People with hearing loss – have you ever considered the time you’ve been wasting?
If we no longer had hearing ‘issues’—if our hearing was suddenly and miraculously restored—what on earth would we do with all that extra time? How would we replace all those minutes and hours spent on the technology, rituals and emotions of hearing loss?
When I was a little girl, the doctors said there would never be a cure in my lifetime—very inspirational sorts, those doctors. But they also neglected to say, or perhaps couldn’t foresee, that technology and peer/professional support would improve my life to the point that every moment I spend on my hearing loss is worth it.
Hearing loss is one of the key shapers of my day; it’s there when I wake up and one of my last thoughts before sleep. Here’s an average day in the life of one hearing aid user who also has tinnitus. (I don’t know if this time commitment will change once I receive my cochlear implant. But I do know that one CI friend spends a lot of time looking for her spare batteries.)
- 1-2 minutes: Listening to see what tinnitus sounds are playing as my brain comes to life. Is it the tiny construction worker with the sledgehammer? The waterfall? The hum of an orchestra tuning up? A combination? Then I think, “Yup, it’s still here, dammit, now get up!”
- 1 minute: Unscrewing top from my drying aid, pulling out the hearing aids (sometimes referred to as Billy and Bob), turning them on and inserting. Alternatively, I insert them before turning on, but then I have to listen to the loud chimes that say, “Yo sister, Billy and Bob are ‘hear’ for ya!” I could probably accomplish this in under 60 seconds but this takes place in very early morning when fingers are bit sluggish.
During Day, Every Day:
- Constant awareness of tinnitus. How to drill this down to actual minutes? I’m not a mathematician, but let’s assume that as I’m awake approximately 16 hours every day, tinnitus is present for all 16 hours but I give conscious thought to the sounds perhaps one fifth of that time, which comes out to 3 hours, 20 minutes. Sheesh, that’s a big chunk of time.
- 2 minutes: Pushing hearing aids back in when they sometimes slide out of the ear canal a bit.
- 30 seconds: Replacing hearing aid behind my ear if it flops out when I take off my reading glasses. This is embarrassing if someone else is the first to notice something bouncing in the air by my ear.
- 1-2 minutes: Pushing button to change hearing aid program to telecoil for phone calls. This process can be shortened by using my Bluetooth neckloop which requires 20 seconds maximum for all phone calls—IF I’m wearing the neckloop.
- 1 minute: Looking around the house for my Bluetooth neckloop.
- 5-10 minutes (sometimes less, usually more): Asking people to repeat themselves—and then waiting for their response, which can take a while if they can’t remember.
Upon Retiring for the Night:
- 15 seconds: Taking hearing aids out and put in drying aid.
- 30 seconds (later): Groping for drying kit, opening it up and reinserting hearing aids because the Hearing Husband asks me an important question just after I’ve taken them out.
- 2-3 minutes: Changing hearing aid batteries.
- 1 minute: Changing wax guards.
- 5 minutes: Giving hearing aids a good cleaning. This takes less time if I haven’t lost the manufacturer’s cleaning supplies. Otherwise, I have to be inventive to get wax out of the air vent. What works well are the plastic wires attaching price tags and other labels to new clothes. (Remove the clothes first.)
- 5-60 seconds: Turning the TV’s closed captioning back on after Hearing Husband has watched a sports event.
- 8 hours (give or take a few): Writing, editing, and posting this blog.
And let’s not forget all that random time spent on hearing loss when we are traveling, on the job, shopping, working out or running around the house trying to figure out where that noise is coming from.
OK, I admit that if you add it all up, living with hearing loss doesn’t take that much time. But what about quality of the time? Most of us might classify the precious minutes and hours wasted on our hearing loss as poor, irritating, a nuisance, anxiety-inducing.
Or—we might also be grateful, especially for those moments of hearing and understanding such as this comment by Catherine Mellor, a friend who is still hearing new sounds several years after receiving a cochlear implant: I fell asleep watching TV with my ears on and woke up hearing the liquid dropping sounds of rain.
Moments like that are no waste of time.