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If your hearing is going, don’t suffer in silence
8:20pm Wednesday 9th May 2012 in Health
WITH one in six people in the UK suffering from some form of hearing loss, the effect on people’s lives are being highlighted during Deaf Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday, writes Lindsey Furby.
Exposure to loud sounds, prolonged exposure to loud noise or a great pressure on the ear drum can all cause permanent hearing damage – not always instantly but over a number of years.
It is the sensitivity to higher frequency sounds which we lose first, making it difficult for us to distinguish speech from background sounds and, if it becomes severe enough, to cause partial or total deafness. Another sign of hearing loss can include ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus.
Specsavers is encouraging local people to pop into their local centre to have a free hearing test. The hearing screeners take just three minutes and will establish if a person needs a full assessment. Both are free.
Going along may seem a small step, but as I recently found, making that step can be a life-changing decision.
When I was invited to be deaf for a day by Specsavers I was keen to get a feel and an understanding of what life is like suffering with a hearing problem and for those who have lost one of their vital senses.
I arrive at the centre where I was meeting hearing aid audiologist, Anita Ramdoss.
Anita asks me a few questions about my hearing. Then I am given a hearing test which involves wearing headphones and pressing a button each time I hear a tone of various pitches and volumes.
After the test Anita explains my hearing is normal.
Anita mixes the impression mould, which looks like a sophisticated version of playdoh in a fetching purple.
Injecting it into my ear canal, it feels strange but not uncomfortable and is painless.
Anita is talking to me, probably in a higher pitch, but as she turns, her tone drops and I don’t catch what she has said. She apologises and repeats.
In a strange way I feel at ease, I’ve switched off and feel enthusiastic about it.
As we step outside, every step I take vibrates through my entire body. There is a dull background noise and I have to regularly glance at Anita to see if she is talking to me.
High Street traffic is a muffled noise and I can just about distinguish a bus as it passes.
The turning point is when we head to a coffee shop. To experience the reality of a hearing loss Anita is keen for me to ask for our drinks.
As we queue, two mums and their buggies attempt to pass but I don’t even sense their presence. Anita softly touches my arm to get my attention and I move forward so they can get by.
I order two hot chocolates, but when the assistant asks me if we are “drinking in” I don’t hear her. I am confused and have to turn to Anita, who explains my ‘deafness’.
The total price comes to £4.60 but I give her the £6 I am holding in my hand. I feel silly but don’t even begin to explain.
Until that point I was coping, almost relaxed, but this is where, for many, the beginning of isolation can start.
As we sit down, I chat with Anita who tells me of an inspirational 91-year-old customer who had coped with hearing loss, but decided to get a hearing aid because she wanted to be a volunteer and help people.
“I found it so inspiring a person of this age was still wanting to help others,” said Anita.
For many, though, they are in denial and they start to withdraw and not do the things they used to. Family members and close friends can feel just as helpless. but the individual needs to be able to say “I want to do something about it,” explains Anita.
The coffee shop is busy and Anita tells me she is talking quite loudly because of the number of people and music. I can hear tones of the music but I am transfixed on Anita so I can make out what she is saying and for me she‘s talking normally.
She says I am talking quietly and the reason for this is because I cannot hear my own voice so I keep at a pitch I think is normal.
As we leave, with the feeling of pounding footsteps through my body again, I reflect on the experience.
Although I have only experienced hearing loss for part of my day, it has made me realise just how isolated people could feel and how some could decide it is easier to stay at home.
Even in a modern and socially aware society there are still many hurdles for those suffering from hearing loss.
Anita says: “It is still more socially acceptable to wear glasses than a hearing aid because it just cannot be seen.”
“For those who go out, many stick to regular places where there are familiar faces.
“After a while the assistant will know what they have, the person will know exactly how much it costs and have the money ready, it makes life a bit easier.
“People have to cross many barriers but every small step is moving in the right direction“, adds Anita.
Once my ear plugs are removed it’s great to get back to hearing the sounds so many of us take for granted.
I hope my experience will encourage people to seek help and know there is no need to suffer in a world of silence and isolation.
Come to your senses and go along for a hearing test.
Visit www.specsavers.co.uk/ hearing for your nearest centre.