A husband and wife tale on hearing impairment

Meet my dearest and most loving friends Judy and Charlie Kraft. They are one of the most solid couples I know, showing their affection for one another by holding hands and sitting close and always being each other’s support. Being around them makes my heart melt. Judy looks and speaks like she must have been Miss Alabama when she was younger, so lovely and gracious. Charlie is a man who is noticed with his good looks, gregarious nature, and for sure the twinkle in his eyes. One other thing, until just recently when Charlie was in the room, you knew it because he had a voice that caught your attention for its strength, and well yes, Charlie loudness. No matter, we all love Charlie, but we were not living with Charlie, so it was not problematic for friends to enjoy the lively conversations for the hours spent together.

Judy and Charlie Kraft
Judy and Charlie Kraft

Recently, Charlie sought out a hearing specialist. Rather than tell you any more of their story, I asked Charlie and Judy to give you a his and her perspective. If you are experiencing a hearing issue or have a loved one who is resistant to taking action to resolve theirs, please share this.

HE SAYS:

I have been hard of hearing most of my adult life. I have always talked loud, and I guess that is because I was hard of hearing. I think this was caused by a summer job after my freshman year in college. I worked at a foundry in which most of the workers used heavy metal grinding machines, and the foreman directed everyone with flashlights since the noise was so deafening. I did nothing about it for the past 50+ years, but my wife convinced me to have my hearing checked. The main reason she wanted me to do this is because I could not hear her and several others very well. I was told I had “SELECTIVE HEARING” by hearing only the things I wanted to hear! My wife continued to get frustrated since she had to repeat herself MANY times to me after she had spent 10+ years repeating herself to her mother before she passed away. I finally decided to have my hearing checked and just as expected, the hearing specialist said that I had a hearing loss and especially at the high pitch sounds. She said I hear low pitched voices (typical of men) fairly well, but high pitched was difficult. The letters of difficulty for me are K,T,F,S, & TH.

I remember a time when I was working in a large office building, and my office was at one end of a long open office area. My boss had an office about 150 yards away and there were probably 30 people at desks in the open area between us. Occasionally, he would walk up to my office and tell me to close my door since he could hear everything I was saying. He felt certain that the people in the open area could hear me as well. I admit that I never thought I had a hearing problem. I thought everyone that I could not hear talked softly. BUT I WAS WRONG! My kids and my wife would always comment on how loud I played the television, but I did not LISTEN to them. I wanted to hear the program and therefore disregarded their discomfort with the LOUD noise. I do remember when my IN-LAWS used to come over to our house, and they increased the volume on the television to an unbearable volume – so much so that I could not stand it. I guess I have followed in their footsteps.

Recently, I thought I should at least get a hearing test to satisfy my curiosity. At church one Sunday, a fellow parishioner who is a retired physician and I were talking about hearing loss. He said he had a friend in the business who he regarded as one of the best hearing specialists he has ever worked with to help with his hearing loss. I respect his opinion, and I called his friend to set up an appointment. My wife went with me and after the hearing test, the hearing specialist suggested I try a pair of the latest hearing aids on the market. She suggested I wear them for several days and then determine if I wanted to purchase them. WOW! WHAT A DIFFERENCE! I got them on a Thursday and wore them for several days experimenting with them. I would turn the volume up and down, just trying to experience the difference. I can’t believe the change it has made for me. My wife can now walk away from me and talk. I hear her! I have noticed that I talk much more softly than I did before the hearing aids especially on the phone. My wife used to tell me I shouted on the phone. I guess that was because I could not hear the other person and thought they could not hear me.

Just another few examples of the differences my hearing aids have made for me is when I’m on the golf course. I was amazed by the sound of the birds. I had never heard them before while playing golf. I have been so surprised by the number of guys I play golf with to learn that they’re hard of hearing, too. I had never noticed them wearing their hearing aids! The sound of my bracelet watch (when I lay it down) is a sound I had never heard. When eating out at restaurants, sometimes I find it extremely loud inside, but I can turn down my hearing aids to lessen the noise.

If there is one benefit I appreciate more than any, it is the communication with my wife. She is the most wonderful person in my whole life, and if it makes our marriage together stronger, I want to do it. I am sure this will be a HUGE change for the better in my world as well as others.

