Living with a disability can be exhausting. Living with someone that has a disability can be almost as bad, as you’re constantly dealing with it as well as constantly seeing the toll it takes on someone you love. In the case of me and my wife, she has moderate to severe hearing loss in both of her ears and needs to wear two hearing aids in order to live some semblance of a normal life so she can communicate.
There are little things that you don’t really understand about hearing loss unless you’re presented with it day in and day out for years. Knowing that if you lock yourself out of the house while your partner is sleeping with their hearing aids out means more or less finding a way to break in to your own home; likewise you learn quickly that you need to speak directly at someone who’s hard of hearing and to never talk with something in front of your mouth, especially if the person with hearing loss compensates by reading lips. We also use a smattering of American Sign Language to communicate when her ears are out. However, even with all these methods of communication there’s a lot my wife misses on a regular basis, especially when we’re in public and dealing with people like cashiers or receptionists. In these instances I find myself translating for her quite often. It’s something I do gladly because it increases her ability to communicate with people, but it takes its toll on me as well, of course.
However, some of the problems that crop up while living with a hearing disability may be lessened going forward, thanks to the brand new pair of modern hearing aids my wife was fitted with yesterday. It’s been a long time since my wife received new ones. Even the ones she received back in 2011 weren’t exactly “new” then either; they were a pair of demo aids that were manufactured back in 2005, a bargain deal considering our insurance at the time didn’t cover hearing aids. These new ones are exactly that, though – brand new in the box, incredibly small and magnificently powerful. When she put them on she nearly cried at being able to finally hear clearly for the first time in years. It made me incredibly happy to see such a joyful look on her face. We even listened to the radio all the way home – something we almost never do, simply because my wife’s old aids wouldn’t let her hear the music very clearly even if we turned the volume up to 11. In fact these new aids are so powerful that I actually had to turn the volume up so I could hear the music. My wife, however, was doing just fine.
Will these new aids completely erase every aspect of living with a hearing disability? Of course not. They’re powerful pieces of technology, but they’re certainly not magic. On top of that, my wife can’t wear even the most comfortable hearing aids constantly if she wants to do things like sleep and shower, and that means having to continue to do all the things we already do to make it easier for her to understand what’s going on around her. Still, if these new aids mean she can enjoy the radio again, then they’re worth it.