Imagine, people with hearing loss—what will life be like a half century from now? The technology, the attitudes?
I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s still early January of 2017 and this year I’m not even bothering with resolutions. Any I’ve ever managed to stick to, have been achieved purely by accident—like, you lose those five pounds because you had the flu. This year, there’s so much great for sure stuff happening that I don’t need to waste time or energy on what might occur.
The biggie: this week I’m getting a cochlear implant (CI). In spite of seeing the transformed lives of so many friends after their implants, I can still only guess at what it will mean for me. (And you’ll find out when I do, because I’ll be writing about my experiences through February and March.)
So, 50 years from now…what will hearing aids and technology and life be like in 2067?
That year, I’ll celebrate my 113th birthday. My grandchildren will be in their forties and fifties. My oldest stepson will be 90 and my son will be 71. Chances are a few of them will also need hearing technology. If I am still alive, and you can’t quite ‘get my looks’ as the sparky babe of 2017, check out the antique cochlear implant processor on the side of my head, which will probably not have had a battery change since, say, 2059.
But perhaps we won’t be using batteries by then! Amplification for people with hearing loss may come through teensy-weensy microchips in our earlobes—or through some non-toxic, modified organic substance that we eat, in a breakfast smoothie! Perhaps lasers, administered by drug store staff, will zap hair cells back to attention, rejuvenating even the most withered of the 15,000 hair cells needed for the perfectly healthy ear. Awesome!
Perhaps the incidence of hearing loss will have dropped dramatically through safer listening practices, the prevention of diseases that affect hearing, and the elimination of ototoxic drugs. Wow!
How about—finally—a better understanding and treatment of tinnitus. Amazing!
Over the past 60 years, I’ve seen changes that were only dreamed of in 1956 when I was two years old and diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss. Growing up, the doctors would not prescribe a hearing aid for my then mild-to-moderate hearing loss. “Accommodation” meant sitting at the front of the class. “Accessibility” meant people raising their voices or turning the TV volume knob to the right.
At 22, I got my first hearing aid which was beige-ugly but had a lovely volume control wheel. At 42, I got two hearing aids, same color, that nestled in my ears and helped me hear my baby. At 52, my hearing aids had usable telecoils and I had become an advocate and writer on hearing loss issues. The world was more aware of hearing loss because more of us had it and were demanding information on how to live more successfully with it.
Now, at 62, I’m going to experience the miracle of cochlear implants. Now we understand better that there are seemingly unlimited ways that hearing can be affected and harmed. Yet, every day I read of some amazing new tweak and advancement in life-improving technology. Professionals are working hard to improve how they deliver hearing health services.
But hearing health can only really improve if governments recognize and address the tremendous impact of hearing loss on individuals, their families and societies.
Why should only some of us benefit from hearing aids or cochlear implants or looping technology or text interpretation? Why not everyone who needs it? With better hearing, our overall health improves—and a healthy population makes for a better society. This is not rocket science.
I’ve seen what the last 50 years have offered and even though turning 100 is not on my bucket list, I’d love to reincarnate as the proverbial fly on the wall, so that I can see the hearing miracles that lie ahead.