SHE SAYS:

This is the “other side” of the story about living with hearing loss. I’m the wife and daughter of two people who have had hearing problems over the course of twenty plus years. My mother struggled with her hearing late in life when she was in her 80’s. Finally, it took her cardiologist (who wore two hearing aids), to convince her she should have her hearing checked. As he raised his voice in order for her to hear, he said “you owe it to your family to have you hearing checked. It puts a strain on relationships when others have to repeat themselves over and over”. Amen, doctor!

I remember the many times she would say to me, “you’ll have to turn and look at me so I can read your lips”! Or, the many times I witnessed her “fake it” during conversations with others, acting as if she understood what they were saying. She finally took her doctor’s advice, and she began to wear hearing aids. It was late in life for my mother and she resisted wearing them in the beginning, but it was definitely an improvement in her life where she spent the later part of her years in an independent living facility.

So, my mother’s scenario is much like a short story, but my husband’s is more like a novel. I married a very handsome tall guy, strong in character, out-going, and LOUD. I, on the other hand, am soft-spoken and have very good hearing – even sensitive hearing I’ve been told. As long as I’ve known him, he’s always been the loudest person at a group get-together and has had to listen to the TV exceptionally loud. This has been a source of contention many times amongst family members. Not that he’s insensitive to others, but he would argue that he couldn’t hear it when we turned it down. Therefore, the TV volume went back up, and it has always been a constant battle. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the many times he forgot to turn off the radio in the car from driving it the day before. I’m not exaggerating when I say it made my heart skip a beat when I’d turn the ignition on the next day to hear the radio blasting away. I would ask myself, “How can anyone listen to a radio this loud and still concentrate on driving”!

As I mentioned before, I’m soft spoken so that hasn’t helped the problem. He’s always said that due to my soft voice, it’s the reason he can’t hear me well .My children, however, never had a problem hearing me nor did my friends ever complain. Eventually, my children would have to repeat themselves and said many times, “Dad, you need to do something about your hearing”! Again his response was “I don’t have a hearing problem”! Finally, the day came when the red flag raised its ugly head, and he surrendered. He couldn’t hear the phone ring when he’d be standing right next to it.

Needless to say, the stress and tension of living with noise each and every day can take its toll. I really thought it was something I would have to live with for the remainder of our life together. Once he surrendered to the fact that he did indeed have a hearing problem, he went to a hearing specialist to have his hearing checked. Once the test indicated a hearing loss, she (the hearing specialist) recommended the appropriate hearing aids for my husband and gave him the weekend to try them out. Before we left her office, the tone of his voice had remarkably changed. He had never heard himself speak in an audible way that people with normal hearing speak. Hence, the reason why he spoke so loudly since he had trouble hearing his own voice. Even his whispers beforehand were loud! Now, he could hear me speak in my normal tone with my head turned away from him. Miracles do happen! I was so happy for both of us as it was an unexpected change I thought would never happen.

In addition, it was very difficult to see his hearing aids once he put them on. I believe part of his reluctance to accept the fact that he had a hearing problem was two-fold. First, he didn’t want to be told he had a hearing problem and secondly, he didn’t want anyone to notice he was wearing hearing aids. It’s remarkable how much the aesthetics of hearing aids have improved over the years. Some have become practically invisible with the exception of seeing the small piece that fits behind the ear. If I didn’t know he was wearing them, I probably wouldn’t notice them at all.

So, our life has changed in so many positive ways. He’s still the out-going, charismatic man that I married, but he’s just not the loudest man I know. When I hear him say to me “I never heard the birds on the golf course” or “I never heard myself walk in my own shoes” it’s given me a sense of joy to know he’s living every day as he should be! Every day there are new things that he hears for the first time. Neither one of us knew just how bad his hearing was until he got his hearing aids. Now that he’s hearing better, I’m not having to spend countless times repeating everything I say. I realize many who are living on the “other side”, have had to endure the same as I have, and they know how exhausting it can be. I have even caught myself saying the same thing twice before he’d ask me to repeat myself!  I had become this repeating robot or should I say a broken record player! Now, life is so much “sweeter” as I don’t have to leave the room when the TV is turned on, and it’s just a more peaceful coexistence overall.

For those who may be experiencing some hearing difficulty, I hope this has been a source of encouragement. Sometimes, we don’t know what we’re missing. All I can say is that it’s opened up another world for my husband. For me, it’s created a more peaceful environment and for these two reasons, I’m very grateful.

For questions or comments, please call Jane Bloom, The Other Daughter at 425 299 6020 or email:   janeinthevillages@gmail.com website www.theotherdaughter.org.

 

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