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Pride Month: Addressing her hearing loss and her gender

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(The post is written by Jonas Nilsson, translated from HearingLikeMe Norway.)

Alfie Martins did not have good experiences with hearing aids, but that changed when she spontaneously learned about Phonak Audéo Marvel hearing aids. At the time, she was struggling with family, work and life in general, but the empowerment that her hearing aids brought her also allowed her to make a big decision in her life: living it as a woman.

Addressing Hearing Loss

Alfie Martins has lived in Ekerö, Stockholm since 1998 and works as a taxi driver. About 15 years ago, she realized that she had difficulty hearing in different work situations.

“I found it harder to understand what the customers were saying, especially women with a light voice,” she says. “I had to repeatedly ask them to repeat what they had just said and it gradually became uncomfortable.”

About two years after she acknowledged the problem, Alfie got her first hearing aids.

“That was amazing,” she says. “Suddenly I heard what people were saying. After a while, however, I still had problems with the devices. The sound became metallic and the audiologist could not help me. It was frustrating.”

Alfie left the hearing aids at home and they stayed there for several years. But as her hearing gradually deteriorated, she realized that the situation became unbearable. She often had to ask the customers she was driving to give up to have a conversation in the car, as she did not have a chance to hear what they were saying.

In 2017, Alfie finally sought help again, this time at a larger clinic. The situation, however, repeated itself. Alfie was recommended hearing aids that worked well in the beginning, but after a while the problems returned.

“I had told [the audiologist] about my experiences, but was unfortunately not followed up properly,” she says. “I did not get the help I needed.”

Once again, the hearing aids ended up in the drawer and she again had to endure her limited hearing. Then, the day came when everything changed.

“I drove a woman from the airport. After trying to talk a little, she said, ‘You hear badly, right?’ I could only confirm. She said she knew of a place where I could get good help.”

Read more: Why is the audiologist-patient relationship so important? 

Experiencing the Phonak Audéo Marvel Hearing Aids

Shortly after that encounter in a cab, Alfie spent her first hour with a new audiologist. After a hearing test, she was recommended the Phonak Audéo Marvel hearing aid, and immediately found them “fantastic.”

“These are definitely the best hearing aids I have had…”

“These are definitely the best hearing aids I have had,” she says. “The best thing about them is that I can use my technical knowledge and use the myPhonak App to create my own audio programs. For example, I adjust bass and treble for different situations, such as in a meeting, at a restaurant, and so on.”

Read more: MyPhonak App lets me pretend I’m an audiologist

Addressing her Hearing Loss and her Gender

Alfie Martins has not only struggled to find a good solution for her hearing. In parallel, she took another big step in life. She decided to finally live as the woman she has always felt like.

Prior to that, she had been through two marriages and had a son. She was interested in sailing, model railways, electronics and IT, and had worked for 20 years in the control panel industry. All this life she had lived with an appearance as a man:

“I lived with the secret for 55 years,” she says. “In the end, I did not succeed. I had to choose between getting out of the closet or never going out again.”

Taking Pride in Life

Only a week and a half before the Pride festival in 2009, Alfie decided she would appear in a Pride parade as a woman and show everyone who she really was. There was just one problem, she first had to tell her loved ones and her son. A few days before Pride, she succeeded.

“I asked [my son] if we could go up a hill and sit down because I had something important to tell him,” she says. “He turned pale and probably thought I had been struck by a deadly disease or something like that.”

Her son, however, responded positively, she remembers, saying it was, “wonderful.” It also explained the clothes he found in the laundry. “I thought you had a secret friend!” he had said.

“After I told the secret and was able to start life as the woman I really was,” Alfie says.

Living an Empowered, Prideful Life

Alfie describes the process of becoming a woman as a liberation. She took the name Alfie Lena Martins, and went through assessments, treatments and operations. The news of the choice she had made she communicated to anyone who needed or wanted to know about it. She also became active in the trans association FPES (Full Personality Expression Sweden) and has, among other things, been chairman of the board there for three election periods.

Today, Alfie is a co-judge in the District Court and is active in a local board. She still drives a taxi, but is now considering, after turning 66, whether it is time to retire.

“There are many thoughts at the moment,” she says. “Should I continue working for a while longer? Can I take care of my land, or should I sell the house to move to an apartment? At the same time, I love spring and sitting in the sun on the porch. We’ll see what I do. Maybe it’s just healthy [to just enjoy] a bit before I decide.”

Happy Pride!

Read more: Deaf, out and proud with hearing loss 

Author Details
The HearingLikeMe editorial team includes Jill Blocker von Bueren and Lisa Goldstein.