My left ear has been acting up — increased pressure from seasonal allergies led to excess fluid, making my hearing aid unwearable for a few days until my ear dries out. It is a frustrating situation — I can’t hear on one side so I feel lopsided and out-of the-flow. It is hard to tell where sounds originate and the constant tinnitus in my hearing-aid-less-ear is a nuisance. Thank goodness this situation is only temporary.
Among the many challenges, the worst part is feeling less self-assured. At my yoga studio this morning, I briefly greeted my fellow students, but quickly retreated into a pre-class savasana to avoid conversation. I thought about cancelling lunch with a friend, but decided to fess up about being down one ear today instead. I feel low-energy, shy, and less poised. My self-confidence has taken a dip.
Uncertainty In the Days Before Treating My Hearing Loss
This feeling brought me back to the days before I came out of my hearing loss closet, when I feared walking into an unknown situation, concerned that I might not be able to hear. Sometimes it was a business meeting, other times a PTA meeting, but whatever the circumstances, I worried if I would arrive early enough to snag a seat in the front. Even if I did, would I be able to follow the dialogue? What if the speaker chose not to use a microphone? Please always use a mic!
In the days before I accepted my hearing loss, I avoided wearing my hearing aids, keeping them hidden in my purse for “emergencies.” Stigma was a constant whisper in my ear asking if I could put them on without anyone noticing. Sometimes I simply skipped things, assuming the worst and too fearful to try.
Consistently Wearing Hearing Aids Has Boosted My Confidence
These feelings of uncertainty still hit me every once in a while — particularly before what I know will be a difficult listening environment like a loud restaurant or a cocktail party — but since I began wearing my hearing aids regularly, I feel that way much less often.
Most of the time, I feel upbeat and well prepared to use technology and self-advocacy to take on whatever listening challenges come my way. I socialize, do meaningful work, attend the theater and the movies, and enjoy dining out, all with the help of my hearing aids, other assistive listening devices and communication best practices.
People new to hearing aids might disagree. In fact, they might feel less confident as they are getting used to the racket all around them. This makes sense, because their brain needs time to acclimate to the increased stimulation and to start to discern the more important speech sounds from background and other noise. It can take several days, if not weeks, to get used to wearing hearing aids. My advice — stick with it, the benefits are immense.
Hearing aids are not perfect — they do not restore your hearing to normal like glasses do for vision problems — but with consistent use, they make it easier to communicate, augment your confidence, and help you stay engaged in life. They certainly do for me.
Do your hearing aids boost your confidence?
Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, and avid Bikram yogi. She is the founder of Living With Hearing Loss, a blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with Shari: Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.