Eleven years ago, I was sitting on my couch when I noticed a roaring sound in my right ear. I went to bed and when I woke up the next morning, it was still there. It was so strong that I couldn’t hear the dial tone from my phone.
After having my hearing tested at work, I discovered that I had a moderate sensorineural hearing loss in the right ear with poor speech discrimination. The left hearing was normal.
My career for almost 50 years has been in the audiology field, mainly as a hearing aid practitioner, so I was familiar with what was happening to me. Still, the first time I went to a restaurant after acquiring my hearing loss was a frightening experience. The excessive background noise made my right ear pulsate with tinnitus. Shortly after, also I went to enjoy some live musical theatre. The crowded foyer was so rowdy I couldn’t even follow the conversation with one person who was close to me. The orchestra didn’t sound as it used to. I couldn’t follow the singing and the dialogue was difficult to understand.
Boy, oh, boy, could I sympathise with my hard of hearing clients.
Later, my hearing deteriorated to a profound right ear sensorineural hearing loss. It’s surprising that having a unilateral hearing loss can be so debilitating.
One of my main issues is the difficulty I have with localisation of sounds. I cannot tell where sounds are coming from. It is very frustrating when the phone rings and I can’t find it or when someone calls me and I don’t know where they’re calling from, particularly when the answer is “I’m here”.
Over the years, I have learnt to cope better in a difficult listening situation. Using a hearing aid in the good ear connected wirelessly to a remote microphone worn by another person, for instance, does help me to understand conversation in a noisy situation but only enables conversation between myself and one other. I recall one evening when I was out with family in a noisy restaurant and my softly, fast‑speaking daughter wore the remote microphone. I was excited I could understand every word she said. And when I went to the toilet many meters away, I could hear the family plotting my next birthday celebrations! After this experience, I fitted many of my clients with remote microphones connected to their hearing aids.
Since acquiring a hearing loss, I feel I can empathise with my clients more as I have been able to give them personal, real-life experience. I hope this has been of benefit to them.