or around me."
Some examples of what I do and have done about some of the changes and limitations resulting from my hearing condition:
I sometimes choose to leave out of my schedule events, presentations or meetings in which I'm interested. I know in advance that those will be extra hard for me because of background noise or other conditions which make hearing more difficult for me. Some voices are easier to hear than others. Some rooms, auditoriums, restaurants or other public places present extra difficulties to my ears.
I once visited a number of restaurants to find the ones with the best hearing conditions. It turned out that the most expensive ones would be on my list.
I often ask a friend who had attended the same event as I to tell me what she remembered of the words or ideas, so I could fill in some of the ideas or words which passed me by.
At other times I turn to an alternate sense, such as vision, which helps me lip read. A major irony of my life: My undergraduate studies prepared me to be a speech and hearing therapist. My work in the Cleveland Public Schools included teaching lip reading. Never did it occur to me that I myself would someday need to use that skill.
Another use of vision which has enhanced my hearing is observing how people express themselves: body language, bodily tensions, facial expressions. I consider this to be part of the subtle kinesthetic and bodily senses which we might not always be aware of.
I belong to several interesting educational groups which are important to me, even though I miss a lot of what is being said. I have asked myself, "Why do I keep coming back here, when I can't hear everything?" My own answer: I like the people in these groups; I like being a part of it. I've been in each of these groups for a long time, so I feel close to many people in the groups. We share similar aims, thoughts and experiences. This is all of value to me.
Sometimes when I can't hear something I want to hear I feel really dumb. Part of this could be envy that they can hear it and I can't. Another recurring thought: “I’m not like I used to be!" Here we are again in limitations of the senior years. I try hard to grab any and all words and phrases which I can hear, and to do what's best for me, as I am now.
In 2015 what seemed best for me was to undergo major surgery in order to have a cochlear implant in my left ear. The cochlea from my left inner ear wasn't working well, so it was removed, replaced by an amazing internal magnet and external hearing aid which have greatly improved my hearing. I wear a more old-fashioned one on my right ear. Both need to be removed at night, and attention paid to the batteries. They're certainly worth the extra attention they require.
The implant is a great example of how contemporary technology has aided my search for better hearing. With the implant came a microphone and a small remote packet which together direct and enhance incoming conversations so they go directly to my left ear which has the implant.
Another example of technology benefitting me is my CapTel telephone. Because I don’t hear everything on other phones, CapTel puts a 6x12 screen on the desk part of the phone. All incoming speech is transcribed into words which are printed on the screen so that in addition to my partial hearing of what was said, I can read it.
Caution number one: The conversation on the screen comes in more slowly than most people talk. Consequently, I ask callers to please talk more slowly and/or wait a short time until the captions catch up with what is being said. I often thank them for helping me hear more completely.
Caution number two: There are many occasions when the intended words and the printed ones differ greatly. Example: On the first day I received the CapTel phone, a friend called me to tell me about her orange geranium. What came through was orange uranium! Stranger ones also appear which are even more humorous. While hearing limitations can be quite serious and heart-rending, I don't mind having some extra humor in my life.
Norma Glad is a member of Congregation Har Shalom in Fort Collins. She is a certified yoga instructor and leads chair yoga classes at the Fort Collins Senior Center and at her residence.