What is it like to lose your hearing as an adult? Not older, but in your 30’s or 40’s?
You grow up hearing fine. Communicating in the language you were raised with (or others you learned as you grew up.) Then all of a sudden you notice you are having a harder time hearing others. Sounds around you are more muffled and difficult to understand. So you go to an audiologist and you are told that you have hearing loss. Not minor but significant enough to need a hearing aid. But what if you don’t want one? Most insurance for adults does not cover a hearing aid. They don’t consider a hearing aid a necessity. Hearing is a necessity but the equipment needed to hear when you lose your hearing is not? Where does that leave you?
The cost out of pocket for a hearing aid can range from $300 to over $1500 or more per ear depending on your needs and where you obtain them. If you are lucky you have benefits to cover the partial cost, but even then that could be hundreds of dollars or more. Most adults cannot afford that cost.
What about the ability to learn sign language to help? That’s a great thought but finding somewhere to learn it is the trick. Most hospitals offer interpreters for those who are already Deaf, but not classes to learn for those who are going or are Deaf. What about adults who prefer signing over hearing aids? What is available for them? Most colleges offer sign language, but the cost could be overwhelming and the classes hard to get into as younger students take the class for their chosen language.
I started noticing hearing loss around 2018-2019. I struggled with hearing someone talk to me in their normal tone from only 10 feet away in a quiet room. Then it progressed to struggling when someone had their back to me in a quiet room, to pinpointing the voice of someone talking to me in a crowded room. In public places crowds are inevitable. Even outdoors, the voices carry to a point where hearing people even next to me became a challenge. So I got my hearing tested initially in 2019 and there was some hearing loss, but not significant enough to warrant assistance. So I let it go. By 2021 it was noticeably worse. Something had to be done.
I did another hearing test and at that point I was told it was significant enough to need a hearing aid in one ear, but possibly in both. I was 44 years old. That was not something you want to hear at that age. I did not want a hearing aid. Yes it would help, yes I understood it was a necessity, especially in my line of work as a paraeducator working with students who are moderate to severely disabled. So I got one. The cost was a lot for a single parent to take but my insurance did NOT cover it. I, thankfully, got a discount thanks to union benefits but it was still well over $1,000.
So what was my next step? Preferably I would rather use sign language. I knew some thanks to the classes I took in college but that had been 20 years prior and the sign I knew from teaching my son sign as an infant wasn’t enough for communication so I was stuck using the hearing aid. It was small, discreet and blended in with my hair. But still, I had to wear one. But I noticed how much louder my job was with it on and turned on, so I stopped turning it on at work and just hoped for the best.
Then came students who were non-verbal that used AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) and who signed as well. I was finally able to put my signing to use again. Then I learned more and more. I realized how much I preferred it but not many people at work or even at home knew it. My daughter understood it, which helped in public for me to communicate, but she responded verbally due to her struggling to be able to sign.
Now to today, almost 6 years after I discovered my hearing loss. I wear a hearing aid in one ear, though I rarely turn it on but I wear it. I now work in a classroom with a teacher who understands my hearing loss and another staff member within my class has hearing loss as well. Where I am a 1:1 with a student who wears a Cochlear Implant and signs. So I can work on signing and learning more and more and I can communicate with my student verbally and in sign language. But that doesn’t help me outside of work. I’m expected to hear, which I’m still doing but the hearing loss is getting more and more noticeable. Enough that my bluetooth while talking on the phone is at full blast and it’s still a struggle. It’s enough that I use closed captioning when I Facetime on my phone or watch a tv show or movies on my computer. I am getting my hearing retested in a couple months (the soonest I could get an appointment.) I’m expecting more loss in my right ear as my left one currently has the most loss. Then will come the decision. Do I get another hearing aid or let it go? Do I want the expense of the hearing aid? Or do I find a resource for learning to sign and become more fluent than I currently am?
So I have some choices to make. Do I just decide to accept that I, as an adult with 2 kids (15 and 20) am losing my hearing and get another hearing aid OR do I accept what is happening but refuse to use another hearing aid and see how I can function without one? Not many people in my life, besides some people at my job, both staff and students plus my daughter (20) know how to sign. Others, namely my boyfriend, are trying to learn to make things easier on me. Then, finding somewhere that I can learn to become more fluent is the trick. There are online classes, but very few in person ones. Sure, I could learn easily online but I would much prefer somewhere closer to home to learn in person.
All I know is, I am an adult who is losing their hearing and struggling with how to cope. There are decisions I have to make and figuring out the right one for me is the trick.
#HardOfHearing #SignLanguage #adultswithautismandadhd