Illness Warriors would like to welcome our guest blogger, Kelly Lewis of Inspired Organizing.
I began college with the intention of becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist; however, during my undergraduate coursework, I decided to pursue Audiology instead. They share the same Bachelor’s degree, but at that time a separate Master’s degree had to be earned for each discipline.
I wanted to go into this field to help other people, even before I knew that I had experienced hearing loss. We as humans are excellent at compensating, and I had never realized that I watched TV with my head propped up or that I had to move the phone to a different ear when speaking to certain people.
I discovered my hearing loss by accident one night in graduate school, when a classmate and I were practicing a test on each other. This test enables audiologists to determine whether a patient has normal hearing or a hearing loss.
My classmate tried the test on me first and it didn’t work – we thought that the equipment malfunctioned, yet when I tried the test on her the equipment worked. After several attempts going back-and-forth, we realized that the equipment wasn’t broken…I had a hearing loss!
I have a condition called Otosclerosis and it results in a type of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. Here are a few things that are helpful to me in coping with my reduced hearing.
1. Be a great self-advocate. Hearing loss is not typically visible to others. It’s up to me to tell them about my hearing loss and guide them to better communication. Hearing loss (or any other disability) is nothing to be ashamed of! Examples include:
- Ensuring others have my attention before starting a conversation.
- Ensuring we are in the same room.
- Facing me when speaking to me so I can compensate with lip-reading and facial expressions.
2. Use captioning when watching television. It is draining to strain to hear all day long; if I want to relax by watching TV at night, it makes it tremendously easier to “hear” if I turn on the captioning. My sweet husband is so used to it now that I’ve come home to find him (with perfect hearing) watching with captions on.
3. Sit in the front row. I know that I can hear better when I sit closest to the speaker.
4. Protect the remaining hearing. I have earplugs in my purse, in my home, in my car, and anywhere else I can think to stash them.
5. Have your hearing checked regularly. Once hearing loss is diagnosed, a trained professional can take measures to preserve what’s left and potentially also to treat you.
6. Practice gratitude every day. We all have SOMETHING in our life that isn’t perfect (and most of us have many things). But we also all have a lot to be grateful for. I am grateful for the hearing I have left (I have what’s considered a mild to moderate loss). I am grateful for my other senses (my eyesight is still great!) I am grateful that we live in a society with so many accommodations, access to medical care and knowledge, and the ability to live independently and freely.
Kelly has a Master’s Degree in Audiology, has worked as a rehabilitation instructor for the Blind and Visually Impaired and also as an Assistive Technology Specialist. Kelly helps individuals explore their challenges and then works to implement custom solutions that allow them to live and work independently and successfully.
This post was written by Kelly Lewis of Inspired Organizing, with additional comments added by Lisa Mark who has experienced hearing loss herself. If you need assistance adapting to your new normal, please contact Illness Warriors for more information.