Our Stories

My name is Pat Dobbs and I am severely/profoundly hearing impaired but with today’s technology, I hear in the average range. Yay!

My journey started with self-doubt and pain, but today I am grateful for what my hearing loss has brought me. Today, I hear well, my life is satisfying in both personal and professional arenas, and I have found my passion – working with others whose lives have been affected by hearing loss.

I had perfect hearing until I was 20 years old, when I noticed that I couldn’t hear well in noisy places. When tested I found out that I had a high-pitch hearing loss, with no apparent cause for it.  I soon needed bi-lateral hearing aids (aids in both ears).

I wanted those hearing aids to be as inconspicuous as possible. Invisible would have been best!  Yes, I was vain, but I was also uncomfortable about my disability.  I hated asking  people to repeat themselves.  I worried that they would think that I wasn’t very smart, wasn’t interested, or just wasn’t “with it.”

Though the hearing aids helped a lot, my hearing was still far from perfect. I often misunderstood what was being said and ended up with the wrong information. Sometimes people were so difficult to understand that I wouldn’t even ask them to repeat themselves. I learned to read their facial expression, understand a few words and try to put the meaning together from that. That’s fine if you put the right message together, but what about when you get it wrong?

Around 2006,  my hearing became significantly worse. Hearing aids no longer did the trick. The only way I could hear was in a quiet room with the other person facing me directly so that I could read their lipsIt was a  distressing and painful time. Trying to communicate was exhausting and frustrating. I began dropping out of situations where there were more than a few people.

To make matters worse, my hearing fluctuated. Without any warning, my hearing would dramatically drop; a few days later – also without warning – it might come back to where it had been before. That was downright terrifying.  And it caused absolute havoc in my sales career.

I visited a few doctors, but they all shook their heads and said they had no idea why my hearing fluctuated. But they did suggest that I get a Cochlear Implant.  And that’s when my life really began to change for the better.

The thought of having an operation was intimidating, especially knowing that I would lose all natural hearing in the operated ear. But of the idea of living in a lonely, isolated world was far worse. So on June 18, 2010 I had a Cochlear Implant, which was activated July 17th.  What a joy! I could hear better right away and my hearing continued to improve.  For the first time in ages, I could hear what people were saying without guessing.

Today I hear in the average range – and to me that’s a triumph! My journey has led me to learn everything I can about assistive listening devices, about the psychological impact of hearing loss, and about how others like me have come to grips with their hearing loss.

 Please share your story by contacting me here. Everyone’s story is unique and a personal triumph.

 

 


JUDY’S STORY

I have congenital deafness in my right ear, which amazingly was not discovered until I was eleven. Obviously I compensated all my life and didn’t realize myself that I had the problem except that I know I dreaded the party game called Telephone! My left ear was hypersensitive and so I had no difficulty until I developed otosclerosis in that ear. Ironically, otosclerosis is very operable, but no surgeon would do it, since I did not have a good ear to fall back on should the operation fail and I’d be deaf in that ear also.

I was fitted with my first hearing aid when I was about 30 and had to have progressively stronger ones for the next 25 years until even the strongest was not sufficient for me to continue teaching. In 2001 my guardian angel led me to Dr. Jed Kwartler who performed my cochlear implant and almost literally gave me a new lease on life. It has been the miracle I sought, although I am among those recipients who cannot hear music. It’s disappointing, but certainly not devastating. At least I can once again enjoy small social gatherings rather than shying away from any group larger than two or three.

Being a member of our HLAA local group since its inception has been a particular pleasure. It is so good being with people who understand the problems we face, have possible solutions to some of them and are super advocates for the hearing


LINDA’S STORY

When I reached high school they discovered that I had a loss of hearing. I was immediately put in lip reading classes which were wonderful and the ability is still with me and helps with my Cochlear Implant.

By 38 I needed a hearing aid. Few years later, needed the second. Was able to work, phones, etc. for years until in 1992, I developed tenitis. I thought I would go out of my mind with the clicking (or so it sounded to me) I lived with on a 24 hours basis. After searching Audiologists a friend’s daughter read about Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implant. At that time, 1994, it was only experimental in the USA. I was a definite candidate and was implanted on my right ear in August. Needless to say, it saved my job, sanity and somewhere along the line, my life most likely.

