Barb Soderberg and Maria Menconi
I have been dealing with a hearing loss for most of my life. I was diagnosed when I was 25, because my mother thought I was hard of hearing. I had seen a specialist in high school because I had fluid behind the ear drum. Mom made an appointment for me to see the doctor again and I was diagnosed with a sensory-neural hearing loss of undetermined origin. The doctor did not recommend a hearing aid, but said I would know when I was ready.
It took 10 years to return to a specialist to explore a hearing aid. I belonged to a group who gathered to sew, crochet, knit, whatever. The social aspect was as important as the handiwork. I found I could socialize, or do handiwork, but not both at once, because I had to see to hear. I got my first hearing aid, an in-the-ear.
After eleven years, I replaced that aid. The audiologist suggested that I aid both ears, to address a similar loss in both. I got two aids, and have worn two since then. They go in my ears when I awaken in the morning and come out at bedtime. My loss has progressed to a severe to profound loss, so without my aids I am functionally deaf. Life is really quiet without my aids! I recognized the severity of my loss in the early 1990s. My audiologist was in the Junior Women’s Club with me. While we were talking one day she said, “Barb, you function really well for someone with a severe to profound hearing loss”. I didn’t know if I should cry or go home and pat myself on the back. I settled for the latter.
I have been fortunate in my hearing loss journey because of several things. I knew a deaf girl in our neighborhood through a friend who helped her every day. Then in junior high school two deaf kids were main streamed into my class. Communication was by lip reading or writing. I learned to communicate with them by lip reading. I’ve always lip read since then.
My other good fortune was participating in an organization called Self Help for Hard of Hearing (SHHH.) One day, I saw a notice in the paper that this organization was gathering in a town 30 miles away. The group leader was a former acquaintance. We decided to see what it was all about. (I say we, because my husband, Russ, has been with me on this journey from the very beginning.) I truly believe that I would have had more difficulty with my hearing loss had it not been for SHHH. They provided information on hearing losses and aids, helping your family adjust to your hearing loss and surviving in public venues. SHHH exists today as the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). If you can hear on your phone with your hearing aids, thank HLAA. They’ve also advocated for captioning on your TV. We know the cost of hearing aids is often prohibitive. HLAA advocates for better pricing, and is working to get Medicare help for hearing aids. To learn more, go to www.hearingloss.org.
Stay tuned next month for more of Barb’s story. And in the meantime, please consider joining us at the Discussion Group for Better Hearing. The meetings are held monthly at the MountainView Bistro building in SaddleBrooke. The next meeting will be on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 in the Saguaro Room from 1-3 p.m.