Hearing Loss: Garry’s story

My hearing loss was first noticed in my early teens. A hearing test at age 14 confirmed a substantial high frequency loss. I learned to accept this as I had no other option but to just get on with it. There’s no doubt things were harder for me...it took more of an effort for me to listen and engage in conversations.

Deaf people can often be the brunt of humour by other people. One family joke was when my parents read a comprehension review I had written for English at school. The teacher had read out to the class an article on the Greek philosopher Socrates and I had written that Socrates had died by being forced to drink poison while held in a headlock. I had misheard that Socrates had died by drinking the poison hemlock.

I often find I get the completely wrong end of the stick in conversations or get left out because I have missed a critical point.

Music is so good for the soul and I have always loved it although I don’t hear much more than half what people with normal hearing do.I can only hear the bottom 2/3s of the piano keyboard. I still love music and will often sit down on an evening with my guitar and strum away, even though I can barely make out what I am playing.

When I first met Jenny, I think she thought I was a complete music buff, because I would have the music up so loud to hear it, I nearly deafened her in the process as well.

I didn’t actually tell Jenny I was losing my hearing when we first met. It’s not really something a 22 year old wants to be telling his new girlfriend. But poor Jenny .. she thought I was ignoring her at times, especially when we would be driving somewhere. Jenny would be chatting away and I would not be talking back.. because I could not hear what she was saying, and as I wasn’t facing her, I could not pick up on the visual cues either.

It was a few months into our relationship when the subject came up.. and Jenny was so relieved in one way to know that I had not simply been giving her the brush off and thinking her conversations were dull!

Rather the opposite, I was intrigued with Jenny, she was and still is the love of my life.

Once I was open and honest with Jenny about my hearing loss, our relationship continued to blossom and grow.

After we were married we headed off on our OE together, to Australia and Europe.

Jenny and I had fantastic and memorable times on our OE, though we always knew New Zealand was home for us and when we returned, we set up home here in Whakatane. It is a beautiful coastal town and we have thoroughly enjoyed raising our family here and being part of the local community.

Jenny nurses here, while I am based with Fonterra. Our children are all grown up now, with our oldest daughter having graduated with a law degree, our youngest daughter is studying to be a geologist and our son has taken after me with his career choice and his love of music.

As the children were growing up, they definitely got frustrated with me at times.

Work wise, I always managed to cope and deal with the hearing loss. Hearing aids were not an option for me until I was in my 30’s. They were expensive, not that helpful and didn’t do much for my vanity as a young man.

However I have now been using hearing aids full time since I was 40, but even with the very advanced technology of the aids, they are still of only limited help for me. In the past lip reading assisted my aids and hearing, but now the aids assist my lip reading.

Everyday life presents more and more high frequency devices that I simply cannot hear no matter how loud they are. Almost all appliances in the home now have audible warnings or prompts. Vehicles have them and work places are an audio maze of beeps and alarms that can be quite important, but I am unaware of them.

Its getting to the point now where I want to reclaim my life.

I feel as if my hearing loss has been robbing me of my quality of life ever so slowly, but ever so gradually over the years, where it has now got to the point where it is having more serious consequences.

For years I have coped, adapted and developed ever increasing strategies to help not only me, but my family, friends and work colleagues to deal with it. But now I am running out of strategies and options.

My audiologist was first to suggest that a cochlear implant may help me. Jenny came across people at her work that had relatives or friends who had cochlear implants and heard how much these people had benefited from them.

Questions that were asked were, did I:

  • Avoid social situations?
  • Have to ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Need captions to follow TV programs?
  • Often rely on lip reading?
  • Have trouble hearing on the phone?
  • Avoid social activities because you don’t know what’s being said and are afraid you may respond incorrectly?
  • Have a hard time keeping up at work?
  • Find the effort of concentrating on everyday communication exhausting?

I answered “yes” to every single one.

I was told a cochlear implant could be an option for me to help restore my hearing, though there is a rather lengthy process to go through.

I was put in contact with the Northern Cochlear Implant Trust in Auckland as I fall under their catchment. For those living south of Taupo it is the Southern Cochlear Trust.

I have been accepted and placed on the list but I have also been told that with the current Government funding I will never get to the top of “The List”.

Garry.