I have a very positive attitude. Do not withdrawn from any facet of my life because of being so impaired. The only sport I would not attempt was water sports where I needed to hear for my safety. Life is always a challenge, even to the more perfect individuals who have all of their senses however, I consider myself one of the fortunate people since I see so many more devastating illnesses around me.

Lou’s Story

Growing up on a large farm and being the eldest of five children placed responsibilities on me at a young age. At the age of 9-years my father taught me how to drive tractors. Sometimes I would be plowing a field with the engine at full throttle for several hours at a time. Back then tractors did not have mufflers to dampen the noise. Nor were there sound protectors that could be worn over ones ears. For the next ten years this abuse of my hearing continued.

In 1961 I joined the US Force and for twenty years I was a Jet fighter aircraft mechanic. My daily routine consisted of long hours on the flightline exposed to the screaming of jet engines. In those days there was no emphasis on the wearing of ear protection. I suppose it may have been available but when it was suggested that the noise might hurt my ears, being 19-years of age, I was convinced that I was tough and could “take it.” Years later it became mandatory to wear protection when exposed to engine noise but by then I’m sure the damage had been done.

I should have had some clue that I might have a hearing loss when in the mid 1960’s I developed Tinnitus (a ringing in my ears). Perhaps I’m unusual but I eventually discovered that my brain had accepted the ringing as music in the form of an orchestra playing in the distance. I’ve always been a person who enjoyed singing and/or humming so this was great. It was not annoying and almost enjoyable accompaniment at times when I was humming a tune.

By 1977 I had quickly moved up through the enlisted ranks and had become a Maintenance Superintendent at the Air Defense Command Headquarters. It was only when my boss called me into his office after I had hosted a maintenance conference, did I realize that I may have a hearing loss. When the General said he wanted me to have my hearing checked I was both confused and embarrassed. He told me that when I was taking questions from attendees at the end of the conference, that I was giving answers that had nothing to do with the questions being asked.

So, in 1977 I was diagnosed with a severe hearing loss and fitted with two hearing aids. Since then I have gone from those ugly black military style black glasses with hearing aids built into the stems to modern digital Behind the Ear hearing aids with telecoils.

My hearing loss story did not end with my retirement from the air force. I had a follow on career as a quality control inspector with the Boeing Aircraft Company. Until my subsequent retirement from Boeing in 2000 I worked in the factory where aircraft were being assembled. The noise level from all of the riveting continually filled the air. By the time I had retired from Boeing my hearing loss had gone from severe to profound.

In the early 1990’s I joined a local chapter of the national Self Help for Hard of Hearing people (SHHH) which has subsequently become Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). It was while a member that I was introduced to the FM System and the neckloop. My first act was to buy new hearing aids with telecoils. Soon after I heard about the “Induction Loop” and purchased one for our local SHHH chapter.

Over the past 18-years I have become a strong advocate for “Looping.” The Induction loop today is affectionately referred to as the “Hearing Loop.” After moving to Arizona I joined the board of Adult Loss of Hearing Association (ALOHA) in Tucson where I have taken on the challenge to “Loop Tucson.” As part of this undertaking I give demonstrations on looping to various groups upon request. I conduct workshops to train people on how to install loops in their homes. To date I have over 100 loop installations behind me and am dedicated to teaching others what I know.

I’m inclined to believe that my hearing loss was due to noise exposure. However, my mother developed a severe hearing loss in her late 50’s and by the time she died at the age of 84 it had progressed to Profound. She had no noise exposure but had Scarlet Fever as a child. The only other family member with a hearing loss was my grandfather on my father’s side of the family. Being a farmer and driving tractors and other farm machinery for over 50-years I think that like me, his profound hearing loss was noise induced.

I’ve learned coping strategies to help me survive with my hearing loss. In college and graduate school I found that I could join study groups where I could read text assignments and let others with good hearing take notes in class. We’d share what we had learned. This was a very effective solution to my poor hearing. Today I have an arsenal of tricks that serve me well. I am however, still trying to reverse an old bad habit of bluffing. I find that I do this when my brain gets tired and Auditory Fatigue has set in (my brain no longer is able to process what it thinks it is hearing).

I had a Cochlear Implant on April 29th, 2012 and already I am hearing better.