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Life Will Be More Fun, and 3 Other Reasons My Parent Should Get Hearing Aids

Somewhere, thousands of kilometres away, my beloved Dad is laid up in convalescence with a busted foot. One of his two ancient hearing aids finally died of late, and my stepmom wanted to arrange to buy a new one for him.

But he’s said no. Don’t buy it, because he won’t wear it.

It’s a story I’ve heard from too many people: An elderly member of their family needs hearing aids but is so “sound-shocked” by new hearing aids that they refuse to wear them, opting instead to fumble through life pretending they’re not missing half of what’s being said. In fact, many of these folks just up and take the new hearing aids back, deciding they’re “too old” and “too set” in their ways to adapt to the newness.

It’s ironic to hear of his stubbornness, given that I was so excited for the life-changing sound I knew would come my way with new hearing aids, after my seven-year-old aids began to die on me earlier this year.

The myth of “easy”

I saw a movie once where a kid asks a character why he’s such a big, heavy man, and he replies that his heart’s so big and full of kindness that it needs a bigger body. My dad is kind of like that. He’s a big man with an enormous heart. He’ll do anything for anyone else, but when it comes to himself, he doesn’t extend the same courtesy.

He often takes the “easy way out” with his hearing. He’ll try to read lips, nod when he doesn’t mean it, and even agree with unheard things so he seems involved. Deep down I know exactly how excluded he feels because he’s missing out on so much of what’s being said. I know, because when my hearing aids have died in past years, I’ve experienced all those frustrations and more.

The listening-but-not-hearing is something I call “surfacing.” You’re sort of there, sort of involved, but really, you’re just surfacing through the situation, never being deep in the moment.

Because my dad’s not at home, he’s in a rehabilitation facility for a few weeks, I can’t even try to persuade him to try on new hearing aids, because the phones there aren’t suited for the hearing-impaired. So I’m left wondering how he’s getting along with all these new strangers. Are they being impatient with all his “pardons” or is he winning everyone over with his goofy, lovable jokes he tells to compensate for everything he’s missing out on?

So many people describe how, as soon as a room gets too loud, their elderly uncle just takes the hearing aid off and stuffs it in a pocket. With that, his conversational level drops by half or more. When these opt-out folks don’t hear what’s being said, they can’t get involved in the conversation, so they just sit there and seem completely disengaged, despite going through the motions. When they do talk, it’s often completely off-topic and out of the blue, because they haven’t been following along in the least.

It’s like standing at a glass window. You can see everything going on, but it doesn’t mean you have a clue what’s really happening.

If I could talk to my dad today to try and convince him to buy the new hearing aid and rejoin life, what would I tell him?

Here are my 4 Reasons My Parent Should Get Hearing Aids:

1. It’ll Make You A Better Friend/Spouse/Parent/Grandparent 

Reasons My Parent Should Get Hearing Aids

“Dad, You’re the kindest, sweetest man I know, but when you can’t hear what I say, you’re not being as ‘in-the-moment’ and ‘there for me’ as you could be. When I’m sad, worried, scared, and I’m courageous enough to tell you so, the last thing I want is for you to say “What?” or to not hear what I said at all. It’s hard enough to communicate when we have our words and ears working, but it’s heart-breaking when better communication is being opted out of by choice, just because you think you can’t survive a couple weeks of adjusting to new sounds.”

Love only goes so far when it feels like someone is deliberately removing themselves from the picture when there’s a solution within their grasp. My father is the strongest man I know. The things he has overcome would boggle your mind, but now here he is, letting a little piece of technology get the better of him, simply because he refuses to believe it’s as adaptable as I know it is.

2. The New Technology is Customizable

Should my parents get hearing aids? Reasons My Parent Should Get Hearing Aids

Hearing aids today are as personable as haircuts.

Don’t like this frequency? Trim it, change it.

