The festive period is approaching — a socially and beautiful time of the year. But with Christmas just around the corner, for more than half of UK adults with hearing loss, the festivities are not such a social, joyous occasion. Hearing loss is often seen as a non-visible disability. Many people feel there is a stigma around the condition and find it hard to ask for help. There are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK, (that’s around one in six people), so it’s a condition that affects a lot of us.
Please note this post is a collaborative post with Specsavers Audiology. All opinions are my own.
Hearing loss can have many different causes. For example, sudden hearing loss in one ear may be due to earwax, an ear infection, a perforated (burst) eardrum or Ménière’s disease. Sudden hearing loss in both ears may be due to damage from loud noise or taking certain medicines that can affect hearing.
With hearing loss, it can lead to withdrawal from social situations, emotional distress, and depression. Many people avoid social settings for fear of asking people to repeat themselves. Research shows that it increases the risk of loneliness, but only for those who don’t wear hearing aids.
Heard it Through the Grapevine
Christmas is just around the corner which means the party season will soon be in full swing. With the busyness of the festive period, we often neglect our health and rarely pay attention to our eyes and ears. These two senses are a significant part of whether we can enjoy the festive period.
Last week I was invited to a wine tasting event with Specsavers Audiology. The event honestly changed everything for me! It was an intimate wine tasting evening, where we were all asked to wear hearing moulds which stimulated hearing loss. The event was for Specsavers to raise awareness on the importance of regular hearing checks.
There are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK, (that’s around one in six people).
The event started at 6 pm at which I am proud to say that I was for once on time. I was welcomed with champagne and canapes of which I indulged in fully. You know me now, guys!
Later in the evening, we spoke to an audiologist from Specsavers who informed us on the impacts of hearing loss and the importance of having your ears checked regularly.
My experience of wearing hearing loss moulds
I remember the audiologist asking me a series of questions, such as had I experienced any pain or any ringing in my ears etc. All of which I answered no to. The audiologist then checked my ears with an otoscope and told me that my eardrums looked healthy. (This was surprising considering how loud I blast my music daily).
One ear was done at a time. The ear was fitted with a spongey mould and then injected with a cold substance which replicated around 70% hearing loss. Meaning that I was unable to listen to people speak like I usually do.
How I really felt losing my hearing
The experience was rather emotional. So emotional that I cried. Honestly, I first felt like I was physically underwater, you know that feeling when you know conversations are happening, but you can’t pinpoint what it is. That was how I felt not being able to hear.
I also learnt that using a cotton bud in your ear is like rubbing sandpaper on your hand.
I couldn’t believe how much I had to concentrate and look at people when they spoke to me. The majority of the night was spent with me feeling like I was shouting, which was ironic because many people said that I had talked a lot quieter and softer. As I was the first to have the moulds in I could feel a sense of isolation when making conversation with others. Continually having to ask people to repeat themselves, was complicated with people I had only just met for the first time.
Several times I felt very isolated and ready to leave. If I couldn’t hear what someone said, I would feel conscious of asking them to repeat themselves, so I usually smiled and nodded for fear of being annoying and praying for them to speak louder. When someone moved their face as they talked to me or covered their mouth, I wouldn’t be able to hear a single word that they said.
Another thing I noticed was the sudden change in my taste buds. Food and wine tasted slightly different. It felt like my other sense became more pronounced when I couldn’t hear. My attitude has undoubtedly changed towards those that suffer from hearing loss. I don’t think I have ever spoken with anyone with real hearing loss, but this evening really opened my eyes and made me realise the difficulties one may have with their hearing.
I kept the moulds in for just over an hour. Convinced that I had to keep them in as long as possible. I wanted to get a real sense of what it was like to suffer from hearing loss. When they were taken out, I was filled with tears and emotions. The experience was incredibly overwhelming, and the ability to be able to take the moulds out and hear again. Never in my life had I imagined what it was like to lose one of my senses. And for me, it was only for one hour! Realising that I struggled so much with the mould in. And then knowing that this is people’s daily life saddened me. It also made me understand the importance of proper communication and pronunciation.
There are helpful ways of speaking to someone with hearing difficulties:
- Get their attention by calling their name before actually talking to them
- Look directly at the person when you are speaking to them
- Speak slowly and clearly. At the same time, don’t over pronounce the words, or they can’t follow what you are saying.
- Never shout at someone with hearing difficulties
- Don’t be dismissive, so things like ‘don’t worry about it’ is not a good idea
- Be patient
Get your hearing checked
After my experience, I will be certainly getting my hearing checked more often. I would suggest getting checked once every two years. To find out more or book your next appointment head to your nearest Specsavers store or simply visit www.specsavers.co.uk
I want to thank Specsavers Audiology for giving me such a life-changing experience. I left the event feeling transformed and more willing to understand the issues people may face with hearing loss. Think you could work with me – click here