For 55-year-old Wendy Clark, one-to-one conversations were never a problem: she could always hear what the other person was saying, so she couldn’t possibly have hearing loss. Or could she?
Accepting hearing loss
For many, hearing loss is a difficult notion to accept. The latest Health Survey for England revealed that 23 per cent of men and one in six women aged over 55 who reported no difficulty in hearing were subsequently found to have some hearing loss*.
This is a problem that our audiologists see all too often. Nick Taylor, chief audiologist at Specsavers, said: ‘Hearing loss is something that happens gradually over time, so more often than not, people wait until their hearing loss is severe before seeking help. It’s important to look out for the signs like having the TV turned up uncomfortably loud for others in the room, and to have regular hearing checks to ensure you can be treated as early as possible. We recommend that anyone over the age of 55 has their hearing checked once a year.’
In denial of hearing loss
Wendy was aged 49 when she first visited Specsavers Audiologists. She decided to have her hearing checked to rule out hearing loss, and instead blamed poor pronunciation and sound quality on TV and radio programmes as the reason she wasn’t able to understand what people were saying.
She said: ‘I first noticed that I was struggling with my hearing a few years ago when I realised I couldn’t hear the TV and radio. I had to turn the volume up very loud and my husband Steve and daughter Zoe started to notice too. Telephone calls became more difficult and that’s when I decided to visit my local Specsavers to have my hearing checked. I didn’t for one minute think that I’d actually have hearing loss.’
Wendy’s case of denial meant she was shocked to discover that she was suffering from age-related hearing loss and that hearing aids were the answer to restoring clarity and amplification in sound. But she didn’t feel ready to commit to wearing the hearing aids she was given so decided to put them in the kitchen drawer and soon forgot about them.
Unfortunately her hearing deteriorated to the point where she had to be in the same room as family members to be able to talk to them. As a go-to person at work – Wendy works as a project administrator - it was crucial that she was able to amplify and clarify sounds to hear correctly in busy environments such as board meetings, briefings, presentations, and telephone conversations. For Wendy, not taking part in work activities or avoiding events was never an option - she had to be at her best to work correctly.
Addressing the issue
In early 2015 Wendy knew she really had to do something about her hearing. She went back to Specsavers and admitted that her hearing had deteriorated, but said she wanted to try different hearing aids. She continued: ‘It’s amazing that in just six years, technology had advanced so much. I remember hating wearing my old hearing aids which were in-canal.
This meant that any sounds only entered my ears from one direction so it was very difficult to pick up and clarify sound and where it was coming from. The receiver-in-canal (RICs) hearing aids that I wear now are very discreetly tucked behind my ears with an almost invisible clear wire that goes into my ear - it resembles a strand of hair. These aids are programmed with booster buttons for an increase in amplification whenever I need it and I can do it myself very discreetly. They are absolute dream in a busy board room or crowded restaurant when I might need to amplify what is being said due to background noise.’
Wendy now feels completely confident in everyday life and engages in every situation at home or work without a second thought. She adds: ‘I feel completely indebted to my audiologist who worked patiently and empathetically with me to reach the best possible solution. All the recommendations he gave me came from a clinician’s point of view to meet my specific needs. I really wish I’d decided to have my hearing checked sooner as it has made such a massive difference to my quality of life. I now feel that as a professional person I’m able to compete on a level playing field with my peers and wearing my hearing aids really has changed my life for the better.’
* Source: NatCen Research Health Survey for England 2014