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Beat the stigmas of hearing loss

Jeff Caldwell 09/22/2010 @ 3:10pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

I'm 9 years old, sitting on my grandparents' couch. Granddad doesn't even notice the brain-rattling squealing noise coming from his ears until my sister says something and he fumbles with his hearing aids long enough to knock the sound down (all those years in the field from the seat of that old International 706 took their toll). We roll our eyes and exchange looks of relief and frustration. Good thing he can't see very well either.

That's one of the first things I thought about when my ENT told me another round of surgery on my ears would not only run the risk of not working, but also cause me to possibly lose 100% of my hearing. The only real option, he said, was hearing aids.

I'm 31 years old. I'm not old enough for hearing aids yet. They're expensive. It's going to be a huge hassle. My friends will think it's crazy. My 2 1/2-year-old daughter will get ahold of them and destroy them. My dog will eat them.

Every one of these thoughts crossed my mind in the first minute or 2 after my doctor's assessment. Even after my audiologist showed me the hearing aids I'd eventually wear, it felt weird. I wasn't old enough to wear hearing aids. I just didn't need them yet. Right?

What?

In the few weeks I had to wait before I got my hearing aids, I kept having these thoughts. But then, I started keeping track of all the times when my wife would ask me something and I wouldn't hear her. I'd watch the look on her face as I turned the TV up loud enough to hear the game or the news. I counted the number of times my daughter -- just learning to talk -- would tell me something and I'd have to ask my wife what she said.

I guess maybe I do need them. Still, it sucks. I don't want hearing aids.

"People most generally struggle with the stigma of wearing hearing aids. I think that there's some misunderstanding about how they help. I think that they tend to see they're becoming their grandfather -- with the squealing hearing aid -- turning it up and down and down."

I can't help but laugh out loud when Carolyn Sheridan, BSN, clinical director for the Spencer, Iowa-based AgriSafe Network tells me that. Exactly!

Then, I go in to my audiologist's office to get them. I put them on. "Almost everybody gets in their car when they leave and think something's wrong with it immediately because they're hearing things they haven't been able to hear before," my audiologist said as I walked out of her office with my new ears.

I start my car and immediately hear the A/C emitting a little squeaking noise. I'd never heard it before.

I go home later. It feels like a sledgehammer hitting me between the eyes every time my dog barks at something outside. I don't have to read my wife's lips (something I'd subconsciously begun doing years ago, people tell me now). I can not only hear what my daughter was telling me, but I can hear her breathe.

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smart decision! 09/23/2010 @ 4:58pm As a child, I constantly had ear infections and even ruptured eardrums. That is no fun. I always keep a pair of earplugs handy when I am doing anything from farming to 4-wheeler riding! I am trying my best to make sure that I preserve the hearing I do have, because I have seen the results through my father and my grandfather. I am glad that you took the plunge and then had the guts to put it out there on the table!

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