Don’t you just love when people throw out those sayings and clichés to help you through a situation? 

Like, when one door closes, another opens. What’s that supposed to mean for a person with hearing loss – that when you lose your hearing, you appreciate your eyes a lot more?  That might be true, but I wouldn’t think, oh OK, I didn’t really enjoy hearing all that much, anyway.

This week, I looked up some other bits of wisdom to see how they might fit the life with hearing loss. My comments follow each quote.

 

“If at first you don’t succeed, Try, try, try again…”

…and then get a hearing aid.

 

“How do I love thee?” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I love thee a lot…I just can’t hear thee.

 

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

And I’d like to behold yours, so please move your hands from your face so I can speechread.

 

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” – Wayne Gretzky

You also miss 100% of the words you pretend to hear. Stop bluffing.

 

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi

(Loudly) I WISH THAT PEOPLE WOULD SPEAK UP!!!!

 

“Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.” – Dame Edna Everage

People with hearing loss are laughing at the joke – because other people are. We ourselves didn’t catch it.

 

“No man is an island.” – John Donne

Trust me, when I can’t hear the group conversation at a party, I’m alone on my own little island.

 

“Friends…countrymen, lend me your ears!” – Shakespeare

Nah, ours don’t work so good…borrow somebody else’s.

 

“People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

Peeps with hearing aids and cochlear implants would never live in such a noisy thing as a glass house.

 

“Use it or lose it.”

This is the scary thing researchers are telling us – unaddressed hearing loss can lead to mental health issues. Also, dementia.

 

“Better late than never.” 

See ‘use it or lose it’ above. Address your hearing loss.

 

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Or a free hearing aid.

 

“Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”

So, if you do manage to score a free hearing aid, you shouldn’t ask, “don’t you have one a little less ugly?”

 

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Alrighty then! I’m doing my best to hear as hard as I can – perhaps God could chip in and take away this tinnitus?

 

“You can’t always get what you want.”

Oh, now you tell me…I believed the one above.

 

“Actions speak louder than words.”

I’m glad something does!

 

“Practice makes perfect.”

I’ve been practicing ‘Hearing’ for years – and it’s still not perfect. However, I can change a hearing aid battery without dropping it, so I feel pretty good about that.

 

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Hard of hearing kids are definitely the weakest link in that stupid whispering game called Telephone or Chinese Whispers. When it got to us, we just made up some words. If someone whispered “this is a great party” , we just smiled, nodded, and whispered to the kid next to us, “the person on my other side has bad breath.”

 

“Honesty is the best policy.”

True, but try getting a hard of hearing person, nodding her head at everything you say, to admit she hasn’t got a clue what you’re saying.

 

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Also true – I really did miss my hearing aid when the dog ate it.

 

“Every cloud has a silver lining.”

I suppose so. Not hearing other people’s body sounds is a definite plus.

 

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” – Thumper

The same thing goes if you can’t face me and speak clearly. Just don’t speak.

 

“Misery loves company.”

It doesn’t make me feel good to know millions of other people are going through the same tinnitus thing as me. OK, yes it does.

 

“The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

Not the hard of hearing guy. You get his heart through good communication. 

 

“What goes around, comes around.”

If you nagged your spouse for years about getting their hearing checked, remember your own advice when your personal hearing starts to go.

 

“The Lord loves a cheerful idiot.”

My grandpa, a preacher with a great sense of humor, always aid this. It’s probably not politically correct and has nothing to do with hearing loss, but it makes me laugh, so I’ll end here.

I’m pleased to welcome Ed McGee as my guest writer this week, who shares his story of coming through Ménière’s, hearing loss and a curtailed lifestyle, to a new world of hearing and activity. 

 

I remember my first episode with vertigo in 1977. I had developed Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes vertigo, and with each episode more and more hearing loss occurred in my right ear. While irritating, I was able to get by with my good, left ear for several decades.

In 2012, I started experiencing feelings of vertigo again, and this time it affected my left ear. By the end of 2014, the hearing aids I tried became more of an annoyance than a solution. They amplified sound, but I increasingly lost the ability to pull those sounds apart and make sense of them. I began dreading all social situations. A runner most of my life, I loved to stay active through a variety of sports and activities – tennis, pickle ball, basketball, cribbage and, my favorite, ballroom dancing. However, as my confidence deteriorated, I began withdrawing from these activities, including singing in the choir. I felt embarrassed attempting simple tasks, like talking on the phone, because I had to keep asking people to repeat themselves. Eventually, I would just fake it and pretend I could hear rather than aggravate the person on the other end of the line.

The social impact of my hearing loss was enormous. I had long enjoyed a wide variety of activities dependent on sound: movies, theater, concerts, teaching Sunday school and the pleasure of interacting with friends and family. I retreated from these activities simply because I could not understand. The phone, for example, long an instrument of great usefulness, turned into an object of fear. And I painfully remember one Thanksgiving when my sweet, lively, mischievous granddaughter tried to tell me knock-knock jokes with a huge grin on her face. I could not for the life of me understand her questions. My family had a hearty laugh at my confusion, but even as I smiled at their enjoyment, I was deeply embarrassed, unnerved and frankly depressed. I backed away from what had once nourished and enriched my life.

One of the hardest parts of my hearing struggle was when I was participating in and teaching ballroom dancing. Looking for companionship in my mid-40s, I started ballroom dancing. I took some lessons and was instantly hooked. I love a variety of swing dancing, the tango and, my personal favorite, the Carolina Shag, a dance that originated on the coast and is primarily done to beach music.

While working as a history professor at Belmont Abbey College, just south of Charlotte, North Carolina, I convinced the college dean to let me offer ballroom dance classes to students. I taught for 20 years only hearing out of my left ear. But, over time, not being able to hear the music and beat made it very difficult, and my partner would have to do all the counting for me.

Things changed for me when I was introduced to Dr. Scott Greene at ENT Associates in Pinellas County, Florida, and he recommended cochlear implants. In January 2016, I had my first cochlear implant surgery on my left ear, and my right ear followed suit one year later. After my first cochlear implant, I immediately experienced restored sound in small things such as the sound of my clothes as I dressed in the morning, my footsteps as I walked about the house, birds chirping and the wind rustling through the trees. With my second cochlear implant, my hearing seemed to expand to the quality of surround sound.

Each time one of my implants was activated, a broad smile consumed my face as my life lit up. Tears came to my eyes, and when I met the eyes of my lady friend gripping my hand, I saw she was smiling back with tears in her eyes too!

On my way home, I heard music from the car radio with a clarity that allowed me to understand words, a first. My cellphone became an object of great utility once again. I call all of my children for extended conversations, and I speak to my still mischievous granddaughter with ease, which can be a challenge in the best of circumstances as she’s a rapid speaker.

Now that I’m a bilateral cochlear implant recipient, ballroom dancing is a heck of a lot easier being able to hear the beat. I can hear the words in songs again and hear the melodies. It’s been such a transformation. I always listen to music now when I work out. I stream songs from my iPod through the Cochlear Wireless Mini Microphone, and the music is so clear. Today, I wear the Kanso sound processors on both sides. I love how they sit off my ear, discretely blending into my hair, and are simple to use. It also supports my active lifestyle, allowing me to play all of my beloved sports and participate in my favorite activities with ease.

Before my cochlear implants, I looked to a dark future of withdrawal. Now the future beckons me to more. I am a renewed man enjoying my life again.

 

Ed McGee, 75, is a Cochlear implant recipient who lives in Florida.