What will it take for you to check your hearing? A true story.

May 29, 2021

This is a true Victorian Hearing story, shared by a client for others to hear.

Everyone has a threshold. Often we procrastinate, delaying important things that seem low on the priority list until a trigger is set and we are forced to take action. And so it was for me and my hearing. I’m Jenny, I’m 45 years old, and I have had difficulty hearing for as long as I can recall. My right ear has always been worse, but I’ve managed, kind of.

I’m a medical receptionist at a specialist clinic. Hearing well is fundamental to my job. I’m responsible for ensuring patient details and medical notes are taken down accurately, taking bookings, payments and numerous other administrative tasks. Not only that, I have to look the part. Aesthetics and self-presentation are so important to me.
Sure, I had considered seeking help, but there was no way I was going to wear those ‘big bulky hearing aids’. How could I wear that and be the first face people see when they enter the doctor’s surgery? I had this preconceived idea of what I would look like. I had seen others wearing them, and it just wasn’t for me.

I tried to manage my difficulties by changing my entire work environment to compensate. I was putting in double the listening effort to hear, fill in the gaps and not make any mistakes. But doing this left me mentally exhausted by the end of the working day. My stubbornness to do anything about my problem started to frustrate my family and was a constant source of stress and anxiety.

And then, one day, I reached my threshold.

My best friend had breast cancer. Thankfully, after a long battle, she was finally cleared of the disease following chemotherapy and surgery. However, she still needed to attend annual reviews to ensure the cancer did not return. For her most recent review, she asked me to go with her. She felt apprehensive about it, what with COVID going on and the need to remain 1.5 metres apart and wear face masks.

Sitting in the doctor’s office with my friend, I was in a world of hurt. The masks made it nearly impossible for me to hear the doctor’s softly spoken voice, and I could not get in closer to help the situation. The masks made it difficult to see facial expressions, so I lost another cue to compensate for my hearing. I was struggling to know what was being said.

I remember the doctor opening up a file and saying something to my friend. “I’m afraid it’s bad news”. I could not make out what he said, but I imagined it was the routine, ‘everything looks fine’. I remember looking over to my friend and smiling, overjoyed that she was in the clear.

But I was mistaken. Her eyes started welling up with tears. For a moment, I thought they were tears of relief, but this was quickly dispelled when I watched her rip off her mask and start balling. I quickly realised these were not happy tears. I had misheard. It was bad news.

That was my trigger to get help. I recalled this story to my audiologist; I was crying in her office. I was so upset I had allowed my vanity to let down the people that I love. My stubbornness was even more embarrassing, considering this was totally avoidable. All I needed to do was make a simple call, and yet it took something so shocking to wake me up.
I have been wearing customised invisible in-the-ear style hearing devices ever since. I can’t believe the vast number of discrete technologies available and how different hearing aids look compared to what I had seen over the years.

Work has become less tiring and more enjoyable. I have fewer arguments, especially at home with my children. They love that the TV can now be set to a comfortable volume, and I don’t need things constantly repeated to me.

This was a hard lesson, but in many ways, I’m grateful it happened when it did. My best friend is in a good place, and I am now a hearing health care advocate for all my close friends and family. Life is too short to struggle with hearing.