Hearing Vibes

Both hearing impaired: a couple’s journey

Walt and Tiggy Shields and Maria Menconi

Hearing loss brings dramatic change to life, and our journey has been forged together. Following years of tinnitus (ringing in the ears), Tiggy realized she was struggling with her hearing. Four years after arriving in SaddleBrooke, she decided to take a hearing test. Ironically, when Walt was asked to come along and provide feedback on Tiggy’s loss, they tested Walt as well. His loss was even greater! This was no surprise to Tiggy, but Walt hadn’t keyed in on his own reality as it progressed slowly over more than a decade. Referrals in hand, our journey began with professional testing by an audiologist.

Our new hearing aids were amazing! We felt encouraged and optimistic that we would again connect with people in social settings, but understanding that our aids would not recreate what our “good” ears provided. Digital sound was different, and it took several visits with our audiologist for the best settings. Our learning was also coming to terms with the challenge of word clarity. If people spoke too fast, looked away, or mumbled, we were lost. We could hear, but could not catch the words. We realized our new challenge of word discernment, even with enhanced volume.

Our hearing losses impacted us emotionally and practically. In addition to feeling isolated, we now choose which activities we can undertake and those we must give up. We scrutinize leadership positions, group discussions, attending Bible study or large functions, even singing in choir. Well-intentioned friends trying to help us hear better can only briefly change their speaking style, their volume, or their diction. Even with aids, we continue to miss some of what goes on around us. Life, as we age, means we give up things or accept what cannot be changed. But, we fully agree that our hearing aids are a gift beyond measure.

Our communication as a couple in the face of hearing loss takes patience and compassion. Sometimes, our best intentions have led to failure, hurt feelings, frustration, and discouragement. We don’t always remember the needs of the other, nor demonstrate patience and speak as we should. Despite the challenges, we are so grateful for the gift of ever-improving hearing loss technology.

We are strong advocates about seeking help. Many are fearful of moving forward and friends say they don’t want folks to know about their condition or, if they tried aids, they were disappointed and stopped wearing them. For these folks, we say “hang in there.” If you are on the fence, know that you are not alone. Statistics suggest that roughly 50% of our SaddleBrooke neighbors face some level of hearing loss, an astounding number. Why let the years pass with declining hearing and increasing isolation when professional help can transform a life?

Last winter, we joined the Hearing Loss Advocacy and Peer Support Group in SaddleBrooke. We’re learning so much about support options, have received and offered encouragement, joined discussions about how SaddleBrooke can improve its “services” for hearing impaired, and heard presenters from the University of Arizon’s Audiology department. This journey need not be taken alone. Please join us and bring a friend!

The meetings are held monthly, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, at MountainView in SaddleBrooke.

October 10: Saguaro Room.

November 14: Ballroom West.

December 12: Ballroom West.