*This is a collaborative post in partnership with Specsavers*
If you have normal hearing and do not struggle with hearing loss, then like me, you probably have never really thought about what it must be like to lose your hearing or to realise that you might be suffering yourself.
I recently attended what I would call an ear-opening session with Specsavers to find out about hearing loss and what it actually feels like.
I must admit I had no idea what it would be like. My son suffered from ear issues and hearing loss when he was a baby and toddler, but he wasn’t really able to communicate what that felt like so to learn for myself was going to be rather interesting.
It was a very relaxed evening but set up to make us work hard, in a sense. We were introduced to the audiologist who explained about hearing loss and the special moulds made of a foam material that would block up to 70% of our hearing out. We then had to socialise with the group of people around us whilst also listening and interacting with a wine tasting specialist.
Getting set up to not be able to hear clearly. The audiologist was very kind and informative and it’s reassuring to know there are experts available to help if you have hearing loss worries.
Sounds easy, right? Actually, it wasn’t.
It was very informative talking to the audiologist who fitted us with the moulds and set us up to not be able to hear properly. The moulds really did make everything very muffled and hard to hear. I wasn’t sure what it would feel like but once they were in, it was a whole new world.
The wine was good but not being able to hear was quite stressful and hard work. Trying to process the noise and chat around you is not easy.
Your other senses immediately work harder to try and compensate for not being able to hear properly and your brain has to work much harder to process what is going on around you, what is being said by other people, to you and to others. It’s hard to focus on more than one person talking at a time, and being in a group was very disconcerting because unless one person talks and everyone else listens you really do struggle to keep up. I found myself focusing on faces a lot more to try and lip read and also hear what was being said. Listening to someone talk about wine is normally something I enjoy but having to really focus on what they were saying made me really realise how hard it must be to have to be so focused all the time when you can’t hear clearly.
It was actually rather tiring and I can also say that I think it would probably make me feel very anxious not to be able to hear properly. I can understand that someone who can’t hear properly or who is struggling with hearing loss may become isolated or feel that they can’t manage social or other situations because it is, frankly, hard work and quite stressful. For me to have to deal with that for an hour gave me a taste of what it must be like to deal with all the time. I was quite relieved to take the moulds out and be able to hear clearly again.
I am lucky that hearing loss isn’t an issue for me, but I am now far more aware of what it might feel like and how to get help. These moulds may look simple but they were an effective tool.
Not being able to hear clearly affects how you interact with other people too. Your voice sounds different and you worry that you are talking too loudly or that you can’t be heard properly. It’s very disconcerting.
I think the lesson learned from my experience was that hearing loss can happen. It can be either dramatic and sudden (due to illness or injury) or gradually over time and it can affect anyone. It’s not just something that my granny struggled with and was affected by in her old age but a health issue that can impact a wide range of people. I have never been for a hearing test, and at the moment I don’t think I need one, but it has made me aware that it really is important to be able to hear clearly and that getting your hearing checked if you have any concerns is easy to arrange.
If you are worried about hearing loss then it’s well worth a visit to your local Specsavers to have a simple, painless hearing test to see you are being affected and what can be done about it.
It might feel silly but it’s better to get checked because if you do have a problem, it’s far better to get help, advice and the treatment or support you need, rather than to struggle on. Now I know, I will be keeping tabs on my own hearing and making sure if I have any worries that I get checked.