Hearing loss does not just affect the hard of hearing – their partners also must learn to live with the loss! We’re All Ears spoke to Patricia about her husband Alfred’s noise-induced hearing loss. Alfred was exposed to loud noises during World War Two and then later on as a crane operator. He has been using hearing aids for over 20 years.
How long has Alfred had a hearing loss?
He first started to lose his hearing about 22 years ago.
Did you notice his hearing loss before he noticed it?
Yes, I did. I found that I had to get him to look at me if I was speaking. He was misunderstanding me and I was misunderstanding him, but it helped if we looked at each other. So then I knew it was time to go off to the hearing clinic.
One of his ears was worse than the other. As the years have gone on, he’s gone up and up in the quality of the hearing aids. He’s now got digital ones. It makes a difference in what he can hear, as the ones that he had before he could adjust them himself which was a bit of a problem! So now, if there’s any problem at all we just go straight back to the audiologist and she digitally fixes him up.
And did you find that being able to communicate better improved your relationship?
Oh yes, definitely. He can’t hear a thing without his hearing aids. As soon as he gets out of bed in the morning he’s got them in, because he’s so used to them. But I notice a lot of elderly people won’t use their hearing aids for some reason. I’m always telling them to see a hearing specialist.
Tell me about hearing aid maintenance?
Well it’s very important, because you do get a wax build up in your ears, and sometimes I say to him, “Have you been cleaning your hearing aids?” I can usually tell if he has forgotten! A lot of elderly people don’t remember or they don’t think about it. But I do, because I remember once early on, he couldn’t hear anything and there was no adjusting to be done, but the hearing aids themselves were very blocked. They come with lots of little things you can clean them out with.
Do his hearing aids now look very different from his first pair?
Oh yes. I forget his hearing aids there now, because they are the colour of his ears, and they sit neatly inside his ear instead of on the outside like the old ones. I think there are even smaller ones out now, really tiny ones. He doesn’t seem to worry about people seeing them though, and these ones have been the most successful. I am sure there are newer, updated ones now, but he is quite comfortable. He has on the odd occasion lost one! But with this plan that he’s on, they replaced it.
Do you know what caused his hearing loss?
They said his hearing loss was a lot to do with noise. He used to drive one of the biggest cranes that you could imagine, and they said his loss might have been down to that. But he didn’t realize until years after he’d left the industry!
Also, during the war, there were bombs and shooting and other very loud noises that he was exposed to. He used to try to cover his ears, but it would have caused some damage. Because he was so young, just a teenager, his hearing remained okay at the time and the damage showed itself later. So it was definitely noise, but ageing does come into it. A bit of both really.
Any final thoughts?
I just think it’s very important that people take notice of one another, because if someone has a hearing problem they might need a bit off a push to get to the hearing clinic. There are some fantastic hearing aids out there and it doesn’t make sense to not get help. The most important thing is just getting them into the hearing clinic. When I managed a retirement home, I must have gotten six people to go and see a clinician, and it made such a difference in their lives.