By working hand-in-hand with your hearing aid technician, you will reach a happy medium that is comfortable but powerful. Whatever sounds you dislike, write them down. Write down WHY you hate that sound. Too loud, too sharp, too tinny, too scratchy, too invasive, too deafening – they’re professionals and they understand how to interpret “tinny” as a combination of frequencies that can be dampened in the set-up phase. This process could take as little as two or three visits, or it could take more. If they can’t figure it out themselves, then there are always head audiologists not only in their companies but at the headquarters of whatever brand you’re wearing.

Read more: Hearing Aid Fitting Day: Ups, Downs and Why It’s Worth It!

Phonak came through like champions when I was emotionally overwhelmed by all the new sounds of my Naída V90-SPs, and now I’m hearing with better tones than I have in nearly 12 years.

3. Life Will Be More Fundoes my dad need hearing aids? Reasons My Parent Should Get Hearing Aids

I don’t care who you are, I promise, once you find the sweet spot of sound that’s just right for you, you’ll hear as much as 50-60% more life all around you. From singing birds to dirty jokes at card games, there’s more to life than you’ve been hearing. Aren’t you tired of wishing you heard what they said? Are you fed up of that small, niggling feeling of shame that it’s your fault you’re missing out, because you know that a hearing aid could help if you could tough it out?

Just find the courage to tackle the newness. Understand that it’s seldom perfect out of the box, but that you can get there easily by working with a hearing aid professional who understands all the weird shorthand for what you’re experiencing. It’s okay to say it’s not right. It’s all right to say it needs to be better or different or louder. It’s all about you, but you need to get involved in the process and give it some effort. You can’t just put them on, say you don’t like them, and give up.

Why can’t you? Because your friends and family need you, all of you. They need you to communicate, to listen, to care.

“…your friends and family need you, all of you. They need you to communicate, to listen, to care.”

I lose a bit of my father when he refuses to adapt to new hearing aids. My stepmom loses a bit of her husband. Friends lose a bit of my dad too. And he’s too awesome, wonderful, kind, generous, and meaningful for us to have less of what we know he can be for us. We love 100% of him, so getting only 50 or 60% back in conversations isn’t just disappointing, but sometimes it hurts, because we know technology has fixed that problem, and he just needs to let it in.

4. It’s Easy to Give Up

Do my parents need hearing aids? Reasons My Parent Should Get Hearing Aids

I know, in the past, I’ve thrown my hands up with my father, and my stepmom has too, because he’s stubborn and refuses to believe that hearing technology today can be as adaptable as we claim it is. I know what he’s experienced with hearing aids in the past because I’ve lived that life too.

Me, though, I’m a person with “severe to profound” hearing loss, with 50-80% of frequencies hobbled across the board. If I don’t have hearing aids on, I might as well go learn sign language, because I’m functionally deaf. I have had to learn to adapt throughout my whole life.

And guess what? Every single time, I’ve adapted. The brain is a magical thing. Give it two or three weeks, along with tweaking from an audiologist, and eventually the brain remaps all the sound, and presto, we adapt. Darwinism at work, baby.

This time, though, I’m not giving up on Dad. It’s too important. Hearing is such a powerful part of life, it affects everyone around us. It enriches our interactions, strengthens our relationships, and far more.

If you’ve suffered these same stories of frustrations with your family members, I hope this helps you find a way to talk about it differently, or maybe they can read this if you share it with them. I hope we both find a way to break through the resistance and inspire change in their life that benefits all of us. If you have any other tips about how you would encourage your parents to get hearing aids, please share them in the comments.
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Steffani Cameron is a writer and photographer from Vancouver, Canada, who’s gone “Full Nomad” and sold everything she owned to travel the world for five years. She’s working as a digital nomad wherever there’s a reasonably decent internet connection. She’s worn hearing aids since she was two, and currently wears Phonak Naída V90-SPs.
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Steffani Cameron is a writer and photographer from Vancouver, Canada, who’s gone “Full Nomad” and sold everything she owned to travel the world for five years. She’s working as a digital nomad wherever there’s a reasonably decent internet connection. She’s worn hearing aids since she was two, and currently wears Phonak Naída V90-SPs.