KENTUCKY — What?!!? Can you repeat that please?

This question gets a better response by the way.

Hearing is something we all tend to take for granted. And the longer you live, the more likely you will develop hearing loss. It’s a fact of nature.

Many people don’t seek treatment for several reasons. They don’t realize they have hearing loss, they don’t want to wear hearing aids, or they don’t have the money to buy a hearing device.

If left untreated, hearing loss is linked to health issues such as depression, dementia, and chronic stress. You are also at higher risk for falling. The World Health Organization (WHO) had identified hearing loss as one of the world’s major health problems.

My hearing loss only affects my left side and it’s because of a primary brain tumor … an acoustic neuroma (also known as a vestibular schwanomma). This is a thankfully benign, yet rare, slow-growing tumor that is between the acoustic (hearing) nerve, facial nerve, and balance (vestibular) nerve.

Without going into all the details, the tumor was found because we…me and the doctors…were looking for something else in 2009. This was a shock.

Cyberknife treatment was decided on after a lot of research and soul searching. The treatment is stereotactic targeted radiation. This route minimized my hearing loss and no facial paralysis. The side effects lasted about a year. But was all worth it because the tumor shrunk and is basically “dead.”

Over the past 18 months, I noticed my hearing was diminishing and seemed to be yelling at everybody to repeat themselves. My frustration built up because I couldn’t communicate “normally.” I didn’t want to go out in public much to minimize the annoyance. This is not like me.

Typical Symptoms of Hearing Loss:

• Difficulty understanding everyday conversation. Check.

• A feeling of being able to hear but not understand. Check.

• Having to turn up the TV or radio. Check.

• Asking others to repeat often. Check.

• Avoidance of social situations that were once enjoyable. Check.

• Increased difficulty communicating in noisy situations like restaurants, lively family gatherings, in the car or in group meetings. Check.

• Tinnitus, or ringing and/or buzzing sounds in the ears. Check.

So I had another hearing test done in December. The hearing on the left was worse but the right was the same. In this situation, you can hear but can’t tell where sounds are coming from. This can drive you nuts and make you crabby.

It was recommend that I try a hearing aid on the left side. It was not guaranteed to help my situation because of the tumor. So I took the plunge, met with an audiologist and bought a fitted hearing aid for the left ear. Merry Christmas Brigitte! Ka-ching.

I am thankful we have health insurance that covers the hearing test. But hearing aids aren’t covered; it’s out-of-pocket. This crap is expensive. I now understand why less than 20 percent of people with hearing loss actually seek treatment and get hearing aids.

My fitted hearing aid was gradually ramped up to the audio level to match my right ear. This was done over three visits. It’s best to have the brain get used to sound coming from both sides in smaller steps. Too much at once can cause headaches.

So far so good. When wearing the aid at first I thought I was yelling. My family said that wasn’t the case. I just wasn’t used to hearing myself.

The hearing aid was worth the investment. Actually, the gift of hearing is priceless.

Thanks for listening.

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