(Art credit: Sisi Recht, "Balance")
This post is sponsored by our partner Lively. Take a free online hearing test and get 15% off Lively's hearing aids and telecare for yourself or friends and family with Freelancers Union's member discount.
In January 2020, I made an unusual resolution, one that wasn’t optimized for SEO’s top searchable best ways to a new you. I made a promise to myself that I was finally going to get my hearing checked. Despite my fastidiousness about standard well checks and ensuring all were routinely taken care of for my son and husband, I had let concerns about the sharpness of one of my five senses fade into the abyss of the bottom of my to do list.
With my 40th birthday barely in the rear-view mirror, I was in partial denial because I’m “still young-ish” and because I could “hear just fine,” experiencing minor auditory challenges in loud restaurants, when water was running and people were talking, at certain conference venues, and when my husband mumbled at me from another room. None of this meant that I had hearing issues. It was just a sign that I no longer belonged in establishments that offered 25-cent pitchers of anything and that event organizers should provide sharper PA systems.
However, leading up to this decision there were other signs that led me to believe I was struggling with hearing loss.
As a young child, the breeze from my bedroom window enveloped summer accompanied by a soundtrack of cricket wings chirping. Nearly three decades later, I listened to the same sounds, only these crickets were named “tinnitus” and lived in my head. This time, however, the setting was my apartment in Chicago and any sort of nature sounds were at best the alley rats in search of leftover deep dish pizza crusts. Sometimes the crickets in my ears were louder than others. Too much caffeine, not enough sleep. It was the same ringing that I heard over the years after both performing and enjoying countless evenings of live music.
Little did I know that the crickets in my ears combined with increased troubles understanding certain consonants, were a signal that my hearing was declining. Unlike a pain in your mouth where a toothache manifests or perhaps a headache triggered by vision loss—hearing loss can be subtle, gradual, and opaque. In addition to the ringing, I would mishear the name Cody as Coby. I also noticed that the volume was always turned up on my phone, and when watching television with others, I missed bits and pieces because the sound wasn’t loud enough for me. Despite once having “perfect pitch,” it turns out my ears needed some help.
So, back to my resolution. It might have taken nearly two decades of noticing and dismissing signs of hearing loss, but this was the year I was finally going to do something. Just to check and ensure everything was OK. And because multiple members of my family had now commented recently when I asked them to repeat themselves multiple times, missed parts of conversations, combined with my own self-reflection, I felt it was time to find out what was really happening in my ears.
Turns out that the reason that I struggled to hear in certain settings — loud restaurants, when multiple conversations were happening simultaneously— was due to the fact that I had untreated high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss, which is a pretty common issue. Although my perception was that I could hear sound in most situations, I struggled to understand certain words. All of those years in the front row near the speakers had finally caught up to me. The upside was that I learned that this type of loss could be addressed with hearing aids which were now state-of-the-art bluetooth-enabled, discreet medical devices. Now that I knew my diagnosis and the benefits that I would receive by treating my loss, I was ready to proceed with hearing aids. I nearly fell out of my chair when my audiologist told me that hearing aids were going to cost $5,000 for a pair plus the fitting and follow up appointments. I share all of this with you for a few reasons.
1) Hearing loss is invisible. You can’t tell that someone is hearing impaired by looking at them, and it can be challenging to self-diagnose because you might be able to hear in certain situations but not in others.
2) There are barriers to treating hearing loss. There are 38 million people in the United States with hearing loss, and only 20% actually do anything about it. It’s expensive and time-consuming to access care through traditional channels.
3) Freelancers Union is announcing a new hearing care benefit! Freelancers Union is partnering with Lively to offer you (and your friends and family) access to a significant discount on Lively’s premium hearing aids and included hearing care (already priced thousands less than $5,000!) that you can access via telehealth from your couch. Learn more about the partnership here.
Eva Gabel Sippola is the Strategic Channel Lead for Partnerships at Lively Hearing Corporation. She has spent thousands of hours exposed to loud music of all genres, including training for multiple marathons accompanied by headphones with the volume cranked up (oops). She proudly wears hearing aids and now uses noise protection when enjoying live music. Her past freelance experience includes grant writing for nonprofit organizations.
Lively hearing aids are not appropriate for children under 18 years of age, and may not be appropriate for certain types of hearing loss. Visit the Lively website for more information about eligibility, products, returns and warranties